Pasture To Plate: Where Beef Comes From

Have you ever wondered how that nice, juicy sirloin or T-Bone gets to your plate?  I know that a lot of consumers have!  It is hard to understand how our beef gets from pasture to plate, and there is a lot of gray area in the middle!  This whole process can take around 3 years from conception of the cow to harvest of the steer.  During this time, the calf will change hands approximately 2-3 times, as the beef industry is not vertically integrated like pork and chicken.  Below is a description of the typical life cycle of a beef cow.

On the Ranch

Momma cows are bred selectively to bulls, either through A.I. (Artificial Insemination) or through Natural Service.  Nine months later, a baby calf is born.  If this baby is a bull and isn’t going to be kept for breeding purposes, he will become a steer.  If this is a heifer, she may be kept as a replacement female or continue along the same pathway as her male counterparts.  These babies are kept with their moms until weaning, which is about 6-8 months of age, and will weigh anywhere between 450-700 pounds.  Ranchers take special care to make sure weaning is as low stress for the calf as possible.  During this time, they eat grass and drink milk.  They are also vaccinated and prepared for the next stage of their life.

Minnie, with her bull calf, Mickey

Backgrounding

After the calf is weaned from it’s mother, it is sent to the auction barn where it is bought by a backgrounder, or a stocker.  This person will take the calf and put it on pasture, where the calf will continue to grow before it is ready to be transferred to the feedyard.  This is a very important part of the process.  As the name implies, this helps to “background” these cattle for the feedyard by increasing the amount of protein and fat in their ration so that they are ready for the concentrated diet ahead.  If we did not include this step, it would be similar to when you are used to eating light meals and then all the sudden have a diet that is rich in fats and carbohydrates – it would upset your stomach a bit!

Calves on pasture during the backgrounding phase

To the Feedyard

Cattle again change hands, typically through the auction barn, and start their new life in the feedyard.  Here, they are fed a specially formulated ration that is tailored to meet their dietary needs and have access to this feed whenever they please.  Feedyard nutritionists evaluate the type of cattle, their weights and what their end goal is before formulating this ration.  Did you know, cattle are fed within 10 minutes of the same time everyday!

During this time, cattle have access to water at all times, and have plenty of room to roam about.  In fact, there are guidelines for the size of pens and how many cattle can be placed in them!   These pens may have mounds of dirt, where cattle can play “king of the hill,” one of their favorite games.  Cattle will typically spend 4-6 months here.  If you ask me, there isn’t much better of a life than this!

Cattle at the Feed bunk.  A ration includes roughages (hay, silage)and grains (corn, soybean, etc.)
Aerial View of a Feedyard.  Notice the amount of spacethe cattle have.

Packing Plant

Cattle arrive at the packing plant weighing about 1,200 to 1,400 pounds.  They are off-loaded carefully so as not to excite or stress the animals.  Packing plants are built with very specific guidelines in regards to building structure, location of areas, and footing.  Cattle are put into holding pens where they have time to rest and have a drink before entering the plant.   USDA inspectors also perform an antemortem inspection at this time to ensure that the cattle are healthy, can move about and are disease free.  After this, the cattle are brought up carefully and calmly, where they enter a series of winding pathways with high, solid walls.  The shape and structure of these chutes keeps the cattle calm and moving forward of their own accord. (A great video that goes into further depth on the workings of a packing plant can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMqYYXswono)

Throughout the entire harvest process, packing plant employees take careful measures to ensure the safety of the product.  After the cattle are hung on the rail and eviscerated (removal of the intestines), another USDA inspector performs a postmortem inspection to again check for signs of disease.  If the cattle are passed, they are stamped with a “U.S. Inspected and Passed” stamp and are free to go on and be further processed.

USDA Inspected and Passed Stamp
Beef Carcasses on the rail
USDA inspector performing the postmortem inspection

Retail Outlet

Beef is shipped all over the world, in addition to restaurants and grocery stores right here in the U.S.  This is where you can pick up your favorite cut and turn it into a tasty meal.  Once you have selected your beef, the rest is up to you!

