Eat, Drink, Think Episode 1: Sustainable Beef and Grassland Birds with Panorama Organic and The National Audubon Society

In this episode of Eat, Drink, Think, we’re digging into the topic of sustainable meat. Recently the National Audubon Society partnered with Panorama Organic to certify every ranch in Panorama’s network—1 million acres—as bird-friendly.

We’ve got an interview with Kay Cornelius, a fourth-generation rancher and the new general manager at Panorama Organic, as well as Marshall Johnson, vice-president of Audubon’s conservation ranching initiative, to learn more about the people behind this ground-breaking program. 

And before you go shopping for your sustainable grass-fed beef, you’ll want to hear from Marilyn Noble, a food writer and recipe developer with expertise in cooking grass-fed beef. 

Photo of Marshall Johnson, courtesy of The National Audubon Society

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The Birds and the…Beef? How Regenerative Grasslands Restore Habitat for Birds

How your purchasing decisions can save our most endangered ecosystem. | Marshall Johnson | TEDxFargo

How to Buy Sustainable Beef

Panorama Perspectives Magazine—with grass-fed beef recipes

Full Transcript:

Joy Manning: I’m Joy Manning and this is Eat, Drink, Think, a podcast brought to you by Edible Communities, the James Beard award-winning network of magazines published across the US and Canada. Together, we celebrate all things local and sustainable in the food world. Today, we’re digging into the topic of sustainable meat. Recently, the National Audubon Society partnered with Panorama Organic to certify every ranch in Panorama’s network, 1 million acres, as bird-friendly. You can read all about it in the summer issue of Edible Communities magazines or online at ediblecommunities.com

Joy Manning: Today I’m talking with Kay Cornelius, a fourth generation rancher and the new general manager at Panorama Organic as well as Marshall Johnson, vice president of Audubon’s Conservation Ranching Initiative. And before you go shopping for your sustainable grass fed beef, you’ll definitely want to hear my conversation with Marilyn Noble, a food writer and recipe developer with special expertise in cooking grass-fed beef. But first, Kay’s here to talk birds, beef, and what it’s like to be a woman in the male dominated business of meat.

Interview with Kay Cornelius, General Manager at Panorama Organic

Joy Manning: Hi, Kay. Thank you so much for joining us.

Kay Cornelius: Hi.

Joy Manning: Well, as we mentioned, ranching is your family business. You’re a fourth generation rancher and I’m wondering, did you ever consider a totally different career outside of the world of ranching and meat?

Kay Cornelius: I wanted to be a veterinarian from the earliest of ages. I was a horse girl. I loved horses. I could be with my father and my family out working cows on a horse. It was a place that I found freedom and I loved taking care of horses. So I went to college to be a veterinarian. And along the way, something that I think really shaped me was besides loving to be with my dad, my mom was this super cool person who was a foodie before there was such a thing as a foodie. And we lived in South Dakota. I always like to say a gas tank away from the closest town with a big grocery store. But my mother being who she was, she got Gourmet magazine and Bon Appetit before it was cool. And she would take me on trips to Minneapolis and it was trips to do things to run errands for the farm. But along the way, we always stopped at the Byerly’s grocery store, the one with the big chandeliers. And we would buy things that we’d never seen before at a farm in South Dakota. And we’d take those home, things like garlic. That was pretty exotic for us.

Joy Manning: That’s funny.

Kay Cornelius: And carrots of different colors and cheeses that all we’d ever seen in a grocery store where I grew up was the orange kind. And we brought home all these cheeses and my mother would cook from these recipes. And so the love of animals from my father and farming and being with the seasons from my father, and the love of cooking with my mother was probably a pretty intoxicating combination.

Joy Manning: So it was in your blood.

Kay Cornelius: It was in my blood and I will never forget as a child, we butchered a steer every year and that steer was done at a local butcher shop because every little town had a local butcher shop. We would walk in, I love the smell of a meat shop, a butcher shop. I love the smell and just the butcher wrap paper meat was something of wonder to me. I’d hadn’t ever really seen anything that came in a cellophane wrap with a styrofoam back until I was much older. And so my mother being the cook that she was and buying ingredients or growing them, we had huge gardens, and my father always being outside, working on ranch and farming, I wanted to be a veterinarian.

