Beef is beef, right? Nothing could be further from the truth. There are three components to the production of premium beef: Genetics, diet, and age. For a more in-depth look click here.
Conception to consumption
The steers that we grow out were born on this ranch. Their whole lives, development, and health have been guided by us. We know every shot they've been given, any ailments that they've had, anything that could negatively affect them in their future career path. They've been handled using low-stress handling techniques so that they are calm and easy to work with. Temperament of cattle plays a critical role in their carcass quality when all other things are equal.
is a really interesting article on the benefits of calm cattle from South Dakota State Extension showing that it affected backfat, marbling, carcass weight, and tenderness.
Genetics play a large part in the quality of beef. USDA quality grade is determined solely by marbling, which is intramuscular (within the muscle) fat that distributes a buttery flavor throughout the meat. However, a primary quality that contributes towards the eating experience is tenderness. In commercially available meat, this is not evaluated, and in most herds is completely unknown, so the customer doesn't know if the choice or prime steak that they're buying is going to be tender. In the last few years, genetic markers have been isolated for various production traits, including marbling and tenderness. The gene markers for tenderness were isolated by corresponding with low Warner-Bratzler
shear force values.
We test our cowherd using the HD50k
test developed by Zoetis. We utilize bulls with HD50K test data through artificial insemination, and test our clean-up bulls. This gives us predictability in the genetic carcass merit of the steers we choose to feed and raise for our customers. All Angus are not created equal. The genetic test ranks the animals in their traits from 1 – 99, and a random cross section of the breed will encompass values throughout that whole range.
To produce “finished” beef, the animal needs to be fed a diet that exceeds its dietary requirements for maintenance. We feed premium meadow grass or grain-hay with a mixture of grains including corn, barley, and peas. This mix will change throughout the grow-out. It's also important to balance the vitamin and mineral components of the diet.
For cattle to marble properly, they need to have reached a maturity level. The animals need to be at least a year of age before they can start to adequately marble. Our steers are generally 18-20 months of age at slaughter.