Making the Cut

Interacting with an array of beef consumers proves to be both educational and rewarding. These past few days, we had the opportunity to attend the Southern Women’s Cooking Show and spend four days teaching consumers about beef through interactive skill-set stations and cooking demonstrations. A personal favorite of mine, which also seemed to provide a wealth of knowledge to our event goers, was the “Making the Cut” skill-set station. In this station, consumers were taught the proper way to cut their steaks.


The youth at the Southern Women’s Show were eager to interact and have a hands-on experience cutting the steak.

It is important to realize that steaks have grains in them. To achieve the best and most flavorful eating experience, one should cut against the grain, holding the knife to cut at a 45 degree angle. There are muscle fibers and tendons in our meat which help with the flavor and tenderization of the cut. Cutting against the grain ensures that the juices stay in the piece of meat, as well as when biting into the meat, you are now biting with the grain which adds for a more flavorful and juicy eating experience.


As you can see from within this picture, the grains of the steak are vertical, therefore we knew to cut the steak horizontally short ways across the grains to have the best eating experience.

If you were to cut with the grain, when you go to bite down, all the muscle fibers and tendons in the meat would be pulling in many directions which causes chewiness. When we go to a steak house or cook our own steaks at home, it is important to check which way the grains are going in our meat. If you are unsure you can pull a little on the sides of the meat to determine the way the grains are going. Once this has been determined, turn your plate to be sure you are cutting your beef against the grain for the most flavorful, juiciness, and tender eating experience.

against the grain

Using your fork and knife to pull apart your cut of beef is important when you want to determine the way the grain is going so you can cut against it.


Happy Tuesday!


Profile: Strip Steak

As an agricultural communication major, taking journalism classes and learning how to write magazine articles and news stories is part of my class requirements. Part of my news writing class was learning how to write a profile story. Not only can you profile a person, but I have decided to profile a delicious cut of steak prior to the Nashville Southern Women’s Cooking Show that we will be traveling to this week to educate moms, millennials, and more about different cuts of beef to cook, as well as quick and easy recipes.

While at the cooking show, we will have a chance to demo a recipe on stage, one that uses the Strip Steak!

strip uncooked (2)

As you can notice by the fat content throughout these, Strip Steaks are a very tender and flavorful cut of beef.

The Strip Steak comes from the short loin of the beef animal, also having the more prominent names of Kansas City Strip or New York Strip Steak. In relationship to where the Strip Steak is located within the animal, it is a muscle that does very little work and is therefore a very tender and lean cut.


Located in the Short Loin, this muscle does little work producing tender cuts of meat such as the Strip Steak and T-bone Steak.

 Without the bone, the cut is called the Strip Steak, but if the bone is left in the meat then it is called a T-bone steak, therefore both of these steaks come from the portion of the short loin alike.


In regards to cooking Strip Steak, the three most popular cooking methods are grilling, broiling, and pan frying. No matter which way you choose to cook your Strip Steak, all three produce a juicy and delicious steak. Because the Strip Steak is so tender, it is not a cut that requires being marinaded, however it is a versatile cut and personal preference will decided if you want to use a marinate or simple rub to add your choice of flavor.

While in Nashville, the recipe that members of the National Beef Ambassador Team will demonstrate cooking with Strip Steak is called Grilled Steaks Balsamico. With only 464 calories and 30 grams of fat, this 30 minute recipe is sure to offer you a fresh new taste of one of your favorite lean cuts of beef, the Strip Steak!

grilled strip

Check out the Grilled Steaks Balsamico recipe here!



“Running with Beef” in NYC

New York City as a huge metropolitan area has a tendency to drawl large numbers of crowds for events such as the NYC half marathon. Many New York natives believe ground turkey is better for you than ground beef. When comparing 95% lean ground turkey to 95% lean ground beef (comparing apples to apples…in the ‘Big Apple’) lean ground beef wins being more nutrient dense, having more vitamins the body needs to sustain its health, and lean ground beef also has less overall calories.


Contrary to mosts belief, ground beef tops the health charts over ground turkey in many nutritional areas, some primary ones being overall calorie intake and protein

During my time in “The Big Apple” I had the opportunity to interact and engage in conversation with approximately 20,000 half marathon runners. Using check-off dollars to engage in conversations with consumers from the northeast part of the nation is important as beef production numbers are not as large as what they are in western region states.

As a part of the NYC Health and Fitness Expo in such a health conscious city, is was very beneficial to promote beef as a protein to runners, especially as an excellent recovery protein with needed vitamins and nutrients such as zinc, iron, and B vitamins. During long distant races, beef is an excellent protein for the #fuelforthefinish. Beef is a nutrient rich protein that gives runners the energy they need to not only sustain them throughout miles of a race, but it also is a great recovery protein for the fact that it has the needed vitamins and nutrients one’s body needs to reenergize and help with recovering muscles.


