Published Oct 3, 2011

Beef Tasting Field Day

By Tomoko Ogawa

Beef producers and enthusiastic eaters gathered together at Griffieon Family Farm in Ankeny for the beef tasting field day on Saturday, September 17.

Seven PFI beef producers (Bratsch-Prince, Carneys, Corys, Germans, Griffieons, Jepsens, and Specht) generously donated their rib-eye steaks for this tasting event. The field day hosts, Craig and LaVon Griffieon also procured the rib-eye from Cattlemen Beef Quarters (distributed by Sysco) at the Iowa State Fair to include in the blind tasting.

Before Dan Specht, Earl Hafner and other grill masters took on the challenging task of simultaneously grilling eight different steak samples while keeping them separate, we asked everyone to take a look at uncooked steaks to see how different each of them were in terms of colors, proportion of fat, etc.

The goal of this tasting was to provide a rare opportunity where people can taste several different kinds of beef at once and hear from the producers about the different production practices. The purpose of this event was to help people distinguish tastes and identify the beef they liked. It was not to judge which beef is the best or better. The score card asked tasters to list top three favorite beef as well as to rate texture (mushy, very tender, tender, good bite, chewy, very chewy, tough) and flavor (gamey, weak, well-marbled, rich, too fatty, well-balanced).

After the blind tasting, we introduced the producers who could attend the event; Craig and LaVon Griffieon, Tom German, Tom Cory, Bruce Carney, Dan Specht, and Ray Bratsch -Prince. We were also happy to have Alex Frooginpol from Mingo Locker join us. Carneys, Corys and Griffieons take their cattle to Mingo Locker for processing. Chef Donna Prizgintas prepared the dinner followed by the blind tasting. As always she transformed seasonal ingredients from PFI producers into a wonderful feast.

As I collected the information on the beef before the event, I learned that there are many more variables that influence the flavors of beef than I had thought. Grass-fed vs. grain-fed or confinement vs. pasture are not the only issues. To name a few, feeding systems, types of breed, handling methods, aging lengths and methods, processing and packaging all have roles in creating the flavor and texture of beef.  And within each category, there are many variations as well. For example, both grass and grain may be fed at different stages of cattle’s life. In terms of breed, we had two heritage breeds at our tasting; White Park (Corys) and Limousin (Griffieons).

All of us have distinctive taste buds and preferences. The result of the tasting score cards reflected that fact as each beef sample received wide range of feedback. For the detailed information of each beef, please contact Tomoko or look for them in our next newsletter.