A World Without Ag Wednesdays: I want a steak

I just got out of class–6 hours of class. A lot, I know. After that much lecturing, discussions, and brain power, all I really want is a steak. Yes, it is past 9 o’clock pm and I want a steak. If you are around me much, you will quickly learn that I always crave steak or chicken wings. Tonight is a steak night, though. Sadly, all I have is pretzels and peanuts. Anyways, since my taste buds are not able to enjoy in the deliciousness of steak, I figured I’d feature steak on today’s “World Without Ag Wednesdays.” So, here goes. I’m not sure how wise this is considering the degree I want a steak right now.

Where does a steak come from?

Let’s ask the obvious question right? Well, it comes from a cow. The less obvious question is where from the cow does it come from? Well, it depends what kind of steak you want–sirloin, rib-eye, T-bone, filet mignon, etc. Here is a nifty diagram for you to get an idea:

imageJust because it all comes from a cow, does not mean that all steaks are equal. There are few things that make them different.

What makes a good steak?

There are three key things that effect how good a steak is besides how it is cooked–marbling, muscle groups, and quality grades.

Marbling–

Marbling is the internal fat in a steak. The more fat in the steak means it will be more flavorful; however, if there is too much fat it gets pretty gross.

marblingMuscle groups–

Depending on the location that the steak comes from, it has an effect on the tenderness of the meat. For example, a filet mignon comes from the tenderloin which is used less strenuously by the cow than say a leg muscle which is more fibrous. This is why cuts from the rump like the round steak are far less favorable and are typically ground for processed meats. Muscles like the loin provide a more tender cut of meat.

More than the degree that the muscle is used, the way muscle groups tie into each other also have an effect. So, a sirloin is a steak that is made up of many different ends of muscles. If you look back at the cuts diagram above, you can see that the sirloin comes at the end of the loin muscle and connects to other muscles in the hip. In this way, it is far less favorable because it is not as neat and tidy as say a T-bone, which is only two muscles.

Quality grades–

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) sets standards for what quality of beef can be made into steaks. They have come up with the following system that includes eight quality grades (prime, choice, select, standard, commercial, utility, cutter, and canner) and five maturity grades (A,B,C,D,E).  The maturity grades represent the following age groups:

  • A- 9 to 30 Months
  • B – 30 to 42 Months
  • C – 42 to 72 Months
  • D – 72 to 96 Months
  • E – More Than 96 Months

Only A and B maturity grades can be used for steaks. It is a pretty strenuous process, and I didn’t even mention yield grades.

 

maturity_chart

So, there you go. That is a little steak trivia for you. I would include how to cook a steak and a recipe, but I’m afraid that is going to be too much for me. Oh goodness, I can just smell it now… I’m so very thankful for the cattle business, a $49.5 billion industry. If only they did steak delivery.

 

Sources:

http://www.thecattlesite.com/articles/1279/beef-grades

http://www.bovineengineering.com/quality_grades.html

http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/animal-products/cattle-beef/statistics-information.aspx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s