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Speakin' The Lingo

Posted: Tue May 10, 2011 11:43
by Chuckwagon
Speakin' The "Lingo" And Throwin` A Wide Loop

One billion hogs live throughout the world and about half are in China, the world's leading producer having forty different breeds. Of these, the United States has only eight commonly raised breeds including the American Landrace, Berkshire, Chester White, Duroc, Hampshire, Poland China, Spotted, and Yorkshire - all developed in this country with the exceptions of the Berkshire and Yorkshire, imported from England during the 1800's.

Piglets weigh only about 2-1/2 pounds at birth but double their weight in a week. Fully-grown males (boars) weigh more than five hundred pounds, and sows (females) more than four hundred and fifty. A young female that has not yet had piglets, is called a "gilt", and a young, castrated male is known as a "barrow". Giving birth to piglets is called "farrowing". The time period from conception to birth is 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days, and most sows have 2 litters per year, each with seven to twelve piglets.

Today, hogs grow faster on less feed, produce more lean meat and less fat than those raised in the past, and actually consume about twenty percent of the corn grown in the United States. Hog producers, listening to consumers' preferences and concerns, have dramatically changed pork since the 1980s. America's fitness trend and a more health-concerned generation have simply demanded it. Of prime importance, improved breeding and feeding practices have all but eradicated trichinella spiralis in pork! As producers continued to upgrade the quality of pork, they have also consistently reduced the animal's fat content by nearly forty - five per cent. The most popular selection of pork, the tenderloin, is now a whopping 42% lower in fat. Pork chops today, are a colossal sixty percent leaner than those just thirty years ago. Today's lean pork means it plays a vital part in a healthy diet as it contains many nutrients including six essential vitamins, four important minerals, protein, and energy. Our old perception of pork is changing as consumers are beginning to realize it is a most desirable lean meat.

Although the elimination of trichinae in pork is one of the most significant improvements in the industry, not everyone is happy with the reduced fat content of the animal. Since pork fat is the secret of its flavor, traditional sausage makers are discontented with modern lean pork, as there is simply less fat available. Most sausage makers these days, must scramble to find "fat back" - the creamy, flavorful addition necessary in amounts of about ¼ the total volume of any good sausage. Many experienced fermented-sausage crafters claim the days of authentic salami flavor are now gone, while any ol` timer will tell you how the savor and essence of the meat itself has been reduced. Unlike beef, pork is not "aged". It must be cut and wrapped within 24 hours of slaughter for best results.

Rustler's Beef Basics

Americans eat a tremendous amount of beef annually. In fact, if Steelchef and a few other wild wranglers on this forum lined up all the cattle Americans consume in merely one year, the line would encircle the earth 125 times! In our wild-west history, I suppose rustled or stolen beef always tasted better to some folks than the domestic stuff! If you intend to take up the life of a cattle-rustlin` outlaw, you "swing a wide loop". If you just can't help becoming a rustler, you'd better purchase a good Colt .45 with a barrel length of only four inches. Steal a very fast horse, develop a hide as thick as my Uncle`s coffee, and become accustomed to the unsympathetic wind with rain and snow drippin` down the back of your neck. Enjoy freezing cold winters and scorching hot summers. You will also have to develop a little knowledge regarding cattle, and a general understanding of just what the hail you are doing - before spending the rest of your days in jail. Here are some basics:

A cow is a female of the genus "Bos" from the Bovine family Bovidae and there is a dynamic herd of about one and one third billion worldwide! A young cow, more than one year of age, is called a heifer until she gives birth to a calf in about nine months becoming a "fresh" cow with a ten-month milk supply, later becoming a "dry" cow. A bull is the reproductive male and a steer is a neutered male. In the late 1700's, cross breeding was developed in England, and a "polled" cow was bred to be born without horns. In the American west, ranchers soon developed selective breeding to produce more meat. The Texas Longhorn grew more slowly than the English Hereford and Aberdeen Angus and by the 1920`s, the Longhorn had all but vanished from the range, as the marbled meat of the Angus became the preferred cut for the grill. However, at maturity, the Angus is not as large as other breeds, and ranchers have crossbred other cattle with it to produce larger offspring. In the intermountain west, the Hereford, with it's red body and white face, chest, flanks, and lower legs, is the cattleman's favorite, being able to survive our extreme winter temperatures, having more tolerance than other breeds. The animal is easier to manage than hogs and sheep, making it the rustler's choice. Your horse will respond to its name - your cow will not. The bovine is simply quite a stupid animal used to provide meat. That's alright buckaroos... quite often I don't even respond to my own name!