Kay Cornelius: I got to college and I didn’t get into vet school on my first try, not unusual for that period of time. I met a professor of meat science, who just took me under his wing and said, you don’t need to go to vet school, come do research with me on the science of meat. And I loved that. I truly did. I got to see some of the world through my travels as a grad student. I was a full ride scholarship with the graduate stipend. It was like a pot of gold. That’s how I got to be kind of the background of why I love ranching. And then along the way, I married a rancher. There was no plans for that. And I married a rancher. Newly married, we went back to the ranch, which in the early nineties, jobs were a little hard to find. And I was pretty far from a big city, but I was very close to a meat packing plant. So at 23, I took a job in the meat packing plant because there was nothing else. That was another epiphany for me. But that’s how I kind of got my start. And I just love the smell of cows. I love the smell of their hair and the hay. I just find it to be comforting and there’s something about it. I can’t say the same for pigs, but I love the smell of cows.

Joy Manning: It’s great to be doing what you love. You have this background in meat, you are a rancher, you’re ranching to this day, but you also have this very impressive business background. Today, you are the general manager for Panorama Organic Meats. You came to Panorama from a very big name in the meat world, Niman Ranch. So where did you get this business background?

Kay Cornelius: The one thing I can tell you from going to college and if I was to give any advice to ag students, agricultural students, animal science students is I did not have to take a business class and that was a major mistake. I’ve had to learn the financial side of it the hard way through hard knocks. However, I have a mother-in-law, who runs our ranch, who is a CPA, and she’s as tough as nails. And so she has helped me build the business case for why we ranch and helped me from that standpoint. And then I have to say that I’m surrounded by great team members who I will self-admit the things I’m weak on and gosh, Jeff Tripician, who I’ve worked for now for 12 years, he sent me to Vanderbilt’s business school, the executive series, so that I could learn to read a balance sheet and learn some of the business MBA type materials, so that I could walk the walk and talk the talk when it came to running a business. I just have had a lot of people help me along the way on the business side that cared enough to spend the time and really helped me with that.

Joy Manning: Niman Ranch is a big company, Panorama Organic, also. These are companies where you have to balance your profit goals with your values as a company. And it seems like that could be a little tricky. How do you think about that? How does that play out in your work life?

Kay Cornelius: I believe that the business model that was built at Niman Ranch and I’m carrying this forth into Panorama is one that is totally different than anything else I’ve seen in the meat business. I worked for Niman and I also worked for a large meat company for 10 years. And every-

Joy Manning: Do you mean a large meat company that doesn’t have sustainable values as central to its mission like Niman and Panorama?

Kay Cornelius: Yes. I worked for that packing plant that I went to work for. I eventually moved up into the office, so to speak. There is a difference between raising beef and being a meat company or raising the product and being a meat company. And along that way in the traditional commodity sense, someone along the value chain always loses. Buy low, sell high. What’s the commodity market? You’re always trying to buy below the commodity market and sell above the USDA posted carcass price. Someone along that chain is always the loser, whether it be the producer or whether it be the cow calf producer or the one that finishes them and get them to market weight or the packing plant or the retailer. Someone along that chain is losing.

Kay Cornelius: What I loved about Niman Ranch is no one lost along the value chain. And the way that the business model was successful was the farmer came first. Everything we do at Panorama, everything we continue to do at Niman Ranch, where I came from, the farmer comes first. We pay the farmer a fair wage for the product and then we tell the farmer’s story. It is so powerful. And when you look them in the eye, like I did last week, and you see three generations, you want them to win. And if you have a business model that puts them first and we tell the story, that’s when the meat company can be financially viable.

Joy Manning: And we all need them to win. Coming off of a conversation with Marshall…

Kay Cornelius: Absolutely.

Joy Manning: We need regenerative agriculture on the grasslands to preserve the ecosystem there is what I’ve learned from you all.

