What should you know about your steak?
Let's looks at the many things that you should know about your steak.
We'll begin with this blog and focus on what you should know about the beef cattle farm where your steak came from.
Because we are interested in SteakPerfection, we will concentrate on the best steaks, which come from the best beef cattle, which (as we shall learn) is limited to young steers.
FARM NAME AND ADDRESS
The first and most obvious fact that you should know about your steak is the name and address of the cattle farm where it came from.
Is the farm where the cattle was raised located in the Nebraska, Texas, Colorado, California, or another of the great beef cattle states? Knowing the farm and its address are important questions for evaluating the quality of your steak.
In the "old" days, beef cattle were bred, weaned, pastured and fed at a single ranch. Nowadays, the beef cattle industry has changed, and it may be necessary to know the names and addresses of three separate farms, where the beef cattle was raised and where your steak came from.
Most beef cattle today are bred at a cow-calf farm. This is a specialized farm, where beef calves are bred, raised, weaned and then usually sold.
When the calves are born, the male calves weigh about 75 pounds, and they are castrated (thus becoming steers). They are fed a diet of milk for about eight months, when they weigh about 600 pounds.
(Note that these and the following age and weight estimates vary according to the breed and other factors.)
At this time, the steers are weaned and transported to a stocker.
The stocker is a specialized farm that permits cattle to feed on grass in pastures and fields.
The adolescent steers eat grass and other forage for about five months. During this period, they gain in weight to about 900 pounds.
The feeder (also called a feedlot or CAFO, for concentrated animal feeding operation) is a specialized farm where cattle are fed a high-protein vegetable diet, which allows them to gain weight quickly.
The diet is based on corn and other grains, so the steers are then called "corn-fed" or "grain-fed" cattle.
Steers remain at the feeder farm until they are about 18 months old and weigh about 1,200 pounds. Then the steers are transported to the slaughterhouse.
Knowing where your steak comes from today means knowing the names and locations of three farms: cow-calf, stocker and feeder. But the problem is that very, very little of the best quality steak in the United States can be traced back through the system to the farm(s) where the cattle was raised.
To find out where your steak comes from, ask your butcher. If your butcher does not sell steaks that can be traced back to the farms where the cattle was raised, then ask your butcher to do so, or search for a butcher who can.
Carrie Oliver of The Artisan Beef Institute gives a perfect example. Every bottle of expensive wine shows the name and address of the winery, as well as the type of grape and the year it was bottled.
We who love steak are entitled to the same information about our steak. So ask your butcher for steak that comes from a known farm.
We all love great steak, and we have to learn from each other how to identify and purchase the best steak, starting with the name and location of the farm where the steers were raised.
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