Thursday, May 29, 2008

Equity in Humane Treatment

Meating Place (free registration required) annouces today that the USDA is expected to announce new (draft) regulations requiring those vendors who participate in the federal commodity purchase program (e.g. National school Lunch Program) to be able to prove they treat livestock humanely.

Shouldn't this apply to all USDA approved facilities? Does it already?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Yes, But How Does It Impact Flavor?

This probably isn't fair but I'm going to say it anyways.

Now that higher grain prices have make it more expensive to finish beef cattle on corn and other grains, The University of Arkansas has a new facility dedicated to R&D (research and demonstration in this case) on alternative feed ingredients for cattle. According to a press release from the Southwest Research and Extension Center, ingredients being evaluated include "distiller's grain and other byproducts of bio-fuels production, corn gluten, rice bran, cotton seed cake, soybean hulls and hominy from corn milling." They are testing the ingredients in feedyard environments and as feed supplements for cattle on pasture.

I am all for efficiency.

But if they're not already doing so, I really encourage the team to consider the impact on flavor and texture, not just weight gain, marbling, yield and costs. All these things matter but they are not the only drivers of taste and quality and sometimes, other factors should come into play.

At minimum, let's start thinking about beef as food, not throughput.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

When The Beef Crumbles

Sorry, it's been a while since my last update. But then today I see this headline in Meating Place: "Chatel Farms launches new beef crumbles." (free subscription required)

Apparently, "beef crumbles" are flash frozen ground beef pieces that come in resealable packages. They are ready-to-use, you don't need to thaw them before using the crumbles in your favorite dish.

At first pass, my thought was, are we really that pushed for time that we can't crumble our own ground beef when making, say, Hamburger Helper or even a scratch recipe?

Wearing my industry hat, I also thought, are these simply the scraps left over in the machinery when ground beef bricks or patties are made? An efficient use of otherwise unusable beef? Or yet another potential food safety hazard from mixing together meat from many different cattle?

I dunno, one would certainly save time using these "crumbles." (Cute name, BTW.) Defrosting ground beef can take some time. Also, unless it was professional blast frozen before it made it to your freezer, ground beef doesn't freeze particularly well at home; ice can form during the slow freezing process and lead to watery meat when thawed.

A quick search shows beef crumbles have been around for a few years (Tyson had them in 2004, proving I still have a lot to learn about beef!). Will have to reach out to others and learn the scoop as to how these came about. Intriguing.

Chatel Farms is a brand name for a privately held beef processor in Augusta, Georgia (the company's site says it's the largest privately held fully-integrated beef processing facility in the Southeast.)