Feedlot versus Grass Fed Beef
The good, the bad and the not so pretty things about beef
Part 1 - Ground Beef
Why has the supply of hamburger, steaks and roasts become what it is? As the saying goes, follow the money.
The beef sold in the grocery stores will come from one of three sources:
A. USA born beef
B. USA born dairy.
C. Imported beef.
Let us start with the most American staple, hamburger or ground beef. It is used in everything from the hamburger sandwich, chili, tacos, pizza toppings, casseroles and the list goes on. We eat more ground beef per person than anywhere else in the world. In fact, our demand for ground beef is such, there is a thriving import market (both live from Canada and Mexico and frozen from Argentina, Australia, and Brazil principally) for beef that is 'second rate' that can be ground. But the lion's share of ground beef comes from our cows and bulls born and raised here. What though provides that 2 lb package of 75% lean or that 1 lb expensive package of 95% lean ground beef? While you may like to think it is from a nice healthy 2 year old steer, it is almost guaranteed to be from cow that is at the end of their economically useful life. All of that milk, yogurt and cheese that fills the refrigerators came from dairy cows. In today's intensive dairy operations, those gals have a much shorter lifespan than even 20 years ago. Once their milk production drops below a threshold, off they go to be butchered. The same is true for beef cows, once they no longer become pregnant and raise a healthy calf, their usefulness as a mother is over. Depending on the prevailing price-demand, either the entire carcass will be ground or a few selective steaks will be harvested and the remaining ground. But even here it gets more 'interesting'.
To get more throughput and to maximize weight at the large processing plants the kill-to-processing time is immediate. In other words, the hanging process where the blood and water drains out of the carcass never happens. This is why your hamburgers shrink from store purchased ground beef but will not from ours. The second profit enhancer is to take excess fat from fat steers and add it to the mix.
We are not trying to say that supermarket or local deli ground beef is bad, we have purchased many pounds ourselves over the years. It is what it is, mass produced beef from end of life cows for the mass markets of fast food chains, restaurants, cafeterias and grocery stores with the goal of minimal costs and maximum profits at every point in the process.