Cow Beef – It’s What’s for Dinner
Most of the steaks that end up in higher-end restaurants, or the premium steaks at your grocery store, are from “fed cattle”, young animals that eat a high energy ration on a feedlot. Ground beef on the other hand, takes a different path from the farm to your plate. And whether you call it ground beef or burger, if it’s ground round, ground chuck, ground sirloin or sold as hamburger, or sold as fajita meat, much of it’s from the same source – older animals who are at the end of their productive lives.
Some cuts from these older animals end up as steaks at value-type restaurants. If you’re eating a rib-eye from a buffet-style restaurant, it’s most likely from one of these animals. Brisket is often from these animals, as well as some specialty meats, like Philadelphia-style steak.
In the food processing industry, you’ll hear terms like “boneless processing beef” and “trimmings” to denote this product.
For those of us who are cow/calf producers, this means our “open” cows – those that didn’t breed back on schedule, cows who have lower quality calves (you’ll often hear these calves called dinks), and gummer cows (those with bad teeth), and those that cause management problems, like jumpers or aggressive cows.
Older, less productive dairy cows enter this value chain, as well as cull bulls. On many operations, any one beef bull will only be kept in the herd for two years. This is because most producers hold back some of their higher quality female calves to serve as replacement heifers, to take the place of cows who were culled from the herd. After two years in the herd, a bull would be potentially breeding back his own daughters, possibly leading to genetic disorders.
These animals are usually sold directly through live auctions, and hauled directly to the processing facility.