The Three Basic Grades Of Beef

The Meat Inspection Division of the United States Department of Agriculture "grades" beef quality by estimating the age of the animal, the amount of fat marbling (determined by looking at the ribeye at the 12th rib) and by the texture, color, and appearance of the ribeye. U.S.D.A. "quality grading" is optional and according to the National Cattleman's Beef Association only about 2% of all the beef carcasses produced in this country, submitted for grading, are quality-graded as "Prime". Prime beef cuts are generally the most tender, flavorful, and delicious steaks and roasts and contain less meat due to a higher fat content (marbling). This grade is the most expensive beef and usually only found in meat markets - as opposed to supermarkets. Unless you butcher your own, the best cuts of beef will come from meat markets supplying restaurants and are always Prime or Choice cuts of meat. Choice beef is juicy and tender, producing excellent steaks and roasts. About 44% of the beef submitted for quality grading is "Choice" grade, (the next grade down from Prime), and is usually available to, and selected by, shoppers in retail markets. There is nothing wrong with cuts of this grade and they will save you a buck or two. When beef is purchased in vacuum packages, it appears dark reddish-purple. When the package is opened, exposure to oxygen causes the meat to turn bright red, and after a few days, the surface will change to brown. Select beef is generally the most popular grade of beef containing the "average cuts" needing tenderizing occasionally. They are mostly used for grilling or in slow-cooking recipes. Usually marinated, these cuts are found in the supermarket and save the consumer even more money than by purchasing choice grade.

Other grades of beef, sometimes found in supermarkets, are referred to as Standard, Natural, Commercial, Utility, or Non-Graded. These are usually tough cuts and require a little talent to "render tender". That's not to say they can't be made into very tasty meals. There is no clearly cut definition of these categories and some care should be exercised when making selections. Many people don`t realize that the very best cuts of beef are not available in supermarkets, as they are sold to restaurants and retailers. Fine restaurants often utilize a process called "aging", a term used to describe the holding of various meats at a temperature of 34 to 36 degrees F. (1 to 2 degrees C.) for a specified period of time while tough connective tissues break down through the action of enzymes, increasing tenderness. Often, mold will develop upon a carcass (a sure sign of aging) and will simply be washed away with vinegar or cut away before the tenderized meat lying beneath, is cut, cooked, and served. And what about cuts from older steers? Quite often they end up in discount stores.

Best Wishes,

Posted: Sun Jul 31, 2011 14:10
by uwanna61
As usual, you have provided us with more valuable information! I thought I knew a thing or two about buying beef, but after this read, I`m even more educated.
We have a meat market about 30 minutes from our home, and beef is pretty much their specialty. Expensive but the taste simply put, wow. When you want to turn up the charm at a BBQ or such, this is the place to go! Last year my wife received a $50 gift certificate from work, to this market. Long story short, we walked out of there with 2lbs of prime loin cuts at $22.95 lb and 4 chicken kabobs, and no change! Here I was thinking we would walk out with 6-8lbs of steak, Expensive but fantastic cuts of meat!


Posted: Sun Jul 31, 2011 21:57
by Chuckwagon
Wally, my ol' friend,
Thank you for the kind words. Not enough people pause to really inspect what they are buying, much less... compare prices at the meat counter. The winner is always the retailer. If you have access to a wholesaler, my goodnesss gracious... go for it.
I just wish you could come out here and help me pick tonight's supper from the ol' corral! :shock:
The best adivice I could give you in the populated eastern areas, is GET TO KNOW YOUR BUTCHER! AND.. talk to him often. Have him explain each cut... He'll be glad to take the break from cutting, and will be "honored" that you value his opinion!

Thanks again Uwanna. You are a true gentleman! Please cook around my campfire anytime you feel like it. Uh.... just bring your own duck! :lol:
Best Wishes,