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 produce 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.
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!
The Holiday’s are upon us, and it’s time to talk ‘Prime Rib’! It is by far the most requested cut of meat for holiday dinner parties and the like. So what’s the story here? Let’s dig in.
So, what is ‘Prime Rib’, anyways? The word Prime is in reference to the USDA grading scale. Prime being the best, then Choice, then Select. This scale is based solely on intramuscular fat density, or “marbling”. Rib is in reference to the cut itself. So, ‘Prime Rib’ is a Bone-In Ribeye Roast that is densely marbled. Now for the catch, not all Bone-In Ribeye Roasts (aka Standing Rib Roast) being sold as Prime Rib are actually ‘Prime Rib’. I’ll explain.
First off, Prime beef is not cheap. So, anyone telling you that you can get all you can eat Prime Rib for $13, isn’t really selling Prime Rib. Sure they’re selling Ribeye, but there’s no way it’s Prime at that price. In this way, Prime Rib has sort of become like Kleenex. It doesn’t matter what brand of tissue you’re using, it’s still Kleenex. So, be sure and ask if what you’re buying is prime rib, or ‘Prime Rib’.
Now onto the obvious question. Do we sell Prime Rib? We prefer to sell Grass-fed/finished Beef. Well what does that mean, right? When cows eat grains, it fattens them up. This is how dense marbling is achieved. So, since Grass-fed/finished cows never eat corn or soy or any type of grain, they don’t tend to be excessively marbled the way Prime beef is. For this reason, Grass-fed ranchers don’t even bother to pay the USDA to grade their beef, as it would not add value. So be weary of anyone claiming their Grass-fed beef is Prime.
I hope that clears the air a little on Prime Rib versus Standing Rib Roast. Here is the pricing break down. You can place your order here.
Grass-fed/finished Rib Roast – $20/lb0
‘Prime Rib’ Roast – $22/lbChoice Rib Roast – $16/lb
We know what you’re thinking. Why does some of the beef look so… different? Looks can be deceiving, and in this instance, that is most certainly the case.
Our beef looks different than what you may be used to because it is ‘dry-aged’. Well, what the heck does that mean? Here’s some perspective.
All beef is aged. Freshness is really only something to be concerned with when it comes to ground beef, but that’s an entirely different conversation. Back to aging beef…
There are two ways beef can be aged, ‘wet-aged’ which is what 99.99% of all meat retailers prefer to buy and sell. And ‘dry-aged’ which is what we prefer to buy and sell. The difference may surprise you.
Wet-aging is quite simply the process of cryovac or vacuum sealing a cut of beef directly after it is cut off of the carcass. This process is most common because, and this is very important, it causes the cut of meat to retain moisture. Why does that matter? It matters because meat is sold by the pound. Wet-aging allows the seller to pass on this moisture to you, the consumer. So, when the cut of meat is weighed, the moisture retention affects the total weight. Quite simply, you’re buying water.
Well, what about dry-aging, then? I’m glad you asked. Dry-aging is the exact opposite of wet-aging. You see, dry-aging induces moisture evaporation. Do you see where I’m going with this? Over the aging period, which with our beef is around 21-29 days, the whole carcass can lose as much as 12% of the total weight due to, get ready for it, moisture evaporation. What does that mean for you? Keep in mind, meat is bought and sold by the pound. Since our beef has been dry-aged, and a great deal of the moisture has evaporated, when you buy beef from us that is what you are buying, BEEF, not WATER. And isn’t that the reason you came into the store to begin with? But wait… there’s more!
Since much of the moisture has evaporated from our beef, this affects the flavor in a massive way. What you are tasting when you eat beef from us is… you guessed it… BEEF! And as it turns out beef is delicious.
So, while our beef may appear to be unappealing, remember that dry-aging has incredible value for you, the customer, in terms of price and flavor.