Not Big Box or Grocery Store mystery meat
Times are changing faster every day. If someone would have told us 10 years ago that we would be selling premium beef on the Internet, we’d have laughed them off the home place. Its not ten years ago and we’ve been getting a “baptism by fire” education in selling beef online. In that time we’ve learned the best way to do things to make sure they get done correctly is to do them by ourselves.
These days everybody is talking about getting their food “closer to the source” and knowing from where one’s food comes. There are a lot of companies out there that would like you to think that they are selling you beef from their small herd of cattle. There may be a few folks out there who do just that … but it’s very difficult to sustain that market. To price beef anywhere near market price there is very little profit in each head of beef and it’s very difficult to stay afloat. Add “grass fed” beef into that mix and it gets even more difficult as it takes many more days on grass to finish a beef than it does on corn. We digress …
We are very simple people. We raise cattle. A lot of cattle. We sell a lot of cattle to folks like National Beef and Tyson. This allows us to create our own line of products on a much smaller and more focused scale. We work with a small family owned butcher shop just down the road to harvest cattle that we hand select to become our “Nebraska Star® Beef” products. We have our beef graded by the USDA and we run an exceptionally high rate of “USDA Prime” beef, usually around 30% of all the beef we harvest grades “Prime” the remaining 70% grades “USDA upper 2/3rds Choice” which is about as good as it gets in the grocery store. Starting with a premium raw material is the foundation on which we build the rest of our program.
Big boxes and grocery stores live on keeping product moving. They make a little margin on a lot of flow through and beef is no different for them. What this means is that it is VERY difficult to produce and sell a true aged product because someone in the chain has to carry the cost of the product while it is aging.
We don’t mind carrying that cost while our beef ages because the aging is what makes our beef genuinely different and head and shoulders better than the vast majority of beef on the market. We start our aging process on the hanger. Our cattle are killed and hung per USDA regulations and we leave the carcass halves hanging in a cooler for 21 days, after they hang, we break them down into “primals” and they continue to age for another 35 days. After the aging process is complete, we cut steaks. Some companies have machines that will cut steaks automatically. The results can be hit and miss. We have butchers who have made cutting meat their life’s work. While no two steaks are exactly the same, we will never put a steak that is less than perfect into a package with our label on it.
Once the steaks are cut and cryovac packaged, we flash freeze them. Frozen food deserves its own blog entry, but let’s just leave it at “a lot of frozen food gets a bad rap” because it’s not “as fresh” as “fresh”… well, after looking at this both ways and being painfully honest with ourselves … Clarence Birdseye was right. While food can be mucked up in the freezing process, food can also be perfectly preserved in time with the appropriate freezing process. What’s the difference? In short, the faster a product is frozen, the less ice crystals form in the cellar structure. When products freeze slowly, lots of ice crystals form and break cells. Freezing quickly means that less cells are destroyed in the freezing process.
Shipping is also critical. So critical that we built our own distribution center and handle all of our own frozen shipping so we can control the process completely. We use dry ice instead of ice packs. The reason being is that dry ice keeps steaks colder longer than ice packs. Dry ice exists at -109F and when a package ships the inside of the cooler drops to that temperature. It keeps the meat this cold for up to a week. When the dry ice sublimates completely the inside of the cooler stays at -109F for an extended period to ensure that your steaks arrive perfectly frozen and ready to thaw slowly and eat, or to keep frozen indefinitely.
So if you are one of those people who believes in the “farm to table” model or you just like eating great steaks … give us a shot. We won’t let you down.