Let #teambeef be your protein to power YOU through the finish!

Educating and having hands-on interactive beef incentive recipes is important as we continue to reach a vast number of consumers as athletes stressing the quality of health beef provides before, during, and after the race. At the beef booth, we promoted runners making their own chilly spice mix to partner with one pound of ground beef. Not only was this a simple and fun interactive spice mix, the promotion of cooking it with beef in the crockpot the night before the race sparked many runners interests as they were excited to know there was a recipe with beef that they could eat and not have to spend time preparing it after running 13.1 miles.


The Chili Spice Bar allowed runners and family members to engage in a hands-on interactive activity as well as engage in “beefy” conversations

Spending the past three days in New York City interacting with city-goers and athletes was very eye-opening and interactive. It is important as beef producers we take the time to promote our protein to athletes and consumers in northeastern states who can benefit from eating the “world’s most efficient multi-vitamin.”

All for the love of beef in NYC!


Youth Beef Industry Day

This past weekend I had the opportunity to mingle and learn with youth and parents of the beef industry about responsible beef practices in and out of the show ring. For the past 16 years, Ohio has brought together youth and families allowing them the opportunity to exhibit their 4-H and FFA projects in a winter show program called the BEST circuit, which stands for beef exhibitor show total. The opportunities, showmanship skills, and leadership lessons learned throughout this program expand beyond the barn and the show ring, helping teach kids of all ages the responsibility, care, sportsmanship, and educational promotions that are all intertwined within the beef community.

Members of the program partook in a Youth Beef Industry Day, where they were able to listen to guest speaker Kirk Stierwalt in a Livestock Evaluation and Showmanship Session, as well as a social media as a communication session, learning different cuts of meat, and prominent issues in the beef industry-answering the question, what is our role?

OCW raising hands

BEST youth participants engaged and asking questions throughout the days worth of advocacy presentations.

If you are in the BEST Program in Ohio, chances are you love showing, making friends and memories and most importantly, you love spending back-to-back weekends standing in Ohio’s cold weather. The first two sessions were geared towards the showman side of the beef industry. It is important as we look at showing our steers and heifers, that we first know the proper showmanship techniques in the ring, as well as the proper showman techniques out of the ring. Everyone loves to win, but it is obvious there is only one winner, and showing cattle teaches kids to win and loose with dignity and grace as well as being a good sport and congratulating others. It is also important that we teach our youth how to evaluate their animals. Not only is this important from the show side of the industry, but it is also important that at a young age, we learn how to evaluate our cattle for sicknesses so we can make the proper assessments to get them healthy again.

OCW steer

Kirk Stierwalt talking about the proper evaluations to make on your show project.

Outside of the show ring, communication about the beef industry is important. Whether you are at your school lunch table, county fair, or on a social media site, portraying the beef industry in a positive light is necessary for all ages. It is important to teach these youth that all of us are advocates for the beef industry. While at the county fair, you have the power to engage in conversations with someone from a non-agricultural background, or you have the opportunity to tell your beef story about your daily work regnum before show ring time on your social media page.  Understanding the current topics in the beef industry and the best way to answer them is important for the youth and their parents. The power of communication is strong and promoting social media savviness and communication is a key to success.

OCW meat lady

Dr. Garcia of The Ohio State University engages in conversation with youth in steak school…beyond the fluff.

Opportunities like this are vitally important as we prepare our next generation of leaders. It is important and necessary that they understand showing cattle is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that can help you make new friends and memories, but showing cattle and being a part of a winter circuit allows you to learn so much more about leadership skills, hard work and responsibility, as well as the importance of promotions outside of the show ring. The beef industry is more than the end of a show halter and a shiny show stick, and teaching these youth of the beef industry that we all have a part to be advocates and promote our livelihood is extremely important.

It’s all about that BEEF!

Millennial to Millennial

This past weekend, I traveled one state over to experience the largest indoor farm show in the United States. Pennsylvania Farm Show is a combination of exhibits representing different sectors of agriculture and commodity groups. As National Beef Ambassadors, we worked in the “Today’s Agriculture display” barn which was an interactive barn with livestock where farm show attendees were able to look at farm animals which consisted of a beef cow and calf, dairy cow and calf, pigs representing three stages of their life, ducks, turkeys, and chickens. The target audience of this building was the millennial generation, and although we interacted with an array of individuals and answered questions such as what we feed our cattle and different food by-products Pennsylvania farms utilize, such as candy meal and pasta, we also had the opportunity to interview two ladies representing the millennial generation and learn about their perceptions and questions that most concerned them with the beef industry.