A large selection of cuts available to you!
 Thanks & Gig ‘Em
Alicia

6 Reasons I Love Coming Home to the Farm 

The fall semester is over and Christmas is almost here! This is one of my favorite times of the year for many reasons: the Christmas cheer, the relief of finishing classes, seeing distant family etc. But the biggest reason this time of the year is my favorite is that I get to go home to the farm. Now don’t get me wrong I love Fayetteville and the university, but home is where the heart is after all. Here is why I love coming home to the farm.

The Space

Fayetteville is by no means a large city, but a semester of a small apartment, tight parking, and bumping shoulders with other students is slightly claustrophobic. Going home to an open field and being able to just whip the truck in the yard and leave it without fear of a parking ticket is definitely comforting.

The Work

Wait what?! Let me explain myself here. Although farm chores always seemed to get old when I was little, I realized after a semester of papers, reading, cramming for tests, and all the other school and extracurricular activities that the manual labor of throwing grain or feeding hay is cathartic. There’s something comforting about working like I did when I was a kid.

The Cows

Going along with the daily chores, it is great to come home to the root of it all: the cattle. Walking the fields and checking the cows is sort of like catching up with old friends that you haven’t seen in a while. Many of the cattle on my farm have been around for over a decade and it’s great coming home to their familiar faces, not to mention any of the calves they may have had while I was away!

The Food

I am no chef but I can hold my own in a kitchen. Nevertheless I tend to eat out (aka running to Taco Bell at 1 a.m.) more often than not. Even the food I do prepare at home just isn’t the same. I love coming home to a home-cooked meal like when I was kid. Mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, and BEEF steaks and roasts… Yum!

The Bed

My mattress at home is by no means luxurious. In fact my apartment’s bed is probably a nicer brand and without a doubt newer. Yet there is something great about coming home to the bed I slept in growing up. And after a hard week of finals and all-nighters it is definitely relieving to be able to rest up in a comfortable bed.

The Family

Of course no Christmas break would be complete without a family and on a family farm it wouldn’t be the same without them. I love coming home and catching up while working cows or moving hay. Sure it’s not the usual break but it’s what makes the farm home.

Wishing everyone the best over the break!

Will Pohlman

There’s a Cow in my Marshmallow!

Beef cattle are an excellent food source for humans, and for as long as we have been consuming beef, we have also been using numerous cattle by-products in our everyday life as well. By-products are secondary items that are produced in addition to the principle product. Parts of cattle other than their beef are used in manufacturing products for industrial, household, and health products. Below are a handful of ways that cattle touch our daily lives without the consumption of their beef.

From Cattle Fats/Fatty Acids:

  • Candles                                   –   Detergents
  • Crayons                                  –   Paper
  • Perfumes                                –   Toothpaste
  • Cosmetics                               –   Soaps
  • Shaving Creams                    –   Deodorants
  • Tires                                        –   Asphalt

From Cattle Hide and Hair:

  • Baseball Gloves
  • Leather wallets, gloves, and belts
  • Violin Strings
  • Paint Brushes
  • Drum Heads

From Cattle Bones and Horns:

  • Ice Cream
  • Piano Keys
  • Lipstick
  • Chewing Gum
  • Photographic Film
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Beef cattle produce many by-products along with their beef, take a look!

Cattle by-products allow 99% of every animal to be utilized! The fact is; we depend on cattle for their nutritious beef and their supply of numerous other resources throughout our day-to-day lives. Cattle help us live our lives in innumerable ways. As you go about your daily life, think of all the products you use that are by-products from beef cattle.

Have a great day!
Demi

A Second Harvest

This is after the stalks have been grazed for a while. You can pick out some corn cobs laying on the ground, as well as the rows where the corn was this summer

This is after the stalks have been grazed for a while.

On my family’s farm we not only raise cattle, we also raise a variety of crops. After we harvest the crops, residue is left on the fields. With corn, the residue includes the corn stalks, husks, and corn cobs.