Kay Cornelius: I will tell you that I grew up in rural South Dakota. I had 27 kids in my high school class. We were all farm kids and none of us returned to the ranch because someone lost and the community became deserted. The school is now closed. The town of 350 is now something less than that. And that’s not okay. Families that don’t own the land is not okay. My mission, because it’s personal for me, is to make sure that anyone at Panorama that is raising cattle for Panorama has a source of income that gives hope for that next generation. That’s what drives me in everything I do.

Joy Manning: Is it fair to say there aren’t a lot of women in executive leadership positions in the meat business?

Kay Cornelius: Where I’ve worked at Niman and at Panorama. Panorama has 11 people on staff, five of them are women. At Niman, We have always been heavy on women. From executives on down, it is split very evenly. It’s the culture that that is inclusive of women and people of diverse backgrounds. I think that’s what makes us really great. We have a diversity of opinions within the company, and the culture allows us to have those diversity of opinions that come from men, women, different ages, different backgrounds, and it informs all of us on how to do business best.

Joy Manning: Other than the advice you already shared about taking business courses when you’re in school, do you have any other advice for younger women or earlier career women who may be interested in leadership roles in either the meat business or agriculture more generally, or even the food world at large?

Kay Cornelius: Well, I think the good news is that the tide is turning. We are lucky to live in this time where women in leadership or on a path to leadership are mentored. I myself have been very lucky to have had… I’ve always worked for men. That is a true statement. But I’ve always been surrounded by women, as well as men, but women in particular that had that goal of advancing. And I would say that find your mentor, find that person that will take you, whether it’s a man or a woman, find that person that will say, “I will give you a hand up,” much like Jeff did for me when it came to knowing that I needed to take some business classes. We make it a priority here at Panorama, and particularly at Niman, where if you wanted to take a class, go ahead and do it. And we would celebrate advancement, whether it be colleges, business classes, learning a new skill, whatever it is to make you an all around person.

Kay Cornelius: And the other thing that I tell people, whether they’re men or women, two things when they’re first starting out from college, try to stick it out at least one year at your first job, be patient. I see a lot of impatience. People that have been in a job three months decide that they don’t like it. They’re not advancing fast enough. Well, who can advance in three months? And so be patient and learn not just what to do, but maybe take the tips of what not to do, so that when you’re ready for your next job, you have that opportunity. But most certainly here this culture with Niman and Panorama, women have been treated as equals. And I’ve been lucky. I just have had incredible mentors along the way.

Joy Manning: Well, that’s great to hear. And I think that’s great advice for really any person who is trying to make way in their career. Well, thank you so much for being with us today, Kay. It was a pleasure to talk to you.

Kay Cornelius: Thank you, Joy. And our Panorama ranchers, thank you as well for telling our story.

Joy Manning: Well, I thank them.

Joy Manning: That was Kay Cornelius, general manager of Panorama Organic Meats.

Interview with Marshall Johnson, Vice President of the Conservation Ranching Initiative at the National Audubon Society

Joy Manning: Marshall Johnson is the Vice-President of the Conservation Ranching Initiative at the National Audubon Society, and he believes regular people have more power than we think to help protect the environment through our purchasing decisions. To that end, Audubon has created the “Graze on Bird-friendly Land” seal to help eco-conscious shoppers make decisions about what beef to buy. Welcome to the podcast, Marshall.

Marshall Johnson: Thanks for having me, Joy.

Joy Manning: So how did you get into preserving grasslands and the birds that live there? Why is this so important to you? What drew you to the topic?

Marshall Johnson: Well, it’s certainly… If I could go back and talk to five-year-old me, it’s certainly not what would have been on my “what are you going to do when you grow up” list. But I grew up in Dallas, Texas, and California, Los Angeles, California, and we spent a lot of time on the roads in between Dallas and Los Angeles. And I just always remember never feeling comfortable in cities and always feeling at home out on the prairies of west Texas and New Mexico and Arizona, and that whole landscape. And not something that a Black kid in the inner city thinks about would be a career one day, but studying business at the University of Minnesota, and one day, in a roundabout way, I was dragged into joining a prairie chicken viewing blind. And all of that nostalgia, all of those feelings, those sounds from my time growing up spending a lot of time in Texas came back to me and I decided, this is what I want to do. I want to work in, somehow, some way of grasslands.