Alicia and I

Connecting to the millennial audience


As we compiled our questions and answers, we felt that the responses best fit under the categories of background of the beef industry, consumer questions, cooking with beef and social media interactions.

Q: What is your background in agricultural and the beef industry?

Sarah: Her parents are from Los Angeles and New York City, so they had no previous understanding of agriculture and commodity groups. Although this was the cause, once in Pennsylvania, she connected with friends in 4-H and began taking rabbits to the county fair. She then became interested in pigs and beef cattle and exhibited a market steer twice, and throughout the process of caring for and showing her steers, she learned about the beef industry along the way.

Rachel: Our second millennial grew up in a small town in New Hampshire where there was no crop or livestock industry, but rather forestry wood production. With neighbors that had horses, she soon became interested in studying Equine in college, but had never came in contact with beef cattle until she decided to major in media and communications in college so she had the opportunity to connect with all commodity groups.

Consumer Questions about the Beef Industry:

Q: What preconceived ideas do you have about the beef industry?

S: The belief that all beef comes from feedlot farms and that there are not many family farms left.

R: The term “family farms” to her means one to two cows per family. With this, she had never connected family farms on a larger scale, totaling around 40 cow/calves as the average size.

Q: As a consumer, what would you like to see changed in regards to the beef industry?

Both interviewees said that they would like to see more education and interaction with beef producers and advocates towards consumers. Including ways of being proactive as an industry to inform consumers where there beef comes from such as T.V. commercials to showcase the family farms in the industry as well as ways of interactive learning between producers and consumers. This will allow consumers to become more aware of where their food comes from and have a chance to ask about the “buzz” words in the industry, such as organic, and get answers from actual producers or beef advocates.

Feed Displays (1)

Talking to consumers about the different feeds cattle eat

Cooking Beef:

Q: Do you include beef in your daily diet?

S: Beef is a very nutritious protein and because of this, Sarah enjoys cooking beef. When shopping for beef though, she only buys beef that is on sale because it is more affordable.

R: Beef is a great red meat that supplies energy to the body, and because of this fact, Rachel includes beef in her daily diet. However, she feels she lacks education on how to cook in general and cooks ground beef for herself frequently because it is easy to prepare, and as a college student, more affordable to purchase. As a consumer of beef, she also commented that she would be willing to learn more about beef and ways to cook this protein.

Social Media:

Q: What role do social media play in your knowledge about beef?

S: Social media is very effective in my life because I am able to choose cuts of beef that people have posted about or taken a picture of to include in a post that they have had success cooking.

R: Media is such a fast way to transfer knowledge and you can connect with multitudes of people is the reason Rachel finds herself using social media outlets. She also finds that people can draw others in when they post recipes or pictures of the beef they cook.

Throughout this interview and surveys taken at the farm show, we found that millennials are most concerned about the beef they eat and understanding the safety of the beef industry. With research done by the beef community, we are able to understand and work towards a more transparent industry keeping the lines of communication between producer and consumer open.

3 ladies

Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary stopping by to talk about the beef community


Five “Must Know” Grilling Tips for Steak

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.16.28 PMYesterday, I had the opportunity to give a beef cooking demonstration at the Ohio State Fair, showing consumers how to prepare beef with confidence. For my cooking segment, I chose to prepare Strip Steaks and a classic chimichurri sauce.

Now, I am by no means a grill expert, and my gourmet cooking skills could definitely use more practice; but perhaps that’s why so many fairgoers gathered around as I performed my demonstration. Certainly, if a 19-year-old college girl could cook a perfect steak, so could they! Here are my top 5 “must know” grilling tips for preparing the ideal steak.

 Hot, Hot, Hot!
Whether you are using a grill, skillet, or griddle, you always want your cooking surface to be extremely hot before placing on your steaks. This will help you to create a perfect “crust” around your steaks, and in return, they will cook to perfection.

 Oil the Steak, Not the Grate
Rather than greasing up your pan or grill slats, brush a little olive oil onto both sides of your steaks before cooking. This will prevent your beef from sticking to your cooking surface and help your seasonings stay on, as well.

 Avoid Excessive Flipping
By only flipping once, you will prevent your beef from drying out and becoming tough. Cook your steaks for 8 – 9 minutes, and then flip. To get those marvelous diamond grill marks, start by laying your beef diagonally on the grill and after 5 minutes, rotate at a 45° angle and continue cooking. When you turn your beef over, you will have picture perfect grill, marks every time!

 Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.12.29 PMUse a meat thermometer
Don’t trust a timer or your own touch to guess when your steaks are finished. Use a meat thermometer to be confident that your beef has reached the proper internal temperature and is safe to serve. Remember that Medium Rare is 145°F, Medium is 160°F, and Well Done is 170°. Anything less is mooing, anything more is shoe leather.

After removing from the heat, always allow your steaks to rest for 10 – 12 minutes before cutting into them. This will allow all the beef juices to settle back into the meat and will end up on your taste buds, rather than in a puddle on your plate.

By using these 5 pointers, you’ll have your friends and family convinced that you are king (or queen) of the grill!

All for the Love of Beef,
Sierra Jepsen

What I Learned Traveling as a National Beef Ambassador

As National Beef Ambassadors, a big part of our responsibility is to travel the nation and promote beef at assorted venues such as races, fairs, cooking and “foodie” events, campus events, etcetera. Our trips are coordinated through various states’ beef councils, CattleWomen groups, collegiate CattleWomen/men organizations, American National CattleWomen, National Cattlemen’s Beef Board, and others. Essentially, anywhere that we can promote beef to large volumes of people (or really any volumes of people), we’ll be there. Through these travels-most of which are at least a seven hour plane ride from California (not to mention hours and hours of layovers and even a sleepover at the Seattle airport)-I have learned several things:
1. Starbucks employees are trained to read name tags. It took several instances of me feeling very confused/frightened as to how my name was on the cup without me giving it to them.
2. The buckles are always a conversation-starter. People will go out of their way to come up to me and ask about my buckle in an airport–it’s awesome! image
3. Every security guard has a clever joke about beef. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “What do you call a cow with two legs?…Lean Beef!” (And I always laugh like it’s the first time I’ve heard it because security guards intimidate me).
4. There’s no better time to strike up a conversation with someone than when you’re sitting by them on a plane, and there’s no reason that conversation shouldn’t be about beef. I always explain what the National Beef Ambassadors are and if they lose interest, I ask if they have favorite cut of beef. That always gets them going.
5. Perhaps most importantly, traveling as a National Beef Ambassador has made me much more conscientious of how I’m acting and how I’m treating other people. As a representative of the nation’s beef industry, I need to be friendly and professional at all times. Now, even when I’m traveling for personal reasons, I find myself being more aware of my actions.
I’ve absolutely loved all of the conversations I’ve had while traveling this year. It has truly been one of my favorite parts of this journey as a National Beef Ambassador. Stay tuned for social media updates this weekend as Justana and I travel to New Jersey for the Atlantic City Food & Wine event.

A Wing Festival Takes the Steak!

A view from above the festival

A view from above the festival

I just returned from a fun week spent with Certified Angus Beef as we assisted in running the Big Kahuna Wing Festival in Knoxville, TN. The BKW Festival is a chicken wing cook-off where 30 restaurants, tailgaters, and food service providers came together to answer the question: who has the best wings in Tennessee? The event brought in over 6,000 attendees, 90,000 chicken wings, and all proceeds were donated back to Children’s Hospital and the Empty Stocking Fund.

Chef Michael grilling up Certified Angus Beef Top Loin.

Chef Michael grilling up Certified Angus Beef Top Loin.

Now, you may be asking yourself, how does beef become associated with a festival designed to celebrate chicken? Easy! Aubrey’s Steakhouse sponsored the events’ VIP tent where attendees had access to shade, a great view of the performance stage, and most importantly, unlimited steak and side dishes!  Aubrey’s works closely with the Certified Angus Beef® brand to source all of their beef products, so we were pleased to join them for the event to serve up some delicious steaks.

The Menu: Hawiian marinated sirloin, beef top loin, strawberry salad, cucumber salad, and creamed corn. YUM!

The Menu: Hawiian marinated sirloin, beef top loin, strawberry salad, cucumber salad, and creamed corn. YUM!

The events’ VIPs were ecstatic about our menu line up, featuring Hawaiian Marinated Sirloin Tips and Roasted Top Loin. It was fun to see the VIPs venture out into the festival, but return within the hour, hungry for more beef and conversation about the industry. As our VIP attendees left for the day, many of them made a point to come speak with our Certified Angus Beef chefs and rave about their awesome experience with beef. I even struck up a deal with a few of the wing vendors to trade steak for wings, so my job became running plates of beef to the competitors so they could snack on sirloin tips as they fried up their chicken!

It was great to be able to combine two commodity groups for the Big Kahuna Wing Festival this past weekend. It just goes to show that agricultural groups don’t need to be competitive with one another to promote our respective industries. Working together to reach consumer audiences certainly worked this weekend for both the chicken and beef communities, and in the process, we thoroughly satisfied the city of Knoxville!

