If you've ever savored a perfectly cooked steak from an older cow, you know that it can have a richer, more complex flavor than the meat from a younger animal. But why is this the case?
Older cows may produce meat with a more developed flavor because of their diet. As cows age, they graze on a wider variety of plants, which can lead to a more diverse range of flavors in their meat. In contrast, younger cows feed on a limited diet, especially if raised on a cow/calf operation and fattened on a feedlot (allowing only 18 months of total growth before processing). This can result in less complex flavors in their meat.
Fat content is another major factor affecting the flavor of older cows. As cows age, they tend to produce meat with higher fat, which adds flavor and tenderness to the meat. Younger cows, on the other hand, may produce meat with a lower fat content, resulting in a less flavorful and tender product. Traditional raising and fattening of beef allow little variety in the cow's diet since the percent rate of growth is considered above all other factors, such as flavor-creating variety.
Finally, the cooking method can also play a role in the flavor of meat from older cows. Because older cows tend to produce meat with higher fat content, it can be more forgiving when it comes to cooking. It can handle longer cooking times or more elevated temperatures without becoming dry or tough.
From a more diverse diet to a higher fat content, these factors combine to create a rich, complex flavor that is hard to beat. At Pumpkin Creek Ranch, we raise our animals for three years. During this time, they age in the pasture, eating a wide variety of grasses, and then are slowly finished on a nutrient-rich diet, including flax, barley, and oats - All of which we grow on our farm.
So the next time you're in the mood for a delicious steak, consider meat from an older cow - your taste buds (and stomach) will thank you.