Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Different Types of Beef

Don't you just love slogans! I love one: "Beef, It's What's for Dinner!" I love eating beef, it's actually third on the list after Maine Red Lobster and Shrimp in that order. Our family consumes a minimum of 7lbs of beef a week. At least four evening meals a week are beef. I tried a new recipe last night for ground beef. Both my husband and son just thought it was wonderful. So I thought I'd share it with you.

Florentine-Stuffed Tomatoes

1 lb lean ground beef
2 Tbsp. first cold press olive oil, plus additional
2 large cloves garlic
1 small yellow onion, minced
6 large fresh tomatoes
1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (substitute fresh if desired)
1 Tblsp. fresh basil, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup ground fresh almonds

Preheat oven to 400 F. Brown meat in a skillet with olive oil; add garlic and onion; saute until tender. While meat is cooking cut tops off tomatoes; remove pulp. Chop pulp; place in small bowl and reserve. Heat oil in another skillet. Add drained spinach, tomato pulp, and basil. Stir until spinach and tomato are well coated with seasonings; remove from heat. Add to meat mixture Place tomatoes in a greased baking dish; fill with meat mixture. Top with almonds. Bake 15-20 minutes.

I served this dish with steamed broccoli and a salad. Yummy! Except for coring the tomatoes the dish is extremely quick to fix. Total prep and cooking was just under an hour. I adjusted the number of tomatoes to three and just placed the remaining beef mixture around the tomatoes. We are on a modified diabetic diet. Neither one of us has diabetes, but both of us have parents and grandparents that had adult onset diabetes. We limit our intake of sugars to natural sugars such as honey. When I bake bread I love to add soy flour and use honey. As a result of limiting our complex carbohydrates Larry has less stomach problems and stays full longer. I have a stomach of iron. We have less problems with weight control. We also have eliminated preservatives in our diet. The amount of energy we have is a marked difference from the pass. It takes adjustment to switch to a diet like this, but once on it you really don't want to go back. We even are careful when going out to eat, choosing restaurants that will adjust an order for us. When we eat grains we choose whole grains and stick mostly to oats and rice. Potatoes are a treat for the family and we limit them to once a month.

So when I titled this post I wanted to talk about choices in buying your beef. Beef types aren't cuts. It's the kind of beef which is available to you. There is grain-fed beef, grass-fed beef, veal and baby beef. Any of the beef listed can fall under Natural or Organic labels. Grain fed beef is the majority of beef in this country. The calf is fed for a specified period with the diet being mostly grain then processed for market. Veal is from a calf that only has received mother's milk and no grain or forage. Grass-fed beef is becoming the up and coming beef produced in this country. Especially for those who are searching for organic meat. Most grass-fed beef is purchased directly from the producer. Baby beef is one that most individuals know nothing about. It is a calf that is slaughter directly upon weaning. This calf has only had mother's milk and usually forage. Each of these types of beef have very different flavors as what the animal eats is directly related to the taste of the beef.

Our family chooses to eat baby beef at home. We raise two to three calves a year that are slaughtered at weaning. The beef is then distributed through our extended family. The calves are weaned slightly later then our other calves. Our choice of calves are those that will not fit into our breeding program and are not good enough to go into another seed stock program. Usually bull calves. These calves we do not stress by steering and give no vaccines or antibiotics. They are 100% organic beef. We get approximately 400 lbs of meat and soup bones per calf. The meat from one calf will fit in a small chest freezer and the top freezer compartment of a refrigerator. I personally like the hind leg shank bones to use for the beef broth I make and I use no other bones. The meat from one calf will last us a year. The meat is incredibly lean and has a very different flavor then grain-fed grocery store beef. One must adjust your thinking on cooking times for this beef to keep the wonderful tender qualities of the beef. The steaks from this beef when rare does not have the beautiful red color inside. The color is almost white. It took me awhile to adjust to both taste and cooking times. Now I prefer the taste to grain fed beef. I still like a good steak at my favorite steak houses though.

Organic and Natural beef as I stated above is available for the most part directly from the producer (farmer/rancher). The reason you don't see organic or grass-fed beef in the grocery store is because the process is very slow to get the beef to processing. I thought I would show you the economics of buying directly from the producer. One can find producers that have both grain-fed beef and grass-fed beef. Some producers will sell by the cut, some the whole animal, some by the quarter or side, and some a combination. If you think about what you spend for beef in the grocery store or butcher shop then you can have a huge savings on cost of your beef if you purchase directly from the producer. I'm using my local store's ad for this past week. Sirloin is a loss leader at $2.99/lb and Certified Angus beef at 4.99lb. Other beef on sale is Round Steak Value Pack at $2.99/lb, Beef Cube Steak Value Pack at $2.99/lb, Nolan Ryan's Tender Aged Beef T-Bone Steak at $6.99/lb and Certified Beef Angus Patties Frozen in Box (32 count) at $5.99 per box (approximate weight would be 8 lbs.). So what would a whole calf cost me if I want Grass-fed beef, approximately $3.00-$4.00/lb slaughtered plus the cost of slaughter which at the slaughter house we use is $0.59/lb. packaged. You would have 800 to 1000 lbs of beef. Too much? Split the cost with another family. You would have 400-500 lbs of meat at a cost of $1436-$1795 for the meat at $3.59/lb. This includes all of the steak, roasts, round, hamburger, skirt steak, liver, kidney, soup bones. If you were to buy all of your meat via the grocery store or butcher you would pay far more for the meat and it isn't natural or organic. Quarters and sides of beef will cost more per lb.

Availability is an issue in the grass-fed beef. It is usually available only during a very short period once a year. As I stated grass-fed beef tastes entirely different then grain-fed beef. It takes time to adjust the taste to your pallet, many do not adjust to the taste. Grain-fed beef may cost a little more. Organic & Natural producers will grow the calves out on grass until the last 45 days and then put them on feed to appeal to the taste of the majority of consumers in this country. How do I find producers? The first place to start is American Grassfed Association


Their website has a page to find producers by breed or by state. An excellent place to start your search. As more and more people look for ways to save with their food dollars more beef will be in demand directly from the producer.

Why not visit the National Cattlemen's Beef Assoc. site "Beef, It's What's for Dinner." They have some great recipes for your beef dinner tonight.



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