During the winter, we let our cattle graze on these fields. This allows the cattle to convert the residue into a better fertilizer for the soil. The microorganisms in the manure help to improve the overall health of the soil, making the field better for next year.

When we harvest the corn, there will always be a certain amount of grain that is dropped or knocked down that we cannot harvest. This grain can then grow in the field, even if you change to planting a different crop the next year. This is known as volunteer corn. When the cattle graze the harvested corn fields, they consume the leftover corn in the field, and prevent volunteer corn from becoming a problem in future years.

Although there is no reaping like in the Hunger Games, volunteer corn can negatively impact the yield in a field.

It is called volunteer corn because it was not planted intentionally, it just grows on its own. Volunteer corn can negatively impact the yield in a field.

We really like utilizing the corn stalks as a feed source during the winter. The cows love it, and it gives us more options to feed our cattle.

Happy cows on corn stalks!

Happy cows on corn stalks!

Rachel Purdy
Princess Farmer

Death is Inevitable

Death is inevitable. We all know that death is apart of life. Although producers have the responsibility to care for their livestock, there are some things that they cannot control.

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Fierce.

Cattle have always held a very special place in my heart. As a child, I loved helping out around the ranch, and of course I still do. I would get most excited when Dad would bring home baby calves. This was usually done either because they were orphans or weak at birth. Whatever the reason a calf would be brought to the house, I would always welcome the baby with open arms.

 

However long the calf would be staying at my house, I wanted to care for it as much as possible. I learned very quickly that sometimes no amount of special attention can save a calf’s life.

 

As newborns, calves have very weak immune systems. A cow’s first milk, or colostrum, is high in antibodies and immunoglobulins, which are needed to kick -start the newborn’s immune system so that it has the greatest chance of living a healthy life. Calves are only able to absorb the vital nutrients from their mother for the first 24-hours of life. Timing is of the essence when dealing with calves to ensure they gain passive immunity from their mother.

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A great mama with her newborn baby.

Some calves are vitamin deficient at birth. On our operation, they receive a vitamin shot, and a vaccination to protect the calf from harmful bacterial threats. If needed, the calf will be supplemented with a colostrum substitute if it has not been able to nurse its mother for any reason.
Cattle health programs begin at the beginning. It is all about giving that animal what it needs to perform the way it was meant to perform throughout its life. Producers care for their animals because they accept the responsibility to provide for them but also because they depend on them to make a living.

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Producers work closely with local veterinarians to make sure they are doing what they need to care for their animals.

Despite proactive measures, things can still go wrong. Some things are simply out of our hands. A producer cannot stop a snow storm, just like a producer cannot prevent an animal from getting cancer. But by embracing preventative care and management practices, producers are able to give that animal its greatest chance of surviving harsh weather conditions and warding off health threats.

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Dad taking care of a baby shortly after birth.

 

 

God bless, Folks!

 

Kalyn McKibben

Blonde Beef Babe

Larry

The first time you meet Larry Grider, you would meet a man who thinks he is never wrong, has a lot of rough edges and truly lives up to the stubborn “Grider” name. He will tell you all about how when he hunts, the elk is “boom, down,” no chase, just drops dead. He will also tell you about how you are doing everything wrong with your cattle, and what you should really be doing. But underneath his tough exterior, you will find a man who has worked every day of his life and who cares deeply about his cattle.

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His “babies”

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Helping Get Cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Larry ranches in northern New Mexico, near Grants, where he runs a cow/calf operation on several different properties. Every morning, after he checks in on his mom, he drives his ranch truck to all these properties to check cows, and serve them their cake. He also keeps a pasture of bulls, which he has fond names for, such as “Not Afraid”. During calving season, he keeps careful records on which cows have calved and which are due. If he can’t find a cow, he will drive around until he finds her, probably with her new calf, and make sure she hasn’t had any trouble.

As he drives out to feed cows, they come up to the truck and you can hardly move they are so thick. Roll down the window and a long tongue will weasel its way in to search for tasty things to eat. As he feeds them, he checks each one and gives them a pet. There are a few special cows that he gives extra attention to – mainly ones that were orphaned and he bottle-fed to maturity.

