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Here's what you need to know when buying beef
Buying hanging weight.
Why do farmers like to sell this way? It takes all the risk and puts in on the customer and not on the farmer. It doesn't matter what the loss is, how good or bad of a job the butcher does if the farmer is getting paid on the rail. There is no incentive to feed out the beef a bit longer to get a higher yield if your going to get paid practically the same either way. There is a lot that can affect the final weight of what you bring home and we will go over many of these factors next.
Breed: While there are many different beef breeds out there none will marble as well on grass as Angus. While there are a few crosses that also do well, such as Hereford-Angus, there are others, such as long horn angus that do horrible.
Cuts: Different farmers request different cuts from their butcher and different butchers do cuts differently. What is requested and how the butcher performs the cuts will result in different yield outcomes. We have been to butchers that consistently loose upwards of 45% or even more while another butcher consistently only looses 35%. Why? Its all in the cut. It takes time to get a great cut and some butchers don't put in the time to get the highest yields. Your choice in cuts also will affect finished wight. If you request all bone out cuts you will lose a lot of wight.
Here is an example.
Farmer A has a black angus that hangs at 600 lbs. He gets a standard bone in cut and walks away with 390 lbs of meat (600 x 4.50lb = 2700/ 390= $6.92 lb wrapped)
Farmer B has a texas longhorn that hangs at 600 lbs. he uses the same butcher and cut and walks away with 330 lbs of meat (600 x 4.50lb = 2700/330 = $8.18 lb wrapped)
What else do you need to know?
What do these terms mean?
"100% grass fed"
"100% grass finished"
None of these terms are regulated any more so any one can slap them on a package of meat. Many farmers that we know sell "grass fed" but after talking to them we here "well we do give them grain at the end for a bit" These farmers are not trying to be dissipative (well most of them) this is just the way they have been doing it for ever and they don't understand the difference. Make sure you ask your farmer "do they receive any grain" ALL cows are grass fed. Let me repeat this because most of the consumers I've talked to do not understand this ALL cows are grass fed....untill they aren't. Feed lots do NOT raise babies. Feed lots also called finishing lots are just that, the last stop before the butcher. an organic label also does not mean that a beef was all grass fed. There is Organic corn soy and other "natural feed" that can be used to finish the beef. MOST certified organic beef that you buy at the grocery is Holstein (black and white dairy cows).
Certified Angus. This lable actually is not regulated by any one other then the company who patented it. Under their guidlines a certified Angus beef does not have to have any angus DNA it must only have a 51% black hide. Because of this many holsitens qualify for the label. Why is this important? 1. True angus has a much richer flavor. they can finish out on grass wonderfully in a reasonable amount of time. 2. angus will generally grade better as far a quality. 3. Holsteins are usually from large dairies. they were not raised on mom like an beef cow would be and have more then likely been given a Lot of grain.
did you know??? ALL vaccines are approved under USDA Organic standards?
When you eat out
Now lets look at the beef your eating. If you are eating at Mcdonalds or any other fast food resturant your beef burger is likely from a "retired" dairy cow. Many Dairies only keep cows for 8 years before selling them off. Also if the cow gets to a point where they are no longer proffitabel the cow will be sold ealier. Causes such as mastities or a blown udder or low production would all be cause to trade out the cow. To produce milk dairy cows are bread every year. When a female is born she is raised to be a replacement cow. When a boy is born he is sold to become beef. This is a large part of your grocery store beef and beef found at resturants like Sizzler , buffets and similar establishments. The calves are raised on milk replacer (we can have a long conversation on the ingreadiants in this some time) put on pasture for a while but spend the rest of its life on a feed lot. Beef raised for the sole purpuse of beef, for example Angus, long horn ect, is usually raised a little different. Mom gives birth, most likely in the winter, and baby stays on mom nursing for up to 8 months. They both spend there time on pasture. When baby weans it is either kept on pasture or more then likely put on a feed lot to "finish" for about 150 days. For both dairy and beef breeds males are given an implate in their ear that releases hormones for about 150-200 days. There are many available that can be given at any time and the FDA requires a 0 withdraw time. This increaces the rate that muscle is put on. Ractopamine is also legal to use in beef (we talked about this in the pig article)
The cows are taken to a slaughter house cramped in and slaughtered gutted and skinned. Cut into quarters and frozen. Then shipped to a processing plant. It is then broken down into cuts frozen and sent to the store or restaurant. They package it and use gas to keep the color.
Our beef is taken to a local usda butcher a day or two early and provided food and water. This gives them time for the stress hormones (from being moved to a new place) to exit the body. These hormones can be transferred to you if still at high levels. The beef is aged for 2 weeks and cut into cuts and then frozen and delivered.