I have been seeing different people advertising their “home grown beef” and then showing pictures of their cattle. I have also been seeing them throwing around words like grass-fed, longhorn, antibiotic free and some others and thought that I would explain for those that are looking to purchase and how decide which is right for you.
The first thing is that all American Beef is antibiotic free. Each animal that recieves antibiotics has to pass through a time period from when they last recieved medicine till they can be harvested. This insures that any residue from the antibiotics is gone and never becomes a part of the final product. However, choosing an animal from a ranch that takes good care of their livestock and has a good vaccination, mineral, feed and worming program will significantly decrease the likelyhood of the animal ever needing antibiotics in the first place. Also, don’t be scared of someone using antibiotics on their animals it just means that they saw that their animal was sick and instead of letting them suffer they doctored them to make sure that they could be back to happy and healthy.
Most all cattle have spent some time on grass. You rarely have one that is born in the pens and spends it’s whole life there. It is more sustainable for beef producers to raise calves with their mother on pasture and then send them to finishing yard where they then get a feed that is mainly grains and hay. This is done for multiple reasons. One is that it makes a more sustainable product. It takes less time to finish a cow in the lots with the addition of grain then what it would just being on grass/pasture alone. The taste of the animal is drastically improved with what we feed it. We have been amazed with our feeding program how we are able to see great marbling and taste even in animals that were not necessarily bred to be all that tasty such as bucking stock. This also leads me down another rabbit hole, I have seen some people show their butcher animals and they are skinny and small. When you are finishing an animal we are looking for marbling and that marbling happens after the animal has finished putting on a fat cap so they have to had been getting a consistent amount of high quality feed throughout their lives and especially before they head to the butcher.
Another factor that I have seen is people bragging about the breed of cattle they have. I think that this is great but you have to understand that each breed is around for a different reason. We raise Semmi-Angus cattle and have started to add in a little Herford into the mix. We chose this breed because of the quality product that it produces. They are able to grow at a good rate and are know for good marbling and therefore a tasty steak. We also raise bucking stock that is a mix of different breeds that trace back to breeds such as brahman and longhorns. This is because they are a hotter and more athletic breed. The old time cattle drives had longhorns because they were hardy enough to make the long walk to town. Luckily, these days we don’t have to worry about transporting by walking so a longhorn would be my least favorite breed to eat. They are not efficient converters of food and will never out preform a more beefy type breed like the Angus or Herford they just weren’t made for it.
If you are going to purchase a butcher cow I think that if you do it correctly and find someone that is experienced in finishing out a cow you will be amazed at how great the meat is. It will be something that once you try it the first time you won’t go back to store bought beef. However, if you don’t do your research you might be highly disappointed. Here are somethings to make sure that you have a great experience.
- Purchase from someone that has a real program. Meaning that they calve at a specific time or times and not just whenever. They have a vaccination, and worming program that follows the calves and cows throughout their different stages of life. They also have a real feed and mineral program. Just like a growing kid vaccinations, minerals, vitamins and worming are imperative to a healthy animal.
- Know what breed you are wanting to eat if you are wanting a really lean piece of meat you might actually like longhorn or grass-fed only but if your a normal American you will be highly disappointed. Instead look for Angus or Herford type breeds that have been put on feed.
- The animal should be use to people and fairly easy going so that it has a low stress level when it get’s processed. If they are always bouncing off the fences they will have tough meat because of all of the movement and exercise but also when the body is stressed it releases a hormone throughout the body that taste horrible.
- When looking at the animal before it goes to the butcher, if you have a chance. It should have a shinny hair coat, be of good flesh and be fairly calm when handled. These are all signs of a healthy and well taken care of animal.
I hope that this helps you a little bit if you are wanting to purchase an animal for butcher. If it’s done correctly you will have a hard time buying beef any other way.