Menuism Dining Blog
Dining education for foodies

John Brady of Brady's Beef

Listen to John Brady talk about meat–and specifically grass-fed beef–and no matter how brief the period, be it a few minutes or much longer, you’ll come away having learned something important about the meat you eat. John is a third-generation family rancher who’s been raising cattle all his life, but his knowledge runs a lot deeper than that. He’s passionate about ranching, as he puts it, the “new old-fashioned way”–a method that’s stuck a chord with quality-conscious carnivores across the country. 

On the Brady’s Beef blog, John writes about everything from the health benefits of grass-fed beef, to what’s being served in school lunches, to the latest legislation affecting our food growers and, in the end, eaters. We’re kicking off John’s brand-new column all about beef this week, so come back soon and check back often!

Describe your eating philosophy.

I was raised on a dairy farm, so we always had a pretty traditional farm diet. Hot cereal and eggs in the morning, a large midday meal (dinner) featuring beef or lamb, potatoes (I live in Idaho) and garden vegetables, and a light supper of sandwiches, leftovers or cold cereal. In both the family I grew up in and the family my wife and I have raised, mealtimes are important “together” times and everyone shows up. I know families struggle to get one meal together nowadays, but we often had everyone present three times a day to eat together. My wife and I still do.

What’s the scoop on the beef you produce?

My earliest memories of life were bringing cows in from the pasture to be milked. I did not particularly like the milking chores, but I enjoyed feeding the animals. I finally got out of dairying in the mid 1990s and started to move toward beef production with the encouragement of a publication called “The Stockman Grass Farmer,” edited by Alan Nation. I have been to seminars and cattle operations in many states, but one of the most impressive was a visit to the University of Missouri Grazing research center in late summer, 1997. All the pastures around were brown and dry, but the UM site was green and lush.

It was simply a matter of management–no extra rain or irrigation. I knew that I wanted to raise cattle this way. It has been a steep learning curve trying to bring those principles to the Intermountain area in Idaho where we have half the growing season and a quarter as much rain in a good year. We do have irrigation sometimes.

What does it mean to bring an animal to a “finished” state?

The term “finished” with regard to cattle means simply that the animal has reached physiological maturity with a mature skeletal structure, and is putting on some fat both within the muscle (marbling) and on the exterior of the muscle (fat). At that point, a good finish means putting on enough fat to make the meat flavorful and the steaks juicy, but not over-finished, where the fat is a byproduct.

Why is grass-fed beef superior to grain-fed cattle?

I will write in more depth on this issue, but the short answer is that cows were meant to eat grass, and everybody (cows and people), is healthier when this happens.

What’s your favorite cut of beef and why?

Ribeye steaks are the tops. Just the right amount of marbling and tenderness.

If you weren’t a rancher, what would you be doing?

A very large part of our family business is a greenhouse, garden center and market vegetable garden. We produce lots of vegetables and vegetable starts. I would be in the food business in some way.

What do you love most about what you do?

Every season, even every day is different, and no two years are alike. There are always problems to solve and challenges to figure out.

What challenges do you face as a producer of beef?

The biggest single challenge is butchering or processing the animals. Even as a small producer, we are subject to the same inspections and regulations as Cargill and Swift. We don’t have the huge economies of scale to spread the costs, so it is very expensive to meet all the USDA regulations even though our product is cleaner and better right from the beginning. There has never been a recall of grass-finished beef.

What trends are you excited to see in the cattle industry?

I am very excited about the consumer interest in grass-fed and grass-finished beef. It is growing.

Any trends you’d like to see peter out?

Government subsidies for corn, soybeans, wheat and cotton. Government-subsidized corn is at the root of our national obesity problem.

Do you eat out? What are a few of your favorite cuisines?

My wife loves to eat out. One obvious reason is that she doesn’t have to cook or clean up. We like Chinese, Thai and seafood. She never eats beef out and I rarely do. If we do fast food, it’s usually Mexican, sans hamburger.

Best way to prepare a steak?

Grilled medium-rare with Canadian or Montreal steak seasoning, topped with my wife’s homemade steak sauce.

Your final meal: who, what, where?

Ribeye steak, potato salad, fresh corn on the cob, fresh garden tossed salad, right in the backyard with all my family.

Editor’s Note: And there you have it–a fresh and meaty perspective from our newest expert columnist! Help us welcome John by chiming in with your thoughts and questions below. 

John Brady is one of a now-rare breed of farmer-ranchers who comes from an unbroken chain of family farmers going back multiple generations. He is the third generation currently farming the same land in Idaho. After earning a degree in Agronomy and a Master’s degree in Agricultural Economics, borrowing money, and participating in USDA farm commodity programs during the 1970s, he has finally overcome most of that to be a maverick in doing things the “new old-fashioned” way, working with nature to raise beef the way it was intended: on grass, legumes and forage. Watch John move cows at BradysBeef.com, read the Brady’s Beef blog and keep up to date on all things Brady’s Beef on Twitter.

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