All for the Love of Beef,
Sierra Jepsen

Ag Awareness Day

Ag Day

Talking to fourth graders about beef at the annual Ag Awareness Day

Last week, I attended the annual Ag Awareness Day at my county’s fairgrounds, where all of the fourth graders in Siskiyou County are invited to come learn about agriculture. The kids take the day off school and get to come with their class to see agriculturists and learn firsthand what they do every day to improve agricultural practices. There are Cattlemen and women, Farm Bureau members, Resource Conservation District employees, 4-Hers and members of the FFA there every year to help the kids learn about ag. When I was in fourth grade, I remember going to Ag Awareness Day and thinking it was just about the coolest thing ever. Part of that was because I knew all the presenters (my dad was the FFA advisor and my mom was an active CattleWomen), but I still learned a ton. I remember one of the coolest stations was the roping station where we learned about working cattle and why treating calves and other animals with care when roping them was a big deal. We even got to throw a rope at a calf dummy. Needless to say, when I got to high school and my ag teacher put up the Ag Awareness Day helper sign up sheet, my name was at the top of the list. I’ve helped all four years of high school and it’s been such a great experience! When I was a freshman, I signed up to help in the beef booth (before I even knew what a beef ambassador was), and I’ve been there ever since. My time as a National Beef Ambassador really put this year’s Ag Awareness Day into perspective, and made me realize how truly important it is to advocate—not only for beef, but for agriculture as a whole, especially to young kids. Before, when a fourth grader would tell me they were vegetarian, I would just laugh awkwardly and move on, but this year, I made a point to ask them why they didn’t eat beef.Ag Day 3If they told me it was unhealthy and made them fat, I explained that it was all about portion size and choosing lean cuts. If they said they thought it was cruel to kill the animals, I told them that beef producers work hard every day to make sure their cattle have the best life possible, so people can enjoy the best burgers and steaks possible (happy cattle=better steaks). If they didn’t respond, I didn’t push it. But I was surprised at the number of them who were totally willing to dialogue with me and listen to what I had to say. Granted, I may have some angry parents knocking at my door, but I realized that it’s so important to have positive conversations with kids before they make decisions based on false information. Ag Day used to just be a fun day talking about agriculture, but this year it was much more. Now that I know the amount of misinformation out there, I was better able to read the kids and what they were thinking when I told them facts about beef. I can honestly say they were one of the most positive audiences I’ve ever talked to, and even if only one of them was able to go home and tell their parents how beef can be a part of a healthy diet, it will be a success. It was such an encouraging day and solidified my confidence in the need for more agricultural communication (my intended major)!

Enjoy your week!


Learning about ear notching in pigs

Learning about ear notching in pigs

“A-Day” at Del-Val

Tori and I just returned from our first university campus event where we spent three days promoting beef at the college’s A-Day (Agriculture Day). Much to my surprise, Delaware Valley College is actually located in Pennsylvania and is named after the Delaware River, not the state! Only 1,800 students attend Del-Val college, but this event pulled in approximately 30,000 people throughout the weekend. With events such as livestock showmanship competitions, dog agility demonstrations, pig races, baseball games, and live band performances, attendees had a great time buzzing around campus, enjoying the vendors, the beautiful weather, and the delicious kettle corn!

Attendee's of "A-Day" learned a lot about the by-products of beef cattle: We use everything but the MOO!

Attendee’s of “A-Day” learned a lot about the by-products of beef cattle: We use everything but the MOO!

Pairing up with the Pennsylvania Beef Council, Tori and I had a great time talking with consumers, sharing our beef stories and passing out recipes to the fair-goers. One of the coolest opportunities that our beef table offered to consumers was the chance to win a George Foreman grill every day by simply taking part in our beef by-products scavenger hunt. Contestants were given a list of 35 beef by-products ranging from leather and felt, to ice cream and lipstick and sent on a hunt throughout campus.

Our scavenger hunt winners from day two.

Our scavenger hunt winners from day two.

The individual or team who found the most items by the end of the day, or who found all of the items first, won the grill. Three grills were awarded throughout the weekend to seven very excited and dedicated scavengers who worked together to find the items. They all declared that the first thing they would be cooking on their new grills would be cheeseburgers!

Even though it is finals week for Tori and myself at OSU (Oklahoma State and Ohio State), we both had a great time meeting with the students of Del-Val and sharing our beef stories. There is truly no better study break than to take time to promote beef!

All for the Love of Beef,
Sierra Jepsen