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Meat faq

Two Delicious Hamburgers

Source: SDSU Extension

  • How about antibiotics use in livestock? Is my meat safe?
    Yes. Herd health programs generally involve prevention of disease through vaccination and control of internal and external parasites. It is important to note that vaccination and treatment with antibiotics are not the same thing. Vaccinations are given to animals to prevent diseases. However, when animals do become sick, it is important to utilize antibiotics as appropriate to restore health.Antibiotics are a component of good animal husbandry. Animals that are treated with antibiotics and harvested after the appropriate withdrawal time can be marketed as freezer meat, but they should not carry an antibiotic-free claim. More information about the safety and use of antibiotics in food animals can be found in this resource.
  • What about hormone use in livestock?
    In cattle, hormones are often administered to promote growth by complementing the effects of naturally occurring hormones. The improvement in growth rate created by hormone implants allows for cattle to be finished earlier, thereby requiring less time on feed and fewer resources per pound of meat produced. If you are seeking beef raised without added hormones, it is important to ask the producer about their protocols. More information about the use and safety of hormones in beef can be found in the article, Hormones in Beef: Myths vs. Facts.
  • Taste quality: Is there a difference in grass fed vs. grain fed?
    The type of finishing ration can also impact palatability. Variation in finishing methods is more common in beef and lamb finished on grain or grass. While there is room for both grass and grain-finished in the marketplace, it is important to understand the differences that should be expected. For example, in beef, the typical U.S. beef consumer is accustomed to the flavor profile and palatability attributes of grain-finished beef. Beef from grass-finished animals may be identified as having a grassy flavor and can have a different cooking odor compared with grain-finished beef. Also, consumers may note a difference in the visual appearance, as the fat of grass-finished beef can be more yellow in color. Grass-finished beef cattle are also generally finished at a lighter weight than grain-finished beef and, as a result, are often leaner with less marbling (intramuscular fat).
  • How much meat can I expect out of butchered livestock?
    Typically, if you’re purchasing from a producer, they should be able to estimate the final live weight of the animal. This is important for two reasons: 1. It allows you to estimate the purchase price of the animal (paid to the producer) and the associated processing costs (paid to the processor). 2. It allows you to know how much meat to expect to put in your freezer. The graphics below help to illustrate the approximate carcass weight you can expect from beef, pork, and lamb based on the average dressing percentage of each specie. When an animal is harvested, certain parts of the animal, such as the head, hide, feet, blood and internal organs, are removed. The remaining meat, fat and bone makes up the hanging weight of the carcass. Calculating dressing percentage helps to estimate the carcass yield from the live animal. BEEF The average dressing percentage for young beef is about 60–63%. The average finished weight is 1,200–1,500 pounds. Example: Live weight = 1,350 pounds Dressing % = 62% Carcass weight = 837 pounds PORK The average dressing percentage for finished hogs is about 70–76%. The average finished weight is 250–290 pounds. Example: Live weight = 270 pounds Dressing % = 73% Carcass weight = 197 pounds LAMB The average dressing percentage for finished sheep is about 50%. The average finished weight is 125–150 pounds. Example: Live weight = 140 pounds Dressing % = 50% Carcass weight = 70 pounds Additional weight is lost when a carcass is fabricated, or broken down, into retail cuts. The percentage of carcass weight remaining as “take-home” product is called the cut yield and is approximately 65% of the carcass weight. However, the amount of “take-home” product can vary quite a bit based on how much fat is trimmed off the carcass, the specific cuts requested, or the amount of bone-in versus boneless retail cuts requested. This infographic from the University of Minnesota is useful for visualizing the amount of meat to expect from a quarter of beef, a half a hog or a whole lamb.
  • How much freezer space is needed?
    If you are new to purchasing freezer beef, pork or lamb, it can be challenging to estimate the volume of meat you will be receiving or the amount of freezer space that will be required. The general rule is one cubic foot per 35–40 pounds of packaged meat. Additional space is needed when storing large or odd-shaped cuts. This infographic from the University of Minnesota is useful for visualizing the amount of freezer space needed for a quarter of beef, a half a hog or a whole lamb.
  • How long can meat be frozen?
    If meat remains frozen at zero degrees Fahrenheit, it should remain safe indefinitely. However, quality (flavor, texture, etc.) can begin to deteriorate over time. This can occur more quickly for ground products (three-to-four months) compared to steaks, chops or roasts (12 months). However, I have personally had ground product frozen for over a year with minimal change in quality.
  • How to properly thaw meat?
    Most consumers are more familiar with handling fresh meat, so handling and thawing frozen meat may be a new experience. The best way to thaw frozen meat is to put it on a plate or tray on the lowest rack of the refrigerator. With this method, meat products can take anywhere from one-to-four days to thaw, depending on the thickness, so it definitely takes some preplanning. If you are short of time, another method to thaw meat is to place it in a sealed plastic bag and place it under cold running water. If you are really in a time crunch, you can always defrost meat in the microwave, but this can begin to cook the meat, so you might start sacrificing the quality of your eating experience. It is not recommended to thaw frozen meat out on a counter at room temperature. This could expose the product to the temperature danger zone (40–140 degrees Fahrenheit) for a long enough time period to allow for bacteria to grow and potentially cause foodborne illness.
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