Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cairncrest Beef I

I  imagine our customers are aware of the many differences between our 100% grass-fed beef and that offered in the supermarket.  They're both "beef" but they could be from different species if one judged solely by qualitative factors like flavor, odor, color, and texture.  We've all seen the photos of mega feedlots where cattle stand hock deep in their own excrement for the few months leading up to slaughter, and that is certainly the most glaring point of diversion, but there are several others worth noting as well.  Because I find the topic very interesting,  I'm going to do a series of posts about beef in general and particular.  Here's the first installment.

I'll start with some definitions so we're all basically on the same page when I get into the meat of my essay here.

Management - When I use this word in relation to farming and livestock I'm approaching it from the perspective of Allen Savory as described in his book Holistic Management.  If his book could be distilled into a few words it would say something to the effect that everything we do or choose not to do is a management decision.  Decisions are linked together and we need to look at the big picture and ask ourselves whether a little choice we're making right now in any given moment is taking us toward our goal or away from it.  And we need to ask whether the action we're taking is the best action to take.  Is there something else we could do at the present moment that would get us closer to the big picture more quickly than whatever it is that is at hand?  This will become more concrete later when I get into management intensiveness.

Grass-fed - Cattle eat grass.  They also eat a lot of other pasture plants like legumes, bedstraw, thistles, and burdock.  Our pastures include all of these and more.  When I say "grass-fed" I mean they eat exclusively from the pasture during the grazing season (grazing season doesn't perfectly overlap with the growing season), and stored hay during the winter.

Grain - Seeds of plants in the grass family - corn, wheat, barely, etc, harvested and concentrated by human ingenuity.  I'm not referring to the incidental grass seed the cattle eat when a pasture sward gets a little mature and sets seed.

Finishing - The window of time immediately prior to slaughter.  Fattening occurs during the finishing period. Finishing is critical for proper flavor development and cooking properties.  Without adequate "finish" steaks are lean and prone to drying out while cooking.  Some cuts are this way no matter how well finished the animal - sirloin tip, flank, and round steaks for example, and must be cooked on the rare end to retain any juiciness.

More next week!