There are lots of reasons to be picky about the meat you eat. Quality beef is hard to find, even though all grocery stores and restaurants will try to convince you that what they are serving is the best available. So it’s important when selecting beef to understand what exactly all the terms mean. Here are some you may have heard used to describe beef:
- All-Natural Beef – Quality beef that claims to be all-natural is referring to the amount of processing done to the meat and what has been added to it. All-natural means little processing, with no added hormones or added ingredients.
- Pasture-Raised Beef – This is referring the how the cows were raised. Factory-fed cows are kept in small, confined spaces their whole lives, while pasture-raised cows are allowed to roam freely outside in pastures.
- Grass-Fed Beef – Grass-fed is just as it sounds—this beef comes from cows that were given only grass to eat. The contrary is grain-fed cows, which many argue is not the best nutrition for the cow and thus doesn’t yield as fine-quality beef.
- Dry-Aged Beef – Dry-aged refers to the process that was used to dry and cure the beef. Dry-aging takes longer and is considerably more expensive, but heightens the flavor of the beef. It can be done to the whole carcass or to certain cuts of beef. It is typically only sold in high-end restaurants or from high-quality local farms.
- USDA-Approved Beef – This is a must for quality beef. The United States Department of Agriculture has very strict guidelines and requirements for how the cow can be raised, slaughtered, cleaned, packaged, sold, etc. If it is not marked USDA-approved, it is not the highest-quality beef available.
- Antibiotic-Free Beef – Antibiotics have been administered to animals used for food for many years. This is because animals given antibiotics gain more weight and thus yield more meat. However, the controversy is that the antibiotics given are used to treat human illnesses, as well. Additional research needs to be done in this area for data to be completely understood. The USDA legal terminology is “raised without antibiotics.”
- Well-Marbled Beef – High-quality beef is well-marbled, which refers to the distribution of fat throughout the cut of meat. The more fat there is in the cut, the better it holds its juiciness and tenderness.
At Mills Family Farm in Mooresville, NC, we offer high-quality beef that meets all of the above requirements. Our cows are treated humanely, both in how they are raised and how they are slaughtered. In addition, we dry age the whole carcass for 14 days, which, as mentioned, provides a richly flavored beef product. Come check us out! We truly are setting the standard in local beef, and it’s a difference we guarantee you can taste!