Joy Manning: I’m sorry, you were drawn into a prairie chicken what? Can you say more about that or explain it to other city slickers like me that might not know what that is?

Marshall Johnson: Yeah, absolutely. Prairie chickens and sage grouse, this suite of birds, grouse species, are just incredible birds. And during the springtime, they have a ritual that they do. And these booming grounds are mating grounds. We call them leks. The males and females meetup, and there are these incredible song and dances and mating displays that the males will do in order to attract females that are standing by and watching this odd behavior. And if you sneak into pre-set up blinds, usually they are trailers or some type of wooden enclosed area so the birds don’t know you’re there, if you sneak in right before sunrise, you’re able to view all of this from 15, 20 feet away. And I was invited to come along one morning. And it sort of changed my life, I guess you could say.

Joy Manning: That’s incredible. How did you find your way from being a business school student who observed this thing that was moving to you and motivated you to want to preserve the grasslands, to get onto a pretty different career track than you might expect for a business school student?

Marshall Johnson: It’s a great question. I decided to move to Fargo, North Dakota, and to take a part-time role with the National Audubon Society. I thought that it would be a three month, six months, feel this out and think about what this feeling is that I’m having and wanting to do conservation, having not really thought much about it previous to that point. And it was supposed to be a three or six month detour and it was a 13 year career.

Joy Manning: And you’re still there.

Marshall Johnson: I am.

Joy Manning: So can you tell us in a nutshell why Audubon created this new Grazed on Bird-friendly Land seal? There’s already a lot of labels coming at you when you’re at the grocery store.

Marshall Johnson: Yeah, absolutely. For Audubon, and I think generally I think it’s something we should all accept, the production of food and energy is ruining our planet and leads to planetary ruin, but it doesn’t have to. The production of food and energy can lead us down a road of planetary renewal. And it’s all about how we grow food, how we grow and produce energy. What we recognized was there were a lot of labels out there, but very few, if any, and actually none at the time, were really focused on a measured, science-based approach to protecting and enhancing birds, ecology, and biodiversity. Organic alone doesn’t do that. Regenerative is a big umbrella, big term. We wanted to create something that really spoke specifically to birds, because birds have such an incredible indicator of overall ecosystem health.

Marshall Johnson: And at the time that we started to think about this program, we’re in a period of 40 years where we’ve lost 3 billion birds, and the overwhelming majority of those have been birds that nest in grasslands, because we are degrading and losing North America’s grasslands. We’ve lost more than 50% of what was once one of the most ubiquitous native ecosystems out there.

Marshall Johnson: And so we recognized that our conservation efforts tend to fall outside of the main drivers of land use at scale, and that there was potential for Audubon to take our very well-known brand, mobilize our 1.9 million members in the broader set of 48 million birders in this country, and put that energy behind a methodology or an approach to food production that was regenerative in bird-friendly and measured. So we want to measure birds. We want to measure ecological outcomes. We want to measure soil carbon and overall soil health, but really focusing on all of those things for the benefit of biodiversity. That space was not occupied, and there was growing, and I think there has been growing interest amongst consumers and the general public for, really, ways to eat and diets that tie back to ecosystem health. That’s really what encouraged us to move in this direction.

Joy Manning: As a result of talking to you and reporting this article that will be in the summer issues of Edible Magazines and ediblecommunities.com, I came away with a much more nuanced understanding of how cows can impact the environment. Like a lot of people, I was thinking that just beef was uniformly bad for the environment. When we talked, you mentioned that there’s all this buzz around plant-based meats right now and that that doesn’t tell the story, that it doesn’t really live up to the hype as a solution to our environmental problems.

Joy Manning: Can you tell me what, in a nutshell, people are getting wrong about that? It was what I was getting wrong as well.

