Monday, October 21, 2013

Dry Aging

There is one other significant difference between our beef and the stuff available in groceries.  It is not exclusive to grass-feeding as it has to do with post slaughter treatment of the carcass.  Traditionally beef carcasses were chilled and then "dry aged"  for 14 to 21 days (sometimes even longer) between slaughter and butchering.  The butcher we use to process our cattle still does this as it results in a superior final product. Aging gives naturally present enzymes time to work on muscle tissue and develop flavors to their fullest.  It also dehydrates the meat which means we sell more meat and less water per pound of meat.  The large meat packers moved away from aging during the 1960s because most consumers didn't complain or shift their buying habits when they bought more water, while the extra water weight in each cut contributed to the packers' bottom line. This is true across all cuts, but is most readily apparent in a side-by-side ground meat cook-off. A pound of Cairncrest beef will release less water into the frying pan than a comparable package from the local grocery. Next time you cook ground meat from a store take note how much water comes out.

In the interest of science here is my try at demonstrating it.  I cooked the same amount of meat from ourown steer and a package from the grocery store.

Here is a photo of the two meats prior to cooking. Guess which is which. (I did adjust the color balance a little bit in this photo because I struggled to get the light to cooperate while cooking dinner. But I did my best to get the shades of meat true to reality.)

I did a poor job of photographing the liquid that come off, but as you can see the grocery meat released more liquid. I'm actually surprised there wasn't more of a difference, but what is shown represents approximately one ounce out of a one pound package so ~ around 5%, which is in line with what I've read occurs in a two week aging.

I didn't take a picture of the cooked meat because the color discrepancy was much less dramatic and probably wouldn't have shown up on a computer screen, though it was still apparent in person.

I found both the flavor and texture of our beef to be more enjoyable.