0.8 – Meat Selection – 2012

Meat Selection Background

Okay gang, let’s move on to “meat selection”. Please click on this link and read what Stan Marianski has to say: http://www.wedlinydomowe…./meat-selection.  You’ll be glad that you took the trouble. There’s more to meat selection than “meats” the eye (of round). Sorry about that. Duck- –  git outta here, pronto! …and leave the editor keyboard.

Next, please read the following section, by the ol’ Chuckwagon hisself::

 “Speakin’ The Lingo” by Chuckwagon

A Little More Reading… with a few points to ponder.

Americans eat a tremendous amount of beef annually. In fact, if we lined up all the cattle Americans consume in merely one year, the line would encircle the earth 125 times! Yet, the fact remains; the bovine is one of the most inefficient animals on our planet, considering the expense of the amount of grain it requires to simply produce a pound of beef. So, why do we continue to support such an uneconomical menu item? The answer is simple… flavor! In the history of our wild-west, I suppose rustled or stolen beef always tasted better than the domestic stuff! However, if you intend to take up the life of a cattle-rustlin’ outlaw , “swingin’ a wide loop”; if you just can’t help becoming the west’s next rustler, you’d better learn how to “speak the lingo” and develop a little knowledge regarding cattle and the basics of beef.

A cow is a female of the genus “Bos” from the Bovine family Bovidae, and there is a dynamic herd of about one and one third billion worldwide! A young cow, more than one year of age, is called a heifer until she gives birth to a calf in about nine months becoming a”fresh” cow with a ten-month milk supply, later becoming a “dry” cow. A bull is the reproductive male and a steer is a neutered male.

During the late 1700’s, cross-breeders in England developed “polled” (born without horns) cows, and in the American west, the traditional Texas Longhorn was slowly replaced by English Hereford and Aberdeen Angus breeds. Ranchers found the Hereford to be a sturdy animal, able to survive extremely cold western winters. The once-popular Texas Longhorn not only grew more slowly than the English breeds, it was a leaner animal as well. Accordingly, by the 1920’s, the Longhorn had all but vanished from the range, as the marbled meat of the Angus became the preferred cut for the grill. However, at maturity, the Angus, like the Longhorn, was found to be slightly smaller than other breeds and ranchers began to crossbreed other cattle with it to produce larger offspring. Today, the meat of the Angus is very much in demand, but in the intermountain west, the Hereford, with it’s red body and white face, chest, flanks, and lower legs, is the cattleman’s favorite, being able to survive extreme weather and having more tolerance than other breeds.

Why did rustlers prefer cattle? The animal is easier to manage than hogs and sheep, making it the rustler’s choice. The bovine is simply a tediously dull animal, lacking ordinary quickness and keenness of mind, and used to provide meat. Your horse Thunderbolt, will respond to its name – your cow Bossy, will not. That’s alright buckaroos… quite often I don’t even respond to my own name!

 The Three Basic Grades Of Beef

The Meat Inspection Division of the United States Department of Agriculture grades beef quality by estimating the age of the animal, the amount of fat marbling (determined by looking at the rib eye at the 12th rib), and by the texture, color, and appearance of the rib eye. U.S.D.A. “quality grading” is optional and according to the National Cattleman’s Beef Association only about 2% of all the beef carcasses produced in this country, submitted for grading, are quality-graded as “Prime”.

  •  Prime beef cuts are generally the most tender, flavorful, and delicious steaks and roasts and contain less meat due to a higher fat content (marbling). This grade is the most expensive beef and usually only found in meat markets – as opposed to supermarkets. Unless you butcher your own, the best cuts of beef will come from meat markets supplying restaurants and are always Prime or Choice cuts of meat.
  •  Choice beef is juicy and tender, producing excellent steaks and roasts. About 44% of the beef submitted for quality grading is “Choice” grade, (the next grade down from Prime), and is usually available to and selected by, shoppers in retail markets. There is nothing wrong with cuts of this grade and they will save careful shoppers money.
  •  Select beef is generally the most popular grade of beef containing the “average cuts” needing tenderizing occasionally. They are mostly used for grilling or in slow-cooking recipes. Usually marinated, these cuts are found in the supermarket and save the consumer even more money than by purchasing choice grade.

