Valentine to Steak

Off the keyboard of RE

Published on the Doomstead Diner on February 14, 2015

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Valentine’s Day is the occassion each year we honor what we LOVE.

It’s nice if you have some fellow Homo Sapiens you love to honor with a few Chocolates or Flowers, but Hermit Monks like me don’t have those. So you have to look elsewhere to find what you love and honor it, and for this Valentine’s Day, I will honor my favorite food, STEAK!

https://i1.wp.com/cdn.mundodastribos.com/wp-admin/uploads/2011/03/Churrascaria-1.jpgI’ve been a Beef Afficionado/Steak Lover since my childhood in Brasil, when we would often trip over to the Churascaria to Pig Out on the innumerable cuts of meat that were being BBQed up and they brought to your table for sampling. The Churascos would wander around the restaurant with full spits of various parts of a cow spiced up in different ways and slice them right off the spit onto your plate. Of course, such a feast wasn’t typical for the locals, who mostly had dried meat in a Fejouada for their daily animal protein ration, but the upper class Brasileiros and Amerikan Banksters and State Department people feasted in the Churascarias daily back there in 1960s Brasil. It’s a class differential problem, but in this case not too bad, since everybody does get some meat in the diet, though some get more and better selection.

Upon returning to the FSoA, I started to to my own BBQing of BEEF, since there were no Churascarias here in those days, and no Mongolian BBQs either. Nor were there prepared Smoked Baby Back Ribs at the Hot Counter of your local Grocery Store. If you wanted Open Flame Grilled Beef back then, you pretty mcuh had to do it yourself, although there was Tad’s Steak House.

Anyhow, cruising down the meat Fridge a 3 Bears, I ran across the package of Ribeyes you see at the top of the page here. A solid Half Century of buying beef in supermarkets around the world, I have NEVER seen Ribeye Steaks presented in this fashion, as a HEART FOR VALENTINES DAY!

Not only were said Ribeyes presented as a Heart, they were PRIME BEEF! You only rarely find Prime Beef in the Meat Fridge of a typical Supermarket, it mostly goes to high end restaraunts, and finding it at a discount supermarket like 3 Bears makes one stop and think here some.

From the USDA Website:

Infographic (click to see larger version) outlining the differences between USDA’s beef grades.

Infographic (click to see larger version) outlining the differences between USDA’s beef grades.

The USDA grade shields are highly regarded as symbols of safe, high-quality American beef. Quality grades are widely used as a “language” within the beef industry, making business transactions easier and providing a vital link to support rural America. Consumers, as well as those involved in the marketing of agricultural products, benefit from the greater efficiency permitted by the availability and application of grade standards.

Beef is evaluated by highly-skilled USDA meat graders using a subjective characteristic assessment process and electronic instruments to measure meat characteristics. These characteristics follow the official grade standards developed, maintained and interpreted by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

Beef is graded in two ways: quality grades for tenderness, juiciness and flavor; and yield grades for the amount of usable lean meat on the carcass. From a consumer standpoint, what do these quality beef grades mean?

Prime beef is produced from young, well-fed beef cattle. It has abundant marbling (the amount of fat interspersed with lean meat), and is generally sold in restaurants and hotels. Prime roasts and steaks are excellent for dry-heat cooking such as broiling, roasting or grilling.

Choice beef is high quality, but has less marbling than Prime. Choice roasts and steaks from the loin and rib will be very tender, juicy, and flavorful and are suited for dry-heat cooking. Many of the less tender cuts can also be cooked with dry heat if not overcooked. Such cuts will be most tender if braised, roasted or simmered with a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered pan.

Select beef is very uniform in quality and normally leaner than the higher grades. It is fairly tender, but, because it has less marbling, it may lack some of the juiciness and flavor of the higher grades. Only the tender cuts should be cooked with dry heat. Other cuts should be marinated before cooking or braised to obtain maximum tenderness and flavor.

Standard and Commercial grades of beef are frequently sold as ungraded or as store brand meat. Utility, Cutter, and Canner grades of beef are seldom, if ever, sold at retail but are used instead to make ground beef and processed products.

Recently, USDA collaborated with the United States Meat Export Federation and Colorado State University to develop an educational video about the beef grading process. This video provides a comprehensive overview of the beef grading system – from farm to table.

So next time you are at a restaurant or grocery store, look for the USDA grade shield and you will better be able to answer the question, “What’s your beef?”

So, WHY is USDA Prime Beef on sale at 3 Bears? Because the restaurants that charge $50-100 for a Prime Beef Steak Dinner are not selling enough of them at this price, that is why! So some of it shows up periodically in the refrigerated counters of supermarkets like 3 Bears!

The whole Prime/Choice/Select Taxonomy is very arbitrary overall, particularly between Choice and Prime designation. I have found many “choice” cuts which are just as well marbled with FA as prime cuts, and they usually come in at 60% of the price asked for for Prime Beef. In fact the $14/lb price I paid for these Ribeyes is quite a good deal for Prime, which often lists at $20/lb and more. Also, if yo purchase said steak at Ruth’s Chris, it is going to run you MINIMUM $50 for the Entree, and if you can walk out of said restaurant spending less than a C-Note you skimped somewhere! LOL.

So, despite a per pound price higher than I normally am predisposed to pay for beef at around $14/lb. just because of the Heart Shape Presentation here in the package I BOUGHT it! This is a totally SELFLESS ACT OF GENEROSITY, I only did it for the purposes of writing this article. The fact i will seriously enjoy consuming these two Prime Ribeyes is just a bonus here. LOL.

Most of the time these days, I try to by the cheapest meat I can find and do it up in the Slow Cooker rather than as BBQ on the grill. Here’s the Latest Stew, made from Choice Cut Beef Oxtails:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSaid Stew is INCREDIBLY DELICIOUS, and the Oxtails came in a whole lot cheaper than those Prime Ribeyes @ around $7/pound, half the price on the ribeyes. Which seems pretty good, except last week I slow cooked up a very similar stew using Beef Back Ribs which came in at $2.79/lb! After a few hours in the Slow Cooker, I could not discern any difference between the oxtails and the ribs, so I can’t see ever buying the oxtails again here, unless of course nothing cheaper is ailable.

The price differential between the $14/lb Prime Beef Ribeyes and $7/lb Oxtails is also large so faced with that choice I would almost always pick the Oxtails. Except that is not usually the choice, because over at Fred Meyer a day later, I found Rib-In Ribeyes ON SALE also for $6.59/lb! Choice not Prime, but inspecting them before cooking and consuming them, I can already tell they are going to be indistinguishable from the Prime Ribeyes. Long as those remain Available anyhow.

The “How Long Available” Question remains the biggest bear to answer here? Beef is VERY energy intensive to produce, and cattle require a LOT of water as well. There is no way that 7B people on the earth can all eat Ribeye Steaks, and by no means is it necessary for everyone either, Is it hypocritical that I a still eating them when I KNOW this cannot be sustained? In some ways yes, others no. If everyone forswore off Beef in favor of Insects, the beef eater would be an anachronism. Long as the Industrial Ag system functions though, people will not be switching over to Insects as animal protein here in the FSoA, so somebody is going to eat that Prime Ribeye, and it might as well be me.

In any event, if I live long enough to see the Steaks disappear from the meat freezers I BBQed enough of it up over the last half century that I can close my eyes and still smell the awesome aroma of a juicy Prime Ribeye sizzling over an open flame. I’ll keep that in mind as I chow down on an Earthworm Burger.

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