I finally found a potential source of grass fed, grass-finished beef. The catch? It seems this farm will only have grass-finished beef available by the half or whole cow in the autumn.
I've only ever had grass-finished beef as ground beef via Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, and the tastes of the various packs I've purchased have varied wildly along a spectrum from gamey to exactly like grain-fed ground beef.
I'll admit that I'm a little trepidatious about committing to jam packing my freezer with a meat that could end up tasting gamey - I can handle lean or dry, for sure, but gamey is a taste that is hard for me to get past. (I will say that I'm willing to continue to work on that aversion...)
Has anybody here ever sunk a huge sum of money into buying pastured meat in bulk only to regret it because you ultimately didn't particularly enjoy the taste/texture/something else? What did you do after that experience - look elsewhere or revert to your previous buying pattern (grocery store, etc.)?
We recently purchased a 1/4 cow and I would do a few things differently if I decide to do it again. Luckily our farmer also sells meat by the individual cut so we purchased some beef from her beforehand to make sure we liked the taste. Is there any way your farmer could let you try the meat before you buy? Let you buy some of their personal stash maybe? I've had some pretty underwhelming grassfed beef and I'd be reeaaally hesitant to buy that much beef without knowing how it was going to taste.
Anyway, if you can find out if the meat tastes good or not, the main thing is that I would make sure to speak to the butcher directly about how you expect your cow cut up and what bits you'd like to keep. I never spoke with the butcher, just the farmer who was supposed to relay my preferences to the butcher, and it ended up a bit like a game of telephone. It's a little bit of a bummer to plunk down that much money and not be totally satisfied with the product. You'll need to specify things like how thick you want your steaks, how large to make the roasts, if you want the scraggly bits cubed or chipped or ground, how big to make the packages of steak, how big to make the packages of ground beef, if you'd like bones and/or organs (they'll likely throw them out if you don't specifically say you want them), stuff like that.
what I would do is find a nice way to ask your farmer a little more about his pasturing practices. Pasture varies a great deal and a lot of what you are experiencing in terms of texture and flavor has to do with this. One thing to look into is whether or not the farmer "re-mineralizes" his land, remineralization is desireable. To be quite honest, I'm not sure what this process exactly entails, but as I recently heard, the US govt used to pay farmers to do this but doesn't anymore. Some farmers still do because it's good for their land - and therefore them. I learned this when my sister was having a chat at the local abbattoir about their various sources for grass fed meats and quality differences. Also, grass varies, there's clover (yay!) etc etc, so all of these factors will make a difference. Lastly, my farmer friend hangs his meat for 3 weeks. Bless him. It's freaking incredible stuff. It's obscene how little he charges for it, but yeah, it's only available when he's slaughtering, and in bulk. Last year I only got leftovers, but oh man were they good. Ribeye! You can ask if the meat is hung or not. (If it's not, it's not the end of the world, you can replicate the effect to some extent at home, but if it is, it may give you an idea about the extra lengths they are going to to produce the best stuff)
Here is an excellent article about striving to produce the best grass fed beef you might find helpful http://ruhlman.com/2010/11/grass-fed-beef-farmer-aaron-millerits-all-about-the-fat.html
You should really consider posting to Craigslist or creating a meetup like meatshare.com. That allows you to take this opportunity and split this offer among several people. I do this all the time and it has been great because not all farms have good meat.
I have bought bulk grass-fed and finished meat three times now. (1 half a cow and 2 quarters.) From two separate farmers.
I never once regretted the purchases and the taste was the best I have ever had all three times. Well worth the money I spent. They had no gamey taste.
You can usually ask the rancher for a sample box to try their meat. This is a pretty common practice. By the way, I wouldn't say most people describe grass-fed beef as gamey. Gamey meat is usually a product of wild caught meats.