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Story of a Steak

Recently, we came across this series put out by the Angust TV called Story of a Steak. It takes you on a visual tour of how your steak makes it from the field to your plate. It begins with a ranch in Wyoming, takes you through a feed yard in Kansas, and finally ends up at the meat lab. This is a great line up of episodes as it really gives you an inside look into the people behind the cattle production. Often times, we all think that our beef in the grocery stores came out of some factory where there is no human interaction. The cows went in as calves, were pumped with feed and additives, and come out the other side in boxes.

But that simply isn’t the case, this series reminds us that there are people behind that steak on your plate, there are family farms, ranches, and feed yards. There is human interaction between all three and one sector of cattle production relies on the other. It takes all three working together in order to create that quality choice beef that ends up nourishing your family as well as theirs. This series shows that the cattle industry is always looking to do better, to improve, as well as take consumer concerns into consideration.

Story of a Steak Segment 1: Gathering, Weaning, and Shipping

Story of a Steak Segment 2: Shipping Cattle

Story of a Steak Segment 3: Introduction to Feed Yard

Story of a Steak Segment 4: Importance of Animal Health

Story of Steak Segment 5: Halfway Point, Feed Yard and Rancher Meet Up

Story of Steak Segment 6: Addressing Consumer Concerns and Taking a Critical Look at Cattle Industry

Story of a Steak Segment 7: Meats Lab and Final Evaluation

The cattle industry doesn’t just thrive in the Midwest. Fourth, fifth, and even sixth generation ranchers can be found all across Northern California and cattle can be seen grazing all over the grassy hills in Butte, Tehama, and Glenn counties. This production is happening right here in our backyards. Cattle rancher, Holly Foster, was featured on Angus TV in a segment called I Am Angus. We love that Angus TV is working towards putting a face behind the people who are raising and growing our food. If you’ve driven out to Butte College, you’ve seen the cattle of the Foster Ranch.

Angus TV is loaded with all sorts of information on how beef is raised as well as meat handling tips. I hope you took the time to watch this series from the Angus TV along with their channel over at Youtube: Angus TV.

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Cooking the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

Here’s our super basic, super simple and easy tutorial for roasting a fantastic turkey for this Thanksgiving. Now I know many of you may have your own tried and true ways of cooking your turkey, but we are keeping things simple. There are plenty of opportunities to add spice, flavor, and personal frill along the way so feel free to take this recipe and run with it.

Preparation: HD

This method will work with any fresh turkey, any size, brined or not brined, free-range, whatever. When purchasing a turkey, you figure about a pound per person. First and foremost, be sure your turkey is completely thawed before cooking. About an hour to half hour before roasting, take your turkey out of the fridge. Remove any packaging and be sure to check in the body cavity and neck for the bag of giblets. If you choose not to brine your turkey (which is perfectly okay), be sure to rub it down with salt and pepper. Here’s where you can add some flair. Many people rub their turkey with a flavored butter or oil, rub minced herbs and spices into or beneath the skin, or even put a few cloves of garlic inside the cavity. We recommend leaving your turkey unstuffed because it allows the turkey to cook more evenly. In order to successfully cook a turkey, you need the right equipment. A roasting pan with some sort of rack to remove the turkey out of the pan is recommended. You will also need a baster or simply a spoon.

Cooking: 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Pour two cups of water or broth into the bottom of the roasting pan, place the turkey breast side up in the rack, and place the roasting pan with the turkey in the rack into the oven. The rule of thumb for cooking a turkey is about 13-15 minutes per pound. So a 16 pound turkey should take about 3 hours and 45 minutes. However, sometimes other factors come into play so it’s important to begin checking the temperature of your turkey about halfway through the cooking time to gauge how fast it’s cooking.

Be sure to baste your turkey about every 45 minutes to an hour and if at any time the skin is looking too brown or crispy, cover it with foil. As with any meat, the number one indicator to tell if it’s done is temperature. We recommend checking the temperature of your turkey in three places: the breast, outside the thigh, and inside the thigh. Once these three places register 165 degrees on an instant read meat thermometer, your turkey is done. Remove it from the oven and this is important, let it rest. Transfer the rack to a cutting board and cover the turkey with aluminum foil for about 15-20 minutes. This gives the meat to firm up and re-absorb the juices.

Finally, you’re ready to carve your turkey and enjoy!

Other Thanksgiving Recipes: 

Here is the printable for Cooking the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

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Did You Know: There Is Such A Thing As Purple Meat?

dark-cut-scotch-filletIt’s probably likely that if you solely buy meat from the grocery store, you didn’t know there was such as thing as purple meat. Yes, purple meat. Or as we call it in the meat industry, dark cutting beef. Dark cutting beef carcasses have a purplish-black color rather than a bright red color we are all used to. Often times, dark cutting beef may resemble meat that has been vacuum packaged, but vacuum packaged meat will brighten back up (or bloom) after the package has been opened and it has been exposed to oxygen. (see brown meat post for the science behind this). It is estimated that 1-2% of beef carcasses slaughtered end up dark cutting beef.

