4

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Should grass-finished beef have yellow fat?

Answered on September 28, 2017
Created March 03, 2012 at 7:01 PM

I recently switched from grain-finished beef to grass-finished beef from a local rancher, and while there's a definite difference in taste and texture, I was expecting to the fat to be a different color, like the yellow/gold fat I lusted over in Tribe of Five and Kurt Harris' blog posts.

Should grass-fed, grass-finished beef have yellow fat or does it depend more on the type of grass they foraged on before slaughter? I live out west and we don't have the lush, verdant pastures of the east so I could see that being a factor, but one of the pulls of grass-finished meat is the caretenoids & O-3, and yellow fat is apparently an indicator of that.

Does the grass-finished meat you've bought tend to have yellow fat, or is it susceptible to regional variation?

Ed7403e397077dd1acdbf25c7f6e56ce

(3452)

on December 18, 2012
at 06:41 PM

The exact reason for grain-finishing is to avoid the 'discoloration' of the fat in grass-finished.

Ed7403e397077dd1acdbf25c7f6e56ce

(3452)

on December 18, 2012
at 06:40 PM

Grass-fed and grass-finished are two entirely different classifications of meat. Grass-finished is comparably difficult to find.

7d01d86c539003eed77cf901bf037412

(1076)

on March 04, 2012
at 12:12 AM

Hey, I had a look at that Kurt Harris post with its picture. Here's a little observation for ya. I rendered some beef fat last night, as it happens. The fat I would have called creamy white. However when it melted, it was distinctly yellow. Now it's solid in the fridge, and it's creamy white again. I suspect strongly that the fat in Harris' photo wasn't that colour in its original state.

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11 Answers

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2
7d01d86c539003eed77cf901bf037412

(1076)

on March 03, 2012
at 08:23 PM

Dredging up my memories from working at the Meat Industry Research Institute of New Zealand many years ago: it's dependent on plant species and season. Butter for example is more yellow orange in spring than in winter. Almost all beef here is grass-fed and I see wide variation in fat colour. I wouldn't worry about it.

7d01d86c539003eed77cf901bf037412

(1076)

on March 04, 2012
at 12:12 AM

Hey, I had a look at that Kurt Harris post with its picture. Here's a little observation for ya. I rendered some beef fat last night, as it happens. The fat I would have called creamy white. However when it melted, it was distinctly yellow. Now it's solid in the fridge, and it's creamy white again. I suspect strongly that the fat in Harris' photo wasn't that colour in its original state.

2
F5f742cc9228eb5804114d0f3be4e587

(7660)

on March 03, 2012
at 07:55 PM

My understanding is that yes, it will depend on region, but also season. Especially this time of year, most ranchers have to supplement with hay and such.

I say chalk it up to seasonal variation and that as seasonal creatures, our bodies can account for some of that, just as with vit D.

1
9b2e3130786c8c33ae0ec7439c277e0f

on March 04, 2012
at 03:08 AM

Older animals over thirty months (like several years old) can sometimes have yellow external fat. It might have something to do with the age of the animal.

1
246ebf68e35743f62e5e187891b9cba0

(21420)

on March 03, 2012
at 11:41 PM

As has been mentioned before, diet, season, and location of the fat all play a part.

In the beef I get, fat around organs and "internal" cuts (strip steaks, etc.) are white. External cuts like brisket, oxtail, shank, etc, all seem to have yellow to yellow-grey fat. Subcutaneous fat will sometimes end up on the yellow side of things whereas the intramuscular and abdominal cavity fat will be milky white.

The texture will be different too. Yellow fat = stringy, loose, gristly. White fat = soft, dense, and NOM.

1
9b47142b8ed1074a94b5654410740530

on March 03, 2012
at 09:08 PM

I eat grassfed beef exclusively, and all of the fat on my beef is white.

Ed7403e397077dd1acdbf25c7f6e56ce

(3452)

on December 18, 2012
at 06:40 PM

Grass-fed and grass-finished are two entirely different classifications of meat. Grass-finished is comparably difficult to find.

Ed7403e397077dd1acdbf25c7f6e56ce

(3452)

on December 18, 2012
at 06:41 PM

The exact reason for grain-finishing is to avoid the 'discoloration' of the fat in grass-finished.

