By Todd Schindler, ABBA Research and Breed Improvement Committee Chairman.
As with any business that sells a product, you should know and believe in what you sell. If you’re reading this article, there is a good chance that you are in the beef business. The ultimate product for someone in the beef business is red meat. The best way to know your product (red meat) is to feed out a calf and have it processed for your family’s consumption. Here’s a plan to consider.
1. Pick out a bull calf that isn’t herd sire material, and have it castrated and vaccinated as per your ranch needs.
2. You can put it on full feed, full grass, or use a grass/feed mix. Be careful what you feed the steer as it can affect the flavor. Stay away from products with fish meal and pastures that have weeds or have recently been fertilized with chicken litter. I would recommend you stay with the grass/feed mix, for flavor, marbling, and cost savings.
3. Develop your cut sheet. Here’s an example of a cut sheet. Feel free to use it or amend it to fit your needs. You may want different cut thicknesses or product mixes. Consult your processer for other options to better fit your preferences.
4. You need to find a Meat Market as your steer gets ready. Typically, the processor will charge a kill fee and keep the hide, head, internal organs, excess fat and bones. If you want to keep any of these items, discuss this with the processor ahead of time. You will also pay a per lb. carcass processing fee. Most processors will have a standard carcass hang time. I would recommend a hang time of 14 days, which will give the carcass time to age for flavoring and improve tenderness. Most processors want to get the carcass out ASAP, and may charge a fee for additional hanging days.
5. If you are unfamiliar with how to determine when your steer is ready, you may want to talk to your county extension agent or the meat processor you have chosen. Too early and the steer may not achieve its maximum marbling potential and/or lack fat covering which protects the carcass while aging. Too late and the steer may be overly fat, which causes waste and increases feeding and processing cost.
6. When the day of delivery comes, take your time, try not to stress the steer. It is felt that stress and adrenaline can negatively affect flavor and marbling. Taking it nice and easy will also prevent bruising of the carcass.
7. Have realistic expectations for the amount of red meat you get. Don’t expect to get a truck of boxes when you pick up your order. There is a lot of weight/waste in the head, hide, bone and leftover internal organs. When you visit with the processor ask him/her what to expect.
8. Make sure you have enough freezer space.
9. Pick up your product.
10. Time to test the product. Start by looking at a ribeye steak prior to cooking, to determine if it has marbling and good color. Let the ribeye thaw to room temperature, pat dry, apply olive oil, sea salt and cracked pepper. I would tell you to not marinade or use other seasonings, so that you can actually get the true taste of the meat. Cook it your way, when ready let it rest for a few minutes. Now comes the moment to truth, cut off a piece and give it a try.
If the raw steak has enough marbling, the cooked steak taste good and is tender you are probably on the right track, if it lacked any of these factors you have two choices; look into obtaining better carcass genetics or take next year’s steer and make it all into hamburger and/or beef jerky. On a side note, never give the steer a name, kids and grandkids may have trouble eating their pet.