But how does this happen?

In the time between slaughter and chilling the carcass, a chemical reaction known as glycolysis occurs in the muscle tissue. This reaction converts glycogen (basically the carbohydrates in the muscle) into lactic acid. This lactic acid causes the pH of the meat to decline from the neutral value of somewhere around 7.2 found in the live animal. This drop in pH is what turns meat red. Good quality beef has a final pH value of close to 5.5. As the pH value of the beef rises above 5.8, both tenderness and shelf life of the meat is adversely affected. Dark cutting beef is beef that has a pH level of 6.0 and higher. Besides being unappealing in appearance, dark cutting beef also tends to have the following characteristics:

  • dry texture due to a high water holding capacity
  • reduced shelf life due to higher pH and more moisture bacteria can grow more rapidly
  • a sticky texture

DSCN3222-1024x680Dark cutting beef is triggered by high stress in an animal before slaughter. An adrenaline release or strenuous muscle activity before processing means that the supply of glycogen will be depleted, the chemical reaction will not occur, and the meat will remain dark instead of turning red. Stress could be from a variety of factors anything from transportation of the animals, mishandling, mixing of unfamiliar cattle, and even changing weather conditions.

Dark cutting beef is not something new, feedlots and packing plants have known these factors for many years and take great care to avoid dark cutters. It’s one of the reasons why I never understand animal rights organizations try to make the argument that all animals are stressed out in slaughterhouses. If this were the case, the instance of dark cutters would be off the charts and the packing plants would be bleeding money. It is estimated by the National Beef Quality Audit that dark cutters cost the beef industry $5.00 for every animal slaughtered. $5.00 doesn’t seem like much but when you think about the fact that in 2012, USDA reported 33 million head of cattle being slaughtered with 98.4 percent of that total being done under federal inspection. That’s quite a bit of money being lost annually due to dark cutters. It has been estimated that Cargill alone loses a whopping $300 million dollars annually due to dark cutters. The meat from dark cutting beef is usually sold for a minimum of 10% less than it’s normal retail value because it is considered unappealing to the retail market. Customers want to purchase red meat, not purple meat.

How can we avoid dark cutting beef?

Professionals in animal handling like Temple Grandin have worked very closely with operations of all sizes, helping packing houses and slaughterhouses minimize and hopefully eliminate stress for the animals. Temple Grandin has outlined several steps for loading and unloading, restaining, and even how to deal with an excitable animal. Many of these methods are not only used in slaughterhouses, but are also used in feedlots and by individual ranchers working cattle too.

Image courtesy Temple Grandin

Image courtesy Temple Grandin

  • Solid sides or barriers around the cattle to prevent them from seeing people deep inside their flight zones. This is especially important for wild or excitable cattle
  •  To prevent lunging at the headgate, the bovine’s view of an escape pathway must be blocked until it is fully restrained.
  • Provide non-slip flooring for all species of animals.
  • Slow steady motion of a restraint device is calming, while sudden jerky motion excite.
  • The entrance of the restraint device must be well lighted, however, lamps must not glare into the eyes of approaching animals. All species must be able to see a place to go.
  • Livestock will remain calmer if they can see other animals within touching distance.
  • Engineer equipment to minimize noise. High pitched noise is more disturbing to livestock than a low pitched rumble.

It is fairly easy to spot cattle that are stressed, often times this is due to fear or uncertainty. Signs of stress in cattle are typically vocalization (lots of moo-ing or bellowing), eyes wide open with head high, panting, lots of defecating. Slaughterhouses as well as feedlots and other operations carefully monitor animals for this kind of behaviour and do their best to prevent it from happening.

So what happens to dark cutting beef?

Appearance is dark cutting beef’s number one repellant when it comes to the retail market. Since retailers won’t purchase dark cutting beef due to the fact that it won’t sell, most of dark cutting beef ends up in the food service industry side in places where customers don’t see the raw product but instead enjoy the cooked product. Although dark cutters can cause meat to become dry and sticky and sometimes tough, there is really no palatability problem with dark cutting beef. And it certainly makes perfectly fine hamburger!

Professionals in the meat science industry have been working towards enhancing and further utilizing dark cutting beef to essentially improve the value. One of the problems in dark cutters when it comes to whole muscle cuts is that even after it’s been cooked, dark cutting beef still retains its dark color. Almost as if the meat hadn’t been cooked at all. This is a huge turnoff for retail as well as food service professionals. Dr. Jason Apple from the University of Arkansas found that through trials done on dark cutting beef enhanced with lactic acid (0.25-1% lactic acid), they could change pH which results in a dark cutting beef becoming nearly impossible to tell the difference between a beef grading somewhere around low choice both in fresh and cooked beef. If you are interested in the specifics, the video below is pretty neat.

