Wet-Aging Vs Dry-Aging:
Dry Aging Is the process where meat is stored uncovered in a temperature, humidity and air velocity controlled environment. We age our entire carcasses upstate for 10-17 days at Double L Ranch (our slaughterhouse) before bringing them to the shop. We further age our best pieces of ribeye and strip to create our premium “Extra Dry” cuts.
Tenderness: An enzymatic process break down allows for the meat to become more tender overtime.
Dehydration: Because the meat is not wrapped, water evaporates from the cuts during dry-aging. The resulting dehydration of muscle tissue changes the texture of the meat and concentrates the flavor. It also changes the ratio of water to fat, resulting in a juicer mouth feel (tastes juicer, even though it has less moisture).
Flavor Development: Like when aging cheese or wine, additional flavors develop during dry-aging resulting in a more complex eating experience. Some style of dry-aging cultivates molds and yeasts that give it a “funky” flavor (we do not)
Trim/Water Loss: Negative effects of dry-aging include loss of volume and increased trimming which is the main reason why meat
Wet aging is the standard in the USA (95% of all beef). After slaughter the cuts are broken down and are placed in vacuum sealed bags. Wet aging beef tend to lack of depth of flavor and have a metallic flavor once cooked. Wet aging goes through the same enzymatic process as dry-aged beef to achieve tenderness but does not have the additional benefits of dehydration and flavor development.
Yields and Dressing Percentages
- Live Weight: weight of animal before slaughter
- Hot Hanging Weight: weight of animal without the hide, hooves, and offal. This is the weight on which we pay the farmer.
- Dressing Percentage: the percentage of live animal that ends up as carcass
- (DP = (Live Weight/Hot Hanging Weight) x 100
- Dressing Percentage is on average about 50%
- Yield is the saleable cuts of meat that come from a carcass. Beef yield approx. 50% of the hanging weight
- If a steer has a live weight of 1600 pounds- then the hot hanging height will be 800 pounds, and the amount of meat available for retail selling is approximately 400 pounds.
How the USDA Grades
The concept of issuing quality grades began in 1923, and is presently a voluntary, fee based service run by the Agricultural Marketing Service for meat and poultry (beef being the most relevant to consumers). These quality grades aren’t involved with the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s mandatory inspections of all raw meat.
For beef, a grader looks at a carcass between the 12th and 13th rib to estimate age and marbling. Younger cattle are favored for tenderness, and are usually between one and three years old at time of slaughter. The more “marbling,” or the thin white streaks of fat found between the muscles that melt and baste the meat when heated (and release beefy flavor compounds to boot), the better the grade.
Small slaughterhouses (like Double L Ranch) do not pay the USDA for the additional grading service, so our meat is never given a USDA Grade.
Beef graded USDA Prime comes from steers or heifers with “abundant marbling.” In other words, this is the best in class and 3 percent of the market.
Grades from Best to Worst : Prime, Choice, Select, Standard & Commercial, Utility, Cutter, Canner
Our slaughterhouse is Double L Ranch - owned and operated by Lowell and his two sons in Altamont, NY. A busy day at the slaughter facility will see 10 steers processed. At the facility there is a USDA-appointed independent inspector that ensures the animal is humanely processed from when it arrives at the facility alive to when it leaves the facility. This includes humane treatment and the inspection of all cuts and offal. The inspector will stamp all offal and sub-primal cuts before it leaves the facility.
The number of operating slaughterhouses have decreased 20% between 1998 and 2007. Factors causing this include industry consolidation, low profit margins, complexities of federal regulations, and complexities with the disposal of byproducts. This decrease in available slaughterhouses creates a problem for small scale farmers that need beef processed. Only four companies process 80% of the beef in the United States- as well as 66% of Pork, and 58% of Poultry. These four companies are Tyson, Cargill, JBS, and National Beef Processing Co. – these larger facilities have the capacity to process of 20,000 head of cattle each day—US is a large exporter of beef.
Difference Between a Steer, Hefer, Cow, and Bull
- Cow is the colloquial term for Cattle - a member of the bovine family.
- A cow is a bred female – farmers with a cow-calf operation will keep a group of females for breeding purposes. Meat from cows is used for processed foods and low-quality meat.
- A bull is an intact male. The meat from a bull is very lean and can become tough. Meat from bulls is used for processed foods and low-quality meat.
- A steer is a castrated male. Steers produce quality beef.
- A heifer is an unbred female. Heifers produce quality beef.
- A herd of beef cattle usually is comprised of both heifers and steers.
What is Meat?
- Long strands of proteins myosin and actin bound together by collagen.
- The more locomotive support a muscle provides, the more collagen it contains. More collagen > less tender.