Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How I Solved My Problem With "Angus Prime Beef"

It's just that I don't like being marketed to death. So I raised my own prime beef to be healthier and better tasting. http://worstellfarms.com/missouri_prime_beef.php

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We did (and continue to do) substantial research on cattle breeds. Black Angus is predominant in the commodity-driven prime beef Missouri production. While this breed was originally an Irish breed, it's "Americanization" has produced a large-frame cattle with various traits that mostly have to do with fattening quickly on a corn-based diet after they are weaned.

In order to get a larger frame size and faster growth, it was crossed with various other large-frame breeds which are not known for tender meat. Taking advantage of the corn surpluses after WWII, these cattle were then selectively bred to fatten better (and faster) on corn, which gives them a higher fat content.

This in turn makes the meat appear "tender".

That "bigger and faster" commodity approach with it's feedlot base has unfortunately been responsible for the majority of bad press beef has received over the past quarter-century.

The extra fat in those animals has been linked to heart problems. The lack of CLA and Omega 3 fatty acids commonly found in grass fed beef is due to being finished on corn. The larger size and fast growth makes for coarser meat fibers, which make the commodity corn-fed beef harder to digest.

Our work has been to move over to grass-finished beef to solve these health concerns. We looked around for different breeds in order to see which finished best on just grass. In the middle of this, the datum showed up that a medium-framed animal was more efficient at turning a pasture into meat. Also, smaller animals fit into household freezers easier.

The Scottish Galloway breed was raised to survive on just about anything it could find during the long and harsh Scottish winters. Similar to the Highland (except having no horns), the most common version of this is "belted", meaning it has a wide white strip around its middle. This comes from being crossed with Dutch Belted cattle generations back and why they are called "Belties".

As we found a local breeder of these, I got a bull a few years ago and started him with our all black Angus/mixed-breed cattle when he got old enough. This has produced a routinely belted Angus cross which has a medium-large frame and the ability to eat more and better. Our bull is registered, both parents being prize-winning show animals. His name is "Gene Autry". (But he mostly answers to Gene, or so I like to think.)

The patterns aren't exact. Our first male offspring was from a mother with a white face. He's called "Panda". Ugly by the Belted Galloway show standards - beautiful to us and his momma.
Belties are also known for their quality lean beef. They put on a thicker hair coat in winter instead of extra backfat like Angus. Also known for their higher CLA's and better Omega 3:6 ratio, this beef is touted as more heart-healthy.

We are continuing to save back our heifers to replace our older cows and so will soon be having our own Beltie-Angus cross cows as well as the solid black and a few black-white-faced momma's.
All this just to ensure that we raise the finest beef possible just for our local customers - all locally processed and sourced.

Just so you can eat better, even though it means our beef is striped.

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