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“Huncher” – Bottle Baby

Larry may come across as unemotional and gruff, but spend a few moments and you will see that he would do anything for his animals, no matter the cost. He has no formal education, but is a veterinarian, market analyst and ruminant nutritionist all in the same day. Most importantly, he is my Uncle and makes me proud to be a Grider.

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“Fifty-One” Helping break ice

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The “Real” Rancher

 

Home For The Holidays

Well it’s almost time! Only a handful of tests and papers stand between every college student and the holidays and by this time next week I will be back on the farm. Although I only live ten miles away and frequently return home to help with chores, there’s something exciting about sleeping in my own bed and eating food that I grew up with.

One of my absolute favorite home-cooked meals is roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy. I’m not sure if there is any dish that reminds me more of home and honestly the thought of it is my finish line this finals season. Mom has her secrets for her roast beef (including an antique pan from my grandmother), but there are plenty of fantastic roast recipes. Here’s a great recipe!

Roast beef is a great homey recipe that is perfect for the holidays.

Roast beef is a great homey recipe that is perfect for the holidays.

·      1 teaspoon olive oil

·      1 (3-pound) boneless chuck roast, trimmed

·      1 teaspoon salt

·      1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

·      2 cups coarsely chopped onion

·      1 cup dry red wine (optional)

·      4 thyme sprigs (optional)

·      1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium beef broth

·      1 bay leaf

·      4 large carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces

·      Fresh thyme leaves (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a roasting pan/Dutch oven and briefly sear onions then remove from pan. Season your chuck roast (don’t be afraid to heavily season and personalize it with spices like rosemary!)  and brown in the pan. Add the seared onions as well as thyme and bay leaf. Cover with beef broth and red wine and bring to a simmer. Cover and bake in oven at 350° for 1 ½ hours or until meat is nearly tender. Add carrots and bake for another hour or until the carrots are tender. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf and enjoy! The remaining broth is excellent for gravy served over mashed potatoes with garlic.

If your mom objects to trying a roast or new recipe, remind her of some advantages.

·      Roasts are economical and utilize cheaper, less tender cuts of beef such as those from the chuck and turn them into a tender and delicious meal.

·      Roasts are time efficient and require little prep time and the time in the oven is the perfect time to catch up with family.

·      Roasts are the perfect dish for larger, family meals. One roast can easily serve 6-8 people, perfect for holiday gatherings!

·      Beef is just as nutritious as it is delicious! One 3 oz. serving of beef is a good source of 10 essential vitamins and nutrients in less than 150 calories.

Don’t be afraid to try new beef recipes over the break! I wish everyone the best of luck with finals.

Will Pohlman

 

Fuel your Body for Finals Week

Today marks the last day of fall semester classes for students at The Ohio State University, and not only are finals the next step for myself and many others on this college campus, but they are also what lie ahead for students in all grades. As a part of the finals week preparation, incorporating beef into your diet is a great source of protein.

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10 essential nutrients beef provides your body

            Beef is a nutrient packed protein that helps give your body the energy it needs to have a successful day. “Beef’s Big 10” includes ten necessary nutrients that our bodies need to stay healthy and energized. Not only is the protein beef a good provider of riboflavin to help convert food into fuel, zinc to help maintain a healthy immune system (because taking finals sick is not fun!), but beef also contains vitamins B6 and B12 which helps maintain brain function (something we all need a little extra boost of while our brains are in information overload preparing for finals). Not only can beef be simple and easy to cook, it is very tasty and offers your body a laundry list of essential nutrients and vitamins to help “fuel up and power through” the upcoming weeks of finals!

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Asian Beef StirFry-one of the many simple recipes found at beefitswhatsfordinner.com

As we prepare for our finals, I want to wish everyone the best of luck. Study hard, sleep well, and most importantly enjoy a hardy and beef-filled supper the night before the big test; your body and brain will thank you when you pull off that “A”.

