What is Dry Aging Beef?
Some beef is dry aged at the USDA inspected processing plant for 10-18 days. The entire carcass is hung in a locker under controlled temperature and humidity. The whole carcass takes on the flavor and tenderness.
We dry age our beef for 14 to 21 days. This time length gives you the best flavor and taste of the beef. After the carcass has aged, it is then cut and vacuum sealed in plastic. Dry aging the beef makes the hamburger meat as flavorful as the steak.
What is Wet Aging Beef?
Commercial meat is wet aged almost immediately after the meat is harvested by cutting the meat and placing in retail cryovac packages and sometimes adding water. These are the packages you purchase at most retail stores.
Meat from a commercial feedlot has been wet aged. This means that the carcass is not hung, but is cut up right away and vacuum sealed. No real aging occurs. This meat is then shipped to the store and is put in the meat freezer only being 3-5 days aged at most. Then you are paying a premium price for water.....in dry aging the moisture evaporates from the meat which gives the meat its flavor and taste.
Dry-aged vs Wet-aged Beef
Wet-aged Beef has 20% to 40% water added. Suppose you find ground beef in the store for $2.40 per pound. Assume 30% of it is water from wet-aging, since moisture was not allowed to evaporate with this process. The beef really costs $2.40 per 0.7 lbs, so it costs $3.42 per pound. Dry-aged beef has no water added.
What is Marbling?
Marbling is white flecks of fat within the meat muscle. The greater amount of marbling in beef, the higher the grade because marbling makes beef more tender, flavorful, and juicy.
University research is pointing to consistant feeding as the best method to increase marbling. When calves are weaned from their mother they usually do not eat properly for a month. Our calves have constant grain and hay. When they are weaned, they seldom miss their moms.
What does "Natural" mean?
All fresh meat qualifies as "natural." Products labeled "natural" cannot contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, chemical preservative, or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient; and the product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed (ground, for example). All products claiming to be natural should be accompanied by a brief statement which explains what is meant by the term "natural."
Some companies promote their beef as "natural" because they claim their cattle weren't exposed to antibiotics or hormones and were totally raised on a range instead of being "finished" in a feedlot.
Why is Beef called a "Red" meat?
Oxygen is delivered to muscles by the red cells in the blood. One of the proteins in meat, myoglobin, holds the oxygen in the muscle. The amount of myoglobin in animal muscles determines the color of meat. Beef is called a "red" meat because it contains more myoglobin than chicken or fish. Other "red" meats are veal, lamb, and pork.
Color of Beef
Beef muscle meat not exposed to oxygen (in vacuum packaging, for example) is a burgundy or purplish color. After exposure to the air for 15 minutes or so, the myoglobin receives oxygen and the meat turns bright, cherry red.
After beef has been refrigerated about 5 days, it may turn brown due to chemical changes in the myoglobin. Beef that has turned brown during extended storage may be spoiled, have an off-odor, and be tacky to the touch.
Consumers have learned to rely on quality grades to project the palatability characteristics of beef. Quality grades of beef are determined by careful evaluation of age, marbling, texture, firmness and color of the lean. There are standards for each USDA grade of beef.
- USDA Prime: The lean is highly marbled and usually very tender and juicy; outside fat may be excessive.
- USDA Choice: The lean is average in marbling and usually tender and juicy; outside fat is variable
- USDA Select: The lean contains some marbling; tenderness and juiciness can be extremely variable; usually not much outside fat.
- USDA Standard: Little or no marbling; tenderness and juiciness extremely variable; very little outside fat.
- USDA Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner: Generally applied to older animals. This beef is most often used in processed products and is rarely cut for the freezer.
Angus Beef Chart (Click Image to Download)
Download the PDF version of the graphic above and you'll be able to zoom in to read all about the different cuts of angus beef and their recommended cooking method.
You will need Adobe Acrobat to download the PDF.