1
2f14bf1625aba1af749882ac892d3477

on March 03, 2012
at 07:55 PM

Hey Dan,
I had to ask this same question when I was able to purchase a pastured steer from a local farmer here in west Michigan. I had no doubt it was pastured raised--very little intramuscular fat and he was nearly 3 years old. And the butcher struggled to obtain enough visceral fat to fatten up my ground beef. What fat there was around the perimeter of the steaks and roasts was white. Some sections had a slightly yellowish hue, but mostly white. So, I looked into it and came to the conclusion, as you state, that it's the level of caretenoids in the forage. I understand a pasture overrun with dandelions will produce yellow fat if the animal is processes shortly after clearing it. I've bought my beef steer from this guy for the last three years and have wondered if it's feasible to have a sample of the fat analyzed at a lab.

0
24903d5e4739def8871459b2e5856a9c

on September 28, 2017
at 07:51 PM

I raise grass-fed and finished beef. My animals are not fed grain in any form. The fat on our beef is white. Breed and grasses make a difference, but yellow fat is a sign the animal was old. Fat color has more to do with the age of the animal than it's diet in my experience. Much like egg producers trying to latch on to a gimmick, my suspicions are some producers are feeding their animals beta carotene to produce this fat color. Grass fat is metabolized around the muscle and grain fat is metabolized inside it. If your steak has marbeling it was fed grain, end of discussion. It amazes me the bs people will tell.

0
D0de39de1f332c81572fd45ad355f5e2

on August 07, 2017
at 04:05 PM

Hello everyone... just for starters I am a grass farmer and I raise grass fed / grass finished beef and we kill a fair number of cattle every year for sale at farmers markets and subscription sales. This by no means makes me an expert but I can tell what my experience is as I look at my own cattle and the carcasses of those who process in the same processor as I do.

Some things about grass finishing need to be understood to really grasp what makes good eating beef. For a cut of beef to be pleasant to eat there needs to be intramuscular fat present...that is the fat in the meat not the fat that surrounded the cut. This fat in the muscle is not easy to get and takes some technique/ art/science to do it on grass...in the feed lot/corn world not so much just confine them and give them lots of carbohydrates mainly via corn. In tthe grass world it is much different! For an animal to be technically finished you you need the appropriate layer of "back fat" and the animal needs to have gained a minimum of 1.7 pounds per day to be called "finished" ...it is not simply living out its days on grass. In our world here in Texas where I grew up many ranchers would put "steers" on wheat in the early fall and harvest late fall or early winter... we always called that freezer beef or ranch beef but it is not "Finished beef" and very lean as some described above! Here at BuckCreek are animals are put on lush grasses/irrigated at between 15-18 months old and rotated in a way that takes them to ever better and better grass until they are 20-27 months old, they gain between 3-5 lbs per day during that process until the appropriate fat cover is achieved. Many if not most "grass fed" farmers do not go through this process and those of us that do should not be confused with those who don't! Our process takes longer and is more expensive but you will get a better bite when you put it in your mouth... those who take shortcuts typically are the ones that give Grass Fed Beef a bad name!

With all that being said I will tell you that all of our meat has yellow fat! Now is some of it more yellow than others depending on certain times of year... maybe. Our beef is typically consistently yellow. They other guys I know that also are in the grass finished business produce yellow fat.

You guys know that the BIG benefits of grass finished beef come from the fat as that is where the vitamin A is mainly at along with the Omega 3 and CLA so why would you choose beef that wasn't yellow? If you do you're gonna get beef that is not pleasant to eat and you're gonna miss all the goodies housed in the fat!

Be cautious of those who tell you something different... maybe their not using grain but more than likely they are not using the best grasses either and either way you're not getting what you're hoping for... healthy, great eating grass finished beef!

Here is what I tell everyone that ask me these questions... go ask the farmer lots of questions, go visit the farm if you can and find a farmer you trust and buy from them! Don't be fooled as just like in any business there are folks out there who are just about the money and not about selling the best product economically possible so that you get the health giving meat you're looking for! Visit us at buckcreek dot com for a closer look.

0
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41767)

on December 18, 2012
at 02:31 PM

Breeds have an impact. Guernsey dairy cattle produce a yellow(er) milk. I wouldn't doubt that beef breeds also have similar phenomena.

0
5f4f4cf0e2b09f657b5e7c4d14036ab4

on December 18, 2012
at 10:48 AM

I thought it was due to the breed. I raise Jerseys, had to slaughter a heifer who couldn't get pregnant. Jerseys have yellow fat. I was wondering if that was true of other dairy cattle(?).

0
361e96d70d6d3b91d63f6ad975e60ab6

(840)

on March 04, 2012
at 03:33 AM

I often think the same thing, and I find that the whiter fat is more chalky, which I interpret as more saturated. So, you don't get any carotenoids, but don't have to worry about ratios.

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