If my 4+ years in the meat industry has taught me anything, it’s that we Americans need to have a discussion about Ground Beef. The reason being is that not all Ground Beef is created equal, and that fact alone, I think, is lost on a lot of consumers. So let’s dive into to this subject, I’ll think you’ll find this information both compelling, and useful when shopping for your next batch of Ground Beef.
Let’s start by considering that the word Beef in Ground Beef is very ambiguous. You can take any muscle you like and grind it up. In some cases, Tenderloin for example, it’s doesn’t make business sense to use a muscle for Ground Beef. Market value for Tenderloin Steaks (Filet Mignon) is much higher than Ground Beef. Generally speaking, one would use cuts that have a retail value that is less than, or equal to the retail value of Ground Beef. Examples would be Chuck (Shoulder), or Round, or Trim which can come from various sections of the cow. This is why you will sometimes see Ground Chuck, or Ground Round, or even Ground Sirloin. This is more specific as to which cut or muscle was used to make the batch. These grinds will usually be a little more expensive than Ground Beef, particularly Sirloin.
Now that we understand what Ground Beef can consist of, let’s take a look at supply and demand. As mentioned, you could grind 100% of meat off of a cow into Ground Beef, but if you’re trying to make money selling it, that’s not a winning strategy. So, right off the bat we have an limited amount of muscle to use to make a batch of Ground Beef. This is one reason the scenario of mass production began to take hold. There is an inevitable imbalance that is going to occur when demand for a specific cut exceeds the given yield on a beef carcass (or pork or chicken). Simply put, Ground Beef demand drives beef production. Just as demand for Chicken Breast drives chicken production. We have gotten to the point where we don’t product enough cows domestically to meet the demand. That’s why we import a lot of Ground Beef.
There is a high probability that store-bought Ground Beef is imported. On top of that, there’s a good chance that a given pound of store-bought Ground Beef contains beef from multiple countries. We here at The Ventura Meat Company believe in supporting American ranchers. We also believe in making our Ground Beef fresh right here in the shop. We believe in small batches, and big flavor. Does this mean our Ground Beef carries a higher price per pound than it’s store-bought counterpart? Yes, it does. But the process to make ours is much simpler, and much safer than our bigger competition. Give ours a try, and I know you’ll agree that there is no comparison between what we call Ground Beef, and what the big grocers call it.
I’ve got some big news about chicken.
I am very excited to announce that we’re bringing in a new brand of chicken. Please take some time and check out Jidori Chicken. As you can see, Jidori Chickens are raised in cruelty-free environments in Central California. They are never administered antibiotics or growth hormones. But, what sets Jidori apart is the amazing flavor. It is my belief that Jidori has a better tasting bird, and that has a lot to with freshness.
Anyone who has ever bought chicken will tell you, the shelf life is unstable to say the least. I mean to say chicken goes bad very quickly. Red meat is like fine wine, it gets better with age. Poultry is decidedly the opposite. Time is of the essence with poultry, and it has come to my attention that Jidori is tops when it comes to freshness. Also, Jidori processes all their chickens by hand. This reveals that they aren’t a massive operation. They employ small farmers in the Fresno area to grow their chickens, and have a small boutique processor handle all of their processing.
So, it is with a great deal of pride and excitement that we will offer this brand going forward. I can assure you that it is lock-in-step with the values that we have always had when it comes to poultry. I am certain that you will not only feel comfortable knowing how these chickens are handled, but also with the overall quality.
Of course if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Michael Buckley Owner/Operator The Ventura Meat Company
Let’s be taboo and talk a little politics, shall we? After all, no one impacts our food industry more than Uncle Sam. I’ll get a little more specific.
There is a piece of legislation making its way through congress called The PRIME Act (Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption). Alrighty, what the heck does all that mean? Let’s dig in.
Under current law, no matter the size of your farm, if you want to sell your meat to the general public, you have to abide by certain rules. The biggest of which is that you have to have your livestock processed in a USDA approved facility. Now, building a USDA facility isn’t the cheapest thing in the world to do, so there aren’t a whole heck of a lot of them to begin with. In turn, doing business with these facilities isn’t cheap either.
So, even if you’re a small farmer, you’ve got to go through the same route as some of your bigger competition. It is my opinion that this greatly affects the number of small farmers we have in this country (read: we need more of them). Given the land mass we have in this country, it is a colossal shame that most of our farmland has gone to the industrialists of the world. We’d be much better served having small farmers, growing a diversity of crops and livestock, from sea to shining sea, instead of the Big Agriculture monoculture we have in places like Iowa and Nebraska.
The PRIME Act, is designed to get the USDA out of the way, and allow small farmers to use custom processing shops to get their meat to market. This will cut cost for a few reasons. First off, the processing itself will be less expensive, because custom shops don’t have to jump through federal hoops to do business. Secondly, since there are so few USDA facilities, farmers sometimes have to drive several hundred miles just to get to one of these facilities. Being able to use small custom processing shops, will definitely lead to these farmers not having to drive those miles, which of course affects cost.
It’s worth noting that this only deregulates to the state level. That means we’re going to need Sacramento to understand that this is intended to encourage people to not only start small farms, but make the cost of getting their product to market less expensive. We certainly don’t want to trade in one Caesar for another.
So, if this stirs in you, I encourage you to call your congressman and tell them to get behind the PRIME Act. It is the belief of this butcher, that it will make the cost of running a small farm a little lower, and hopefully that will encourage more folks to get out there and start farming!
Eating meat, in and of itself, comes with a degree of responsibility. Now in my observation, the slope of that degree greatly depends on the individual. Everyone has a different take on meat eating, and very few people are indifferent on the subject.
In my opinion, if we are to discuss the notion of eating meat versus not eating meat, we must consider every aspect of that notion. Ethical treatment of animals is certainly something a lot of people consider, but it can’t be the only consideration we take in deciding whether or not to consume meat. There is ample evidence suggesting that finishing cows on grass (that is to say allowing cows to graze on open pasture for the entirety of their life) is a big net gain for the environment as well as animal welfare. So, you can both address your concerns for animal welfare, and any concerns you have about the environmental impact of industrial farming, by supporting the right farms.
Obviously we’d be remiss not to mention the role that meats (that is to say fats and proteins) play in our overall nutrition. You certainly don’t have to cut out meat to be healthy human being, and I think that notion is pretty well accepted. But we wouldn’t dare ask you to take our word for it. I’m certainly not the healthiest man in the world, but believe me, meat is not derailing my overall fitness (can you say craft beer?).
So, it is the opinion of this butcher, that opting out of eating meat for any one of these items is not addressing the entirety of the conversation. If we are to make catastrophic changes to the manner in which livestock are treated in this country, and around the world, both we and our animal friends are better served by us seeking out, and supporting the right farms, as opposed to just opting out completely.
Meat consumption, and therefore production aren’t going anywhere. Let’s work together to find farms that are both stewards of their land, and their livestock. I firmly believe that we will all be the beneficiaries as a result.