By Crystal Siemers-Peterman
As Alice, I welcome any and all questions about our state’s agriculture industry. I always joke that if we grow it or raise it, I get to talk about it. With each question comes a great opportunity to provide an accurate, thorough answer to not only educate, but also have a genuine conversation on the “how, what and whys” of Wisconsin agriculture.
One place I can expect many questions is in fourth-grade classrooms. Questions like “Do cows get dizzy on the carousel parlor?” or “Why is the skin of the potato the most nutritious part?” keep me on my toes. Recently one question that surprised me was, “Alice, what is your favorite meal?”
Without skipping a beat, my response was: a rib-eye steak, medium-rare, with Wisconsin blue cheese crumbles on top. Hands down.
Beef — it’s more than what’s for dinner. Here in Wisconsin, we have more beef farms than dairy farms. These farms play a great role in our state’s agriculture industry, providing more than 35,000 jobs and contributing more than $2 billion to our state’s economy.
When it comes to beef choices in the display case, we are fortunate in Wisconsin to have a wide variety of products to choose from. Sometimes these choices can be overwhelming, so here’s a breakdown of some of the terms you may come across.
First and foremost, all beef is inspected for wholesomeness and is graded for quality and palatability. The three beef grades include Prime, Choice and Select. Prime cuts of beef are highly marbled with fat and full of flavor. Choice cuts contain moderate amounts of marbling and are the most widely available grade, and Select grades contain minimal marbling, making those cuts a leaner option.
You may also encounter beef raised by a variety of different methods, including grass-fed beef. An important thought to consider is that nearly all beef is raised on grass forage. The difference between grass-fed and grain-fed cattle happens in the finishing period. Grain-finished cattle spend the last four to six months consuming a balanced diet of forages and grain, while grass-finished cattle consume solely grass forage.
Beef can also develop additional flavors through wet and dry aging. Wet-aged steak is aged up to 21 days in a refrigerated environment; this is a common method of aging for a traditional beef flavor. Steaks can also be dry-aged for up to 28 days uncovered in a refrigerated environment, producing a distinctive brown-roasted, beefy flavor.
No matter how it’s raised, aged or processed, beef is part of a healthy diet. One 3-ounce serving of lean beef contains just 150 calories. Naturally nutrient-rich foods such as lean beef also help people get more essential nutrients in fewer calories. A 3-ounce serving of lean beef contributes less than 10% of calories to a 2,000-calorie diet, yet it supplies more than 10% of the daily value for 10 essential nutrients, including protein, iron, choline, selenium, B vitamins, zinc, phosphorus, niacin and riboflavin.
Lean cuts of beef make up more than 60% of all beef muscle cuts sold at grocery stores and contain less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and no more than 95 milligrams of cholesterol per 3.5-ounce serving. When choosing lean cuts of beef, look for “loin” or “round” in the name. Popular lean beef cuts include strip steak, T-bone or tenderloin steak.
Start your day off right by adding thinly sliced deli beef to your breakfast sandwich or seasoned ground beef to scrambled eggs. While I’m logging thousands of miles across the state, beef jerky and beef sticks are some of my favorite snacks. Whether you’re enjoying steak tacos or a classic pot roast, be sure to incorporate a delicious beef entree item for dinner. For more beef tips and recipes, visit beeftips.com.
Siemers-Peterman is the 70th Alice in Dairyland.