Marshall Johnson: Yeah, absolutely. I think first I’d say, “What are people getting right about that?” What I think people are getting right about it and I’m encouraged by, people are being deliberate. People are being intentional about how their food and their lifestyle ties back to the environment we live in. That’s really encouraging. I think what we’re getting wrong is, one, thinking that there are these silver bullets to complex environmental questions and then a fixation on something. Let’s say a fixation on production has gotten us into sort of this mess that we’re in environmentally, as it relates to agriculture, production at all costs. Now we’re kind of overproducing certain foods, and we’re trying to find new ways to use the production of certain plants for energy and for other things. It’s kind of gotten us into a bit of a quagmire.

Marshall Johnson: The final thing that I think people get wrong is just the basic science of ecosystems and how they function, particularly grasslands. There’s a saying, “Anyone can love the mountains, but it takes soul to love the prairie.” I think it sort of sums up this under-appreciated vital and vast ecosystem that we have collectively walloped over the last 150 years. I think that’s what I think a lot of people get wrong, the notion that growing a commodity plant, corn, soy beans, et cetera, et cetera, is better than having a native ecosystem that is grazed by fill in the blank. I say that for a reason, sort of fill in the blank. That ecosystem, our grassland ecosystem evolved naturally with large ruminant herbivores on the landscape, 35 million elk, 60 million bison, et cetera, et cetera.

Marshall Johnson: So I think what people get wrong is this notion that cattle are inherently bad for that ecosystem. That’s not true, and that’s not what various research has shown us. Left to their own devices, cows are not as symbiotic as bison and elk for native grasslands. But through management, deliberate rotational grazing, eliminating certain chemicals and other practices out of the production, cows can mimic that usefulness and that function, that disturbance, and that grazing regime that these native and wild herbivores once provided.

Marshall Johnson: So you’ve heard it probably quite a bit, but it’s not the cow. It’s the how, and that’s what our certification focuses on, is how the cow is managed and produced. We’ve seen some incredible data from branches that have been rolled three or four or five years now. We’ve seen on average an increase in bird abundance of 36%. That reaffirms sort of why we went down this road and why I would encourage folks to think twice about just a plant-based diet as a solution, because the effects on native grasslands, again, our most ubiquitous native ecosystem in North America, could be quite devastating.

Joy Manning: Well, thank you so much for being with us today, Marshall. It was really great to talk to you.

Marshall Johnson: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Joy Manning: That was Marshall Johnson, the vice president of the Conservation Ranching Initiative at the National Audubon Society. He gave a great TEDx Talk about how your shopping choices can impact the environment in a positive way, and we’ll link to it in today’s show notes at ediblecommunities.com.

Interview with Marilyn Noble, Food Writer

Joy Manning: Marilyn Noble is a food writer who recently developed the recipes for grass-fed beef that appear in Panorama Perspective Magazine. She’s also the author of five Southwestern cookbooks and hundreds of articles on agriculture, food, and business. Marilyn, thank you so much for joining us today.

Marilyn Noble: I’m delighted to be here. Thank you.

Joy Manning: So grass-fed beef can be a little bit of a controversial topic among eaters. We’ve talked on this podcast a lot about the environmental benefits, but some people have the impression that grass-fed beef just doesn’t taste as good. So I was hoping you could share some positive things. You’ve obviously cooked through a lot of grass-fed beef in that project. So what positive things can you say about the way it tastes?

Marilyn Noble: Well, to me, grass-fed tastes really big and beefy. When you’re used to eating grain-fed beef, especially commodity beef that you buy at the grocery store, it all tastes the same, and it’s kind of bland. But grass-fed beef reminds me of the meat we used to eat when I was a kid. It just has a very meaty, beefy flavor. Then the other part of that is terroir. If you’re a wine drinker, you know about that. The grapes from one vineyard create wines that taste totally different from the vineyard down the road, and the same thing is true of grass-fed beef.

Marilyn Noble: The taste of the meat, the flavor that comes through is actually the flavor of what the cows were eating. So if it’s spring and there’s a lot of fresh green grass, you might get a grassy note in the beef. If it’s fall and they’re eating forage, you might get more of a vegetal or alfalfa flavor to it. So everybody says you’re eating what the animal ate. You’re really tasting that. To me, that’s one of the beautiful things about grass-fed. It’s never the same twice. It can vary, and it’s delightful.

Joy Manning: It’s a more complex flavor.

Marilyn Noble: Much more complex, yes.