When beef is purchased in vacuum packages, it appears dark reddish-purple. When the package is opened, exposure to oxygen causes the meat to turn bright red, and after a few days, the surface will change to brown. Other grades of beef, sometimes found in supermarkets, are referred to as:

  • Standard
  • Natural
  • Commercial
  • Utility
  • Non-Graded

These are usually tough cuts and require a little talent to “render tender”, but that’s not to say they can’t be made into very tasty meals. There is no clearly cut definition of these categories and some care should be exercised when making selections. Many people don’t realize that the very best cuts of beef are not available in supermarkets, as they are sold only to restaurants and retailers. Fine restaurants often utilize a process called “aging”, a term used to describe the holding of various meats at a temperature of 34 to 36 degrees F. (1 to 2 degrees C.) for a specified period of time while tough connective tissues break down through the action of enzymes, increasing tenderness. Often, mold will develop upon a carcass (a sure sign of aging), and will simply be washed away with vinegar or cut away before the tenderized meat lying beneath, is cut, cooked, and served. And what about cuts from older steers? Quite often they end up in discount stores.

 Pigs And Hogs

One billion hogs live throughout the world and about half are in China, the world’s leading producer having forty different breeds. Of these, the United States has only eight commonly raised breeds including the American Landrace, Berkshire, Chester White, Duroc, Hampshire, Poland China, Spotted, and Yorkshire – all developed in this country with the exceptions of the Berkshire and Yorkshire, imported from England during the 1800’s.

Piglets weigh only about 2-1/2 pounds at birth but double their weight in a week. Fully-grown males (boars) weigh more than five hundred pounds, and sows (females) more than four hundred and fifty. A young female that has not yet had piglets, is called a “gilt”, and a young, castrated male is known as a “barrow”. Giving birth to piglets is called “farrowing”. The time period from conception to birth is 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days, and most sows deliver 2 litters per year, each having seven to twelve piglets.

Today, hogs grow faster on less feed, produce more lean meat and less fat than those raised in the past, and actually consume about twenty percent of the corn grown in the United States. Hog producers, listening to consumers’ preferences and concerns, have dramatically changed pork since the 1980s. America’s fitness trend and a more health-concerned generation have simply demanded it. Of prime importance, improved breeding and feeding practices have all but eradicated trichinella spiralis in pork! As producers continued to upgrade the quality of pork, they have also consistently reduced the animal’s fat content by nearly forty – five per cent. The most popular selection of pork, the tenderloin, is now a whopping 42% lower in fat. Pork chops today, are a colossal sixty percent leaner than those just thirty years ago. Today’s lean pork means it plays a vital part in a healthy diet as it contains many nutrients including six essential vitamins, four important minerals, protein, and energy. Our old perception of pork is changing as consumers are beginning to realize it is a most desirable lean meat.

Although the elimination of trichinae in pork is one of the most significant improvements in the industry, not everyone is happy with the reduced fat content of the animal. Since pork fat is the secret of its flavor, traditional sausage makers are disgruntled with modern lean pork as there is simply less fat available. Most sausage makers these days must scramble to find “fat back” – the creamy, flavorful addition necessary in amounts of about ¼ the total volume of any good sausage. Many experienced fermented-sausage crafters claim the days of authentic salami flavor are now gone, while any ol’ timer will tell you how the savor and essence of the meat itself has been reduced. Pork is not “aged” as is beef, and it must be cut and wrapped within 24 hours of slaughter for best results.

Unlike beef, having three primary cuts along it’s back, the hog has but one – the loin. The fore-end of the loin is called the “shoulder cut” or “shoulder chops”, while the center cut has “rib chops”. The south end of the loin on a northbound pig contains the tenderloin and the “sirloin chops”. Shoulder cuts have a lot of fat and connective tissue and are good for roasting or braising but not especially pan-frying. Center cuts have two types of connective muscle while loin chops have one.

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