How to Understand and Shop for Beef

Two Methods:Shopping for BeefAbout Beef

Picking the right cut of beef with the right fat content can make or break a dish. Learn how to shop for exactly the type of beef you need.

Method 1
Shopping for Beef

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    Understand the different cuts of beef and know what part you are looking for. There are four basic major (primal) cuts into which beef is separated: chuck, loin, rib, and round.</ref>
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    Purchase meat last when at the grocery store. Look for packages that are tightly sealed and not leaking. Purchase meat by the "use by" or "purchase by" dates. Place the meat packages away from other food so meat juices do not accidentally drip on other grocery items.[1]
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    Refrigerate beef. Immediately place the beef in the refrigerator when returning home from the grocery store. Cook and eat ground beef within two days of purchase. Roasts and steaks can be safely stored three to five days after purchase.[2]

Method 2
About Beef

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    Beef is from two-year old cattle. A two-year old steer would produce an average of 450 pounds of meat. There are at least 50 types of cattle used in butchering to produce beef for the consumer's table.
    • Major cattle used for human beef consumption include Angus, Hereford, Charolais, and Brahman. The Angus cow is famous for being from Scotland and is seen on many a cattle ranch.
    • One of the most commonly raised cattle in the United States is the Hereford cow. The Hereford cow is known for producing well marbled meat much akin to the Black Angus cow. [3]
    • Charolais cattle are primarily used to breed larger calves. A Charolais bull is often crossed with a Hereford cow to produce a larger calf leading to higher beef yield.
    • Brahman cattle are akin to wild cattle and are rarely used in US ranching. [Personal interview with cattle rancher who wishes to remain anonymous]
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    Understand common ranch terms.
    • Calving: Calves are typically born in the spring usually during the last blizzard of the year. Calves may have to be "pulled" if the calf is too large for the cow giving birth.
    • Genetic Diversity: Most ranchers usually keep one "papered" bull per 50 cows to promote genetic diversity. A "papered" bull is one that has documented lineage. [Personal interview with a rancher who wishes to remain anonymous]
    • Branding: Branding is typically done in the spring when calves weigh between 200 to 300 pounds. Vaccinations for Black Leg [4] are given and the cow is branded and given an ear tag. Ear tags are considered a separate form of identification. Bulls are castrated [5] during branding and become a Steer. All cattle with horns except Bulls are de-horned [6] during branding.
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    Understand the difference between cattle and veal. Veal is from beef cattle. Veal comes from calves weighing approximately 150 pounds and is less than 3 months old. Veal is milk fed and the meat is pink in color. [7]

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Categories: Meal Planning