Processing Beef Q&A
Back in October, we processed three steers we have raised from birth. It is always a bitter sweet day.
That morning, our oldest son was home sick from school so he and little brother had to tag along my husband and I as we helped get the steers ready for slaughter.
To be honest, growing up in this environment has me more seasoned when it comes to life and death here on the ranch. I raised pigs, lambs and rabbits in 4H and had to go through this process every time. It was never easy, but did get a little better each time.
I didn't think twice when I told Warren (our oldest boy), "Hey, get dressed we have to help the butcher with the steers today." He immediately had tears surfacing and cried quietly into the nook of his elbow.
I hugged him as I also had tears welling up. I told him, "Buddy, we gave these steers the best life possible. We cared for them rain, snow and sunshine. They got head scratches, open pastures, fresh water and plenty of space to roam. We took care of them, so they can take care of us and many other people." Warren squeezed me tight and nodded his head and understood their purpose.
We went to the ranch as the mobile butcher arrived. Bryce greeted our butcher while I helped the kids find a snack at the ranch house. The disbatch was quick and painless. All three steers were enjoying breakfast as they fell to the ground unknowingly.
Then, I brought the boys to the area they were processing the beef. It always amazes me to watch them do their work. Quick, efficient with so much knowledge. We asked questions and learned a ton. Each time we learn something new. The kids even chimed in here and there.
I shared the entire process on our Instagram stories. I had a question box for any questions and I was blown away with the messages coming in. I thought I would make a blog blog of the questions to explain in further detail. So, here it goes.
1.) How much meat do you get off of one steer?
The general rule is take 60% of your live weight to get your carcass weight. Then, another 60% to get your custom cuts. Example: 1400lb steer (Our current average weight steer) you would get 840lbs carcass weight, then 504lbs of cuts of beef.
2.) How old are the steers when they are processed?
This round, our steers were about 18 months of age. We have our new Angus calves due to be born in February 2022 and they might "finish" (get to goal fat and weight for that specific animal) sooner. possibly by 15 months of age. We will see how it plays out. This will be beneficial for us since California drought struggle is very real and present in our current environment. Having claves finish sooner could help our land recover quicker and have more viable longevity.
3.) How are the steers disbatched?
Our mobile butcher takes care of this part for us which I am very thankful for. He has done this thousands of times so I am confident in his skills. On slaughter day, the steers are happily eating grain or hay and the butcher will whistle and once the steer lifts his head, light out. They never even know what happened. it is so fast and efficient. There is never any suffering or fear.
4.) How long does it take to process one steer?
Our butchers had each steer done in about 40 mins. They have the tools and knowledge needed to get it done in an efficient timely matter. The mobile butcher we used has a special truck with a boom to lift the carcass so getting the hides and organs out is very easy. As well, they save their bodies by having access to this equipment.
5.) Where does the carcass go afterwards?
We work with a butcher shop that custom cuts the beef to our customer's standards. Our mobile butcher does the kill and splits up the beef into quarters. Then, they truck it to the butcher shop to be cut into steaks, roasts, burger and more.
6.) Do you ever process your own meat?
We process our own venison all the time. I also help a neighbor ranch process thanksgiving turkeys every year too. I absolutely love animal anatomy (I'm a registered vet tech). So I do love doing the process myself when the time presents. However, for beef we never have. We trust our mobile butchers more than ourselves and we want it done right. They are professionals and I love working and learning from them.
7.) Do you do anything with the hide, skull or offal?
I have never done anything with hides or skull simply because to do the work myself would not be worth it at the end. Too much time put in, plus very stinky and dirty work. I could send off hides or a skull to be tanned and cleaned, but I haven't done that yet. Plus, most of our steers are polled, which means they have no horns. Most people want to purchase a horned skull. As for the hides, most of our cattle and all black or red which isn't as exciting as a speckled or spotted hide.
Offal are the organs. I usually ask my buyers if they want offal with their beef order. Some do, some do not. If people don't want offal I utilize it for my personal use as dog food. Also- they fat that surrounds the kidneys (AKA suet) is amazing once rendered down for cooking. You may of heard of beef tallow, it is very easy to make and super beneficial for you! You can check out my blog post I wrote about how to render your own tallow. Super easy.
8.) What do you feed your steers?
Our operation is unique because we raise our beef from birth to harvest. The majority of their life here, they are on open pasture with the rest of the herd. Once they reach weaning age (about 8 months+/-) They are separated from the herd and together in a new pasture.
We keep them on grass while also slowly implementing spent brewer's grain we get from a couple local San Diego breweries. This is what we call "backgrounding" which is basically just getting the steers used to grain while also having plenty of grass to forage.
As a few months goes by, we start adding in beef builder finisher grain into the spent brewer's grain. The finisher grain is a special formulated mix we get from a local milling company. It has corn, milo, barley, oats and molasses. We start then low and increase slowly as directed by the manufacture. It is super important to not over feed them because cattle are prone to bloat which could be deadly.
Once we have them on finisher, we keep them on this diet for about 3-4 months until they look good and "finished." Meaning, that they have enough fat to be processed.
We often get asked if we provide grass-finished beef. At this time we do not. With the California drought upon us, it is very hard to keep a balance of healthy pastures and cattle. We are constantly watching the grass and making tough decisions like selling some of our herd to ensure we have proper pasture management. Grass-finished cattle are on pasture much longer which is a big component with our operation. It would be too damaging for our land at this time. If we are about to lease additional land, we may consider grass-finished beef too!
9.) How can we buy your beef?
At this time, we have small batched of steers ready a few times a year. Lately, it has been 3 steers every 4-6 months or so. However, next round 2022 Summer steers we will have beef available.
We ask people interested to please subscribe to our email list to stay in the know on when beef is available. I am working on some sort of waiting list but it has been overwhelming how many people are interested in our beef already!
We are so grateful and hope to be able to provide more beef in the future as we get our operation off it's feet! We are relatively new at this and we appreciate all of the support we have attained along the journey.
Well, that is what I have for you! I know there are many questions simmering and I am happy to answer. Either leave a comment below or shoot me an email at email@example.com with any additional questions!