I recently lost a long time customer. No, it wasn’t because I insulted him or undersold on a product. He couldn’t believe I charged him to work on meat he purchased from Costco.
Let me back up.
This industry is tough. Cold conditions, long hours. We take your animals and make it into food. Most of these animals are beautiful. Pets. The people who raise them are dedicated animal lovers. As am I. It is not an easy job raising farm animals. I’ve been raising my own for the past 8 years. There is a lot of maintenance and upkeep on a farm. Cows and pigs destroy fences, winter puts a variety of challenges on a human. Water freezes, animal births are compromised, feeding usually happens in the dark.
When the people raising their animals take pride in what they do, it shows. It makes our job easier. The carcasses are big. Bright colors and fat cover make for excellent, full cuts and we are proud to put our label on those packages.
We don’t make a lot of money but we love what we do. It’s an art form. It takes an average person a full year before they can differentiate between the cuts of meat. Then the learning process goes pretty quick. Living around Boulder County isn’t easy, either. The cost of living has gone up significantly in the past five years. There is more traffic and simple commutes turn into angering events. The average person is stressed and it shows when they cut you off and give you the finger. I have learned to be patient, try not to rush, pay attention to the speed limit, watch out for angry drivers. My employees arrive daily griping about the antics of the transplants. We are all in this together trying to make something out of our day and it becomes difficult when people around us act selfishly. Running a small business isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The costs of insurance, utilities and wages increase constantly and I am expected to be cheaper than Wal-Mart.
Now, let’s get to Joe. I’m going to call him that because I am not trying to blast him. I want people understand the challenges of my day. Anyway, Joe brings in some pork from Costco. I have to take out the packaging, cut the football sized roasts into smaller chunks and grind the meat, season it and then portion out into one pound packages and wrap it up. We’re talking about 40 lbs of pork to be exact. It doesn’t take long. Three guys breeze through it in about 20 minutes. We charge a dollar per pound to do the work and we charge 1.50 per pound additional for the actual sausage. The way I explain it to Joe is: You take the car to the mechanic. He charges for labor and a markup on the parts. That’s called business. Joe tells me that it’s unacceptable and that he can’t even taste the seasoning. Takes out his pocket knife and cuts open a bag of the sausage. Asks me to smell it. I say it smells of sage, salt. That is indeed our product. He packs up his plate and cute pink lunchbox and as I am offering him a fix to add seasoning he waves me off and says “it was nice knowing you.”
I wanted to be upset. Clearly he was upset. It is always about money. I don’t know that charging 94 dollars to process someones meat is exorbitant. I know I am on the less expensive side in Colorado. I know there are not many processors who will take your product any time of the year and make sausage. I’m not like everyone else. I have boundaries. I am vocal in my likes and dislikes. I appreciate people who value my hard work and understand the difficulties of my job. I’m not rich nor am I going to get rich off this business. I only exist as a business owner because there is a sincere need for the service. So to the people like Joe, who think I should be working for free, I say “nice knowing ya.”
These charts will help you understand that “its not all meat.” They show the amount of meat to be processed, the weight that you can expect to receive and the percentage of loss through boning, fat removal and trimmings. These authoritative charts are the results of many cutting tests made by meat experts.
Of course, it must be realized that the size of the animal, the amount of fat, the grade of meat, and the amount of trimmings and bonding that is done by us will affect the percentage of meat that you will receive. These charts can be considered as a guide to the amount of meat received.
- Do not overcook
Because grass-fed beef is leaner than grain-fed, it doesn’t have a lot of spare fat to keep it moist when cooked too long or at temperatures that are too high. Beef with lots of fat is more forgiving of sloppy cooking, but grass-fed cuts need a little extra attention and care.
So, rule number one: don’t overcook. Grass-fed beef needs about 30 percent less cooking time than most common beef and is best if cooked medium-rare to medium, or it will be too tough. Keep an eye on the internal temperature. Just stick a meat thermometer where the steak is thickest. (You can find a thermometer in most kitchen supply stores for a few dollars.) If the thermometer registers around 135°F, it means the meat is still rare. You want a temperature between 145°F and 155°F for medium-rare to medium. Anything above that is too much, and your steak will lose its moisture and tenderness.
- If you don’t have a thermometer and don’t particularly care about a picture-perfect piece of meat, you can always cut a slit in a bottom corner of your steak and check for doneness.
- And if you just can’t bring yourself to eat medium-rare meat and like your steak well-done, when using grass-fed beef you may want to opt for a cooking method that utilizes a lot of moisture to keep the meat tender (see Cooking Methods below).
- Do not microwave
Do not cook when frozen or partially frozen
Thaw the meat in the refrigerator or under cold running water, but don’t de-frost it in a microwave oven.
- Let rest after cooking
As a rule, always let any type of meat rest for 8 to 10 minutes after taking it out of the heat. This will help redistribute the juices inside the meat before serving. In particular, when you’re planning to serve the meat in pieces, don’t cut into it right away because the juices will immediately spill out, resulting in a drier texture. For the same reason, always turn your meat with tongs rather than a fork when cooking it. Deliciously precious juices will be lost if you poke the meat.
Tip: if you’re preparing hamburgers with grass-fed beef, add caramelized onions or other moisturizing ingredients to compensate for the leaner meat. (Grass-fed hamburgers are generally 80% to 90% lean.)
There are two major ways of aging beef, wet aging being the industry standard. This is a process done in almost all meat producers. This is the meat you’re going to find at the grocery store. This process happens when you cut the side of beef into primals, which are the major chunks of meat you get before you cut as steaks or roasts. These primals are then bagged and wet aged for 7-14 days. The product is cost efficient for large producers but does nothing for the flavor of the beef. Typically, this process produces a mild taste and leaky texture.
The second and less common way is called dry aged. This occurs when you hang a side in a refrigerated cooler for 7-21 days. This length varies entirely on how the beef was raised and how much fat cover if any, justifies the aging period. With dry aged beef there is going to be a 5% to 10% loss due to moisture and shrink. This process concentrates the flavor and is preferred by the finest restaurants world-wide. This process produces a tender, buttery texture.