The process of dark cutting beef occurs can happen in other species of animals like sheep and pork, it’s not strictly limited to beef. The chemical process is just a little different in other species, but the end result is the same. It’s a lose-lose for everyone when you have a dark cutting animals come through the packing plant. By understanding animal behavior and pairing that with proper animal handling techniques, slaughterhouses can avoid purple meat and we all can enjoy that bright red meat we all know and love.

 

For more information on dark cutting beef, visit these resources:

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The Real Story Behind Chicken Nuggets…

Well that “pink slime” controversy is rearing it’s ugly head again… But this time it isn’t about the beef. The suspect in question? Chicken. I am sure many of us remember this image of that “pink” substance many people were trying to say was lean finely textured beef.

MSC

Plain and simple, this is a meat emulsion. Not pink slime.

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The Bacon Craze.. How Did This Happen?

It’s been called a meat condiment, meat candy, people have described themselves as having a bacon tooth. It seems like nowadays everywhere you go, you find bacon. Bacon infused vodka, bacon cupcakes, bacon wrapped anything under the sun… What can’t you find that isn’t bacon flavored? Bacon has become a national craze that has got even vegetarians admitting they find it hard to resist bacon. In an extremely and increasingly health conscious public and in a time when soda bans and trans fats bans are being legislated, why is bacon consumption in the United States growing larger than ever before? Well, to be honest, butchers and meat processors are really left scratching our heads here. Read more

Nitrites: What’s the REAL Story?

Nitrites are something that have been in the news off and on since the 1980’s. One news story tells you they cause cancer, the next one tells you the health benefits of nitrites. There have even been billboards trying to prey on the fear that hot dogs are just as bad as smoking cigarettes. hot-dog-billboard-cancer-project-300x169Some products claim to be “nitrite free” but are they really nitrite free…? There’s so much information out there, what’s the real story? Before we get down to the real story, let’s cover what a nitrite is and how it ended up in our beloved cured meats like hot dogs and bacon.  Read more

What We Want You to Know About the Meat Industry

As a business who’s been in the meat industry and seen many different sides of the industry, we’d like consumers to know that you can find good meat no matter where you go. Don’t feel like you’ve got to spend ridiculous amounts of money to get the best meat out there just because your neighbors do, or your friends do. Buying meat doesn’t have to be keeping up with the Jones. Good meat doesn’t have to be beef that was fed rice wine or even massaged their entire life. Feed and how an animal is raised can change taste, texture, and marbling (intramuscular fat), but it doesn’t change the fact that all are striving for quality. And quality can be found even at your big box store. Read more

How Do I Know When My Pork Chops Are Cooked?

For a long time as a child, I didn’t like pork… I know, the daughter of a butcher not liking pork it’s like a sin. Why didn’t I like pork? Well my mom usually over cooked it. It was dry, it was tough, and it was tasteless. She cooked it like her mother had always cooked it for her. Then one day, the butcher man himself, cooked us up some pork chops. Like a typical child, I turned my nose up at it but my dad didn’t give up until I tried it. His pork chops were juicy, they were flavorful, and they were delicious. Now pork has become a regular staple in my weekly meal plan. So what did Dad do that Mom didn’t…? He didn’t overcook the pork, he cooked it the way it should be.  Read more

Our Favorite Beef Cuts for Summer

We all know the classics: rib eyes, new yorks, filets…. The tried and true staples are great. We love a grilled rib eye as much as the next meat lover. But with beef prices usually through the roof during summer, grilling a rib eye up one night a week can put a dent on your pocket book! So what are some inexpensive cuts that are great to grill…? Here are our top 5 picks!  Read more

Best BBQ Sauce Recipes

We love a good BBQ sauce.. It makes a great marinade, dipping sauce, glaze… The uses are endless. And we sell a few wonderful BBQ sauces, but the truth is, homemade BBQ sauce HANDS DOWN takes the cake… Homemade BBQ sauce seems like it’s something that would be hard to make… Or take a lot of time. Truth is many homemade bbq sauces are easy and quick. We’ve put together five of our favorites for your chicken, pork, or beef!

BBQ Sauce Collage1. Pulled Pork BBQ Sauce – The New York Times Food

2. Asian Twist Homemade BBQ Sauce – Smitten Kitchen

3. Chipotle Mango BBQ Sauce – Iowa Girl Eats

4. Sweet Baby Rays Copycat BBQ Sauce – Half Baked Harvest

5. Tangy Carolina BBQ Sauce – Buns in My Oven

We hope that these recipes spice up your usual grill routine! Do you make your own BBQ sauce? What’s your favorite recipe? Please share with us!

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