Remember, Beef- It’s What’s For Dinner!

Demi

For simple and easy beef recipes visit www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com

 

My Journey to a Healthy Lifestyle

All it took was one day of running to start embracing fitness in my life.

All it took was one day of running to start embracing fitness.

This fall, I began a journey that I wish I had started long ago. I started running. If you would have told me I would be running on a regular basis just two years ago, I am sure I would have scoffed and rolled my eyes at you. When I started training, I had one simple goal in mind. I wanted to be able to run a 5k without stopping. As I started training, I hated it. I hated being winded, I hated how slow I was, and I hated that I had let myself get so out of shape. I stuck with it, and now running is the best part of my day.

My biggest competition is myself. Every day I run to embrace a healthy lifestyle, not to impress anyone.

My biggest competition is myself. Every day I run to embrace a healthy lifestyle, not to impress anyone.

I quickly realized how important nutrition is! Beef provides me with the energy and nutrition I need to tackle anything (plus it’s delicious! Double win!!). I can say with confidence that beef truly does give athletes fuel for the finish. I also realized that exercise can make you feel better. Yes, it does feel great to go run off energy. In addition I am able to just escape from everything for an hour. This week, I was very thankful for running. Finals are coming up and the stress is piling on. After I run I feel like I can tackle anything life throws at me. Running keeps me sane.

An added bonus to running is that I am able to enjoy the outdoors!

An added bonus to running is that I am able to enjoy the outdoors!

Another reason I decided to run is for my health. Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and an assortment of cancers run in my family. All of these diseases can be prevented by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The wonderful thing about beef is that it has been shown to help prevent many of these problems. For example, people who participated in the Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet (BOLD) study experienced a 10 percent decline in LDL “bad” cholesterol. Beef has also been shown to prevent many chronic diseases, such as type-2 diabetes. By being active and eating beef in a healthy diet, I am taking steps to improve my health in the long run.

Rachel Purdy
Princess Farmer

15 Neat Ways to Incorporate Ground Beef Into Dinner

As a poor college kid, I appreciate the incredible inexpensive versatility ground beef offers. I am often in a hurry and need something nutritious to help me get though my stressful days. Ground beef is my go-to when I need a quick, delicious meal. Below are a few of my favorite ways to cook with ground beef.

 

1. Tacos and Burritos

groundbeeftacos

Tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tostadas, chimichangas, and the list goes on and on.

 

2. Spaghetti and meatballs

spaghettiandmeatballs

You can choose to make it with or without meatballs, whatever you have time for.

3. Casseroles

beefcornbread

I enjoy beef cornbread, but there are millions of options when it comes to beef casseroles.

4. Hamburgers

chorizo sliders with avacado cream

I like to make little sliders. They make wonderful appetizers and are perfect for kids.

5. Meatloaf

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Meatloaf can often be prepared in a slow-cooker if there is not time to make it at dinner time.

6. Chinese Noodles

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Noodles offer a unique vehicle for ground beef.

7. Taco soup

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Beef, corn, tomatoes, and beans… How could it get any better?

8. Chili

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Chili can easily be made in large batches to feed large crowds. It is a perfect winter-time meal!

9. Beef Stroganoff

ground beef stoganoff

An inexpensive, quick meal that is great for families.

 

10. Goulash

goulash

It’s like soup and spaghetti, but with cooler noodles.

11. Stuffed Peppers

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If you need something to spice up your life.

12. Salisbury steak

salisbury steak

It’s like a burger with GRAVY. How delicious!

13. Lasagna

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Cheesy, beefy goodness! Lasagna is perfect for feeding large crowds.

14. Lettuce wraps

Lettuce wraps are a delicious, low-carb option. Often Asian inspired, they are jam-packed with flavor!

15. Taco salad

Taco salad is perfect for a healthy, on-the-go meal option.

Remember, if you ever need recipe ideas for certain beef cuts, please visit www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com. The Interactive Burtcher Counter will guide you to delicious, quick meal options.

God bless, folks!

Kalyn McKibben

Blonde Beef Babe