Joy Manning: Now, I know that there’s some challenges in cooking it, or I guess a better way to say it would be differences from conventional beef. Can you talk a little bit about what those differences might be?

Marilyn Noble: Well, the big thing is that grass-fed beef is leaner than conventional beef, so it’s very easy to cook the moisture out of it. You don’t want to do that, because then you end up with something that’s really dry and tough. I think that’s a lot of where grass-fed gets a bad rap. If it’s overcooked, it’s not great. So you have to really pay attention to what you’re doing. You can’t leave it on the heat too long. If you’re cooking a steak, you really want to pay attention. Use a meat thermometer, even if you’ve never used one before. Invest in one.

Joy Manning: A meat thermometer is so important.

Marilyn Noble: So important, so important, because it can go from perfectly done to overdone in as little as a minute. So you just need to pay attention, and then use a lower temperature. Don’t try to sear things. Sometimes with a conventional steak, you throw it on the grill and you throw it on the hottest part of the coals and you cook it, and it’s great. But you don’t want to do that with grass-fed, because you run the risk of overcooking. So pay attention and use a meat thermometer are the two big things.

Joy Manning: You know what I bet would be good? I mean, this isn’t for everyone, but if you have one of those home immersion circulators, like a home sous vide setup-

Marilyn Noble: Right.

Joy Manning: … where it holds a very specific temperature, then you can guarantee that you won’t overcook it.

Marilyn Noble: Yeah. Sous vide is great for grass-fed.

Joy Manning: Yeah. Have you done it? Do you have one?

Marilyn Noble: I don’t have one, but I know other people who have.

Joy Manning: Right. Yeah.

Marilyn Noble: If you set it to about 120, 125, then you’re going to get a really beautiful, rare piece of meat, and then you can just sear it off and you’re good.

Joy Manning: It’s mistake-proof is the thing that I like about it.

Marilyn Noble: Yeah, it is. It is.

Joy Manning: So flipping through the magazine, I noticed so many appealing recipes. We talked a little bit about people that have perhaps the wrong idea about grass-fed beef or they think they don’t like it. What recipes do you think they should start with if they want to really discover how great it is? Do you have any specific recommendations?

Marilyn Noble: Well, the one I really love is for carne asada sandwiches. Carne asada is a typical meat dish throughout the Southwest and Northern Mexico. It’s basically just grilled meat. So if you get a sirloin and you marinade it for a few hours in a mixture of olive oil, lime juice, chili powder, black pepper, and garlic, then those spices accentuate the flavor of the meat. They don’t overwhelm it, but they don’t hide it, either. So if you haven’t liked the flavor of grass-fed in the past, that’s a great way to start, with a really good marinade. So the beautiful thing about the carne asada is that after you marinate the meat, then you throw it on the grill really quickly, and you pile it on a ciabatta roll with some spread made of mayonnaise, a little hot sauce, a little lime juice, and then you grill some thick-cut red onions, some red peppers, a poblano pepper if you like, and you just pile that all on the sandwich, and it’s so good, it’s so tasty. The meat gets thin-sliced across the grain. It’s a mess to eat, but it’s so delicious.

Joy Manning: Sounds perfect for summer.

Marilyn Noble: It is, it’s great for summer. And that’s one thing I would suggest with this particular set of recipes, if you’re afraid of the flavor, that’s one that will help you get past that.

Marilyn Noble: And then the other one, we have some great steak rubs. So if you want to try a grass-fed steak but you’re afraid of the flavor, put a rub on it. We have one here. One of the photographers said she could put this rub on her toast for breakfast, she liked it so much. It’s very simple. It’s paprika, salt, cocoa powder, espresso powder, garlic powder, a little brown sugar, and black pepper. And you mix that all up and you rub a lot of it, put a lot of it on the steak, and it’s so good when it comes off the grill because it chars a little bit. It’s got that smoky, kind of bitter flavor from the espresso and the cocoa powder, but it’s got a hint of sweet from the sugar. It’s just really good.

