The smell of charcoals burning, the sound of Wisconsin beef sizzling and the sight of perfect grill marks are truly hard to beat. As the sun sets later and later and the temperature rises higher and higher, grilling season has officially made its arrival. Whether cooking on gas or charcoal, grilling provides maximum flavor and optimal tenderness for many cuts of Wisconsin beef.
Grilling up the perfect hamburger, steak or even kabob starts with selecting the cut of meat. If you’re shopping for that perfect cut in the grocery store, you may come across different labels that can seem confusing. Grass-fed, grain-finished, prime cut, and dry-aged – what do these all mean?
When it comes to grass-fed versus grain-fed, it is important to first note that nearly all beef is raised on grass forage. The difference between these two methods of raising cattle occurs in the finishing period. During these final four to six months, grain-fed, or grain-finished cattle consume a balanced diet of forages and grain, while grass-finished cattle consume solely grass forage.
Prime, choice and select refer to the grade of the beef cut. Beef grading sets a standard for quality level and is primarily focused on the degree of marbling. Marbling, also known as intramuscular fat, refers to the small flecks of fat within the beef muscle
Prime cuts of beef are highly marbled with fat and therefore, full of flavor. Choice cuts contain moderate amounts of marbling and are the most widely available grade, while select grades contain minimal marbling, making those cuts a leaner option.
Wet and dry aging refer to how the meat is stored and refrigerated after slaughter. Both of these processes help develop additional flavors in the beef. The difference? Wet-aged beef is refrigerated in sealed airtight bags, while dry-aged beef is refrigerated uncovered in a humidity-controlled room.
Despite these differences in labels at the grocery store, all beef products are a great choice for a healthy diet. One 3-ounce serving of beef – about the size of a deck of playing cards – provides 10 essential nutrients including protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12. When it comes to protein-packed foods, beef is hard to beat. One 3-ounce serving of beef provides 25 grams, roughly 50 percent of your daily value, of protein.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, protein helps support strong, lean bodies. Eating at least 4 ounces of high-quality protein from foods like beef at each meal provides your body with energy to lead an active lifestyle. Additional research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that eating lean beef as part of a heart healthy dietary pattern can help maintain normal cholesterol levels.
Next time you fire up the grill, and throw on a Wisconsin hamburger, steak or even a kabob, you can be confident that your beef will not only taste great but be a great choice to fuel your body as well. To learn more about how beef cattle are raised in Wisconsin, how to choose the right cut of beef in the grocery store, or how to prepare an award-winning beef dinner, head to beeftips.com.
Abigail Martin, a 2014 graduate of Milton High School, is the 72nd Alice in Dairyland. Wisconsin’s agriculture ambassador works with media professionals to share the importance of agriculture to Wisconsin’s economy and way of life.