Marilyn Noble: And the other rub too is also very good. It’s also got espresso in it, but it’s heavier on the chili. It’s got smoked paprika and Chipotle powder and then some oregano and thyme, salt and pepper, garlic. Both of those are really good for, again, bringing out the beefy flavor and complimenting it with spice but not overpowering it or hiding it.

Joy Manning: And maybe people are not so much afraid of it or think they don’t like it, but maybe it’s just different and unfamiliar. And these types of bold flavors would help people make the transition, so to speak.

Marilyn Noble: Definitely, definitely. And the other thing too is, again, take care in cooking, because I’ve heard a lot of people say, “Oh, grass-fed. It’s so tough,” but it’s not if it’s cooked properly.

Joy Manning: Right. Right. Well, one thing grass-fed beef is, especially organic grass-fed, grass-finished beef, it’s more expensive. There’s no two ways about it, it costs more than conventional beef.

Marilyn Noble: Right.

Joy Manning: Do you have any cooking advice, shopping advice for home cooks on a budget?

Marilyn Noble: Oh, sure. First of all, don’t make it the center of your plate. Nobody needs a big old rib steak that’s hanging over the edges of the plate. It’s fun to eat that way, but that’s certainly not a budget-conscious way to eat. Go for smaller portions, go for off cuts that that people don’t think of too often, like flank steak or skirt steak or brisket. We have a couple of recipes for those cuts in the Panorama Perspective. And those are a good way to buy meat on a budget. You eat a smaller portion, instead of making it the center of the meal. And then as Kay Cornelius, who’s the GM of Panorama, likes to say, ground beef is the gateway. So ground beef is a way to cook… You’re going to pay a couple bucks more a pound, but you can extend ground beef. You can feed a family with a pound, and it’s just a really good budget way to eat grass-fed.

Joy Manning: Yeah. You shared 10 cooking tips in the magazine for cooking with grass-fed beef. We’re going to link to where our listeners can download the whole thing and read all the tips and see all the recipes, but could you maybe just mention one or two of the most important tips right now?

Marilyn Noble: Sure. As we’ve talked before, the most important thing is to pay attention when you’re cooking. Use a meat thermometer, take care, don’t overcook. You don’t want to go past about medium-rare. Take it off the heat before it gets to the correct temperature so that you’re going to let it rest for a few minutes. The other thing is, even before you cook, watch the way you thaw the meat. It’s so easy to be in a hurry and say, “Oh, I think I’m going to pull that steak out for dinner tonight,” but it’s in the freezer, and so you don’t ever want to leave it on the counter thawing. That’s a big bad no-no.

Joy Manning: Yeah, grass-fed beef like this is often sold frozen, right?

Marilyn Noble: It is, it is. I think most of Panorama’s line is case-ready, meaning it’s fresh meat, but sometimes even when you buy fresh meat, sometimes you stick it in your freezer yourself. So when you’re thawing it, let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Or if you’re in a hurry, put it in a vat of cold water and let it sit to thaw for up to an hour. You don’t want to let it sit there all day, of course, but that will usually get it to a point where it’s cookable. Don’t ever thaw meat in a microwave. Any kind of-

Joy Manning: Tell us what happens, Marilyn.

Marilyn Noble: Oh my gosh, you end up with gray spots. Part of it cooks, part of it’s still frozen, and then you try to cook it and you end up with a mess. So that’s a-

Joy Manning: That’s not what you want to do.

Marilyn Noble: No, no, no. That’s a big bad no-no.

Joy Manning: Especially when you’re starting with quality, nice, organic grass-fed beef.

Marilyn Noble: Oh, exactly. Exactly. So treat it with care. You have spent money on this and it should be something you really enjoy eating, so just treat it with care. Be gentle.

Joy Manning: Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Marilyn. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

Marilyn Noble: Oh, you’re so welcome. It’s been a pleasure to talk with you also.

Joy Manning: That was food writer Marilyn Noble. You can find her online at marilynnoble.com, and you can download the Panorama Perspective Magazine with the recipes we talked about today at ediblecommunities.com. Thank you for joining us today on Eat, Drink, Think.

Joy Manning: If you liked this episode, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And don’t forget to pick up your local Edible Magazine. You can find show notes for today’s episode at ediblecommunities.com.

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