The biggest weekend for grilling is here and we want to make sure you are prepared to impress your friends and family! We’ve compiled resources for you which include recipes, grilling tips, and more. Basically, just lots of reasons to fire up the grill this weekend and cook a delicious beefy meal!
Arizona Culinary Institute students from the classes of Basic Culinary Skills, Meat Fabrication, and Baking filtered into a classroom of a different kind on an unseasonably chilly morning in May, ready for a tour of Arizona beef, from gate to plate. The room rang of excitement, anticipation, and sleepiness, as we did get started at 7:30 am. The real diversity and personalities of the classes began to emerge with introductions. The students were asked to tell us their name and their first memory of cooking. The future chef’s answers ranged from cookies to tamales, but there was a common theme: cooking with family. Lauren Scheller, Arizona Beef Council assistant executive director, made a connection with the group by saying, “Just like you all are passionate about cooking and feeding people delicious food, so also are Arizona ranchers passionate about raising quality and delicious beef for you to cook and serve to your restaurant guests.”
JBS, USA in Tolleson, Arizona was the first stop on the agenda. JBS continues to be a reliable partner in educating influencers on how beef is processed and this year was no different. Bill Munns, director of marketing & product management, graciously set up the tour and James Stell, operations manager, hosted an excellent tour of the large plant. Honestly, the results of this year’s tour weren’t much different from past year’s, which was also positive. The students went home with an understating that quality animal care is a priority all the way through the lifecycle of a beef animal and continues until that animal is harvested. The Ah-Ha moments are always fun to hear as most often people are amazed at the lack of “gross” they had envisioned and how the entire process is kept clean and safe.
A delicious steak lunch by Bruce Brown Catering at the Buckeye Elks Lodge with a brief overview of the beef lifecycle followed the plant tour. The morning’s excitement had not yet dissipated, and the room only grew quite when the New York strip carving station was assembled. The anticipation was palatable. A brief presentation by the Arizona Beef Council’s Lauren Scheller and Tiffany Selchow covered the beef lifecycle with tips on decoding the many labels on beef packages and the nutrition beef offers us.
The beautiful outdoors greeted us as we stepped off the bus at Heiden Land and Cattle for a tour of the Heiden family’s feed yard. The seventy-six-degree weather made for a perfect backdrop as the students walked to the feed mill which steams and flakes corn, the bins of different grains and hay while learning how all these ingredients were mixed to provide the cattle a complete and balanced diet. Paul Heiden guided the tour to the cattle pens for more learnings the daily cattle care. This was followed by a detailed look at the working facilities which are used to tag, treat, and care for animals when they are first entering the feed yard or if an illness arises, which isn’t too common. Paul shared, “The care of our animals and the land we use is our top priority, and we are always excited to show off our feed yard to future chefs!”
Last chance for photos with the steers was given and then it was back on the bus to leave rural Buckeye and head back to the center of the 6th largest city in the United States. These culinary students left the Arizona Beef Council Gate to Plate tour armed with first-hand information straight from the feed yard owner and packing plant manager’s mouths. Honestly, we don’t think there is a better kind.
ABC board chairman Wes Kerr emphasized, “The Arizona Beef Council places immense value on the relationships the Gate to Plate Tours provide to cooking and nutrition influencers, such as the students at the Arizona Culinary Institute. We need to continue to be their first reference when faced with questions about how beef is raised or how it fits on a menu.” This tour is made possible by the Federation Initiative Fund, supported by beef councils in states where there are more cattle than people, and the Arizona Beef Council.
To say a mother is an especially important person is a severe understatement. She sacrifices all she has, social life, finances, hobbies, and more, to ensure her children are properly cared for and loved beyond measure. Mothers are also given the job of disciplinarian which encompasses more than just laying down the law, but also provides her children with a structure and moral compass pointing in the right direction for use later in life. She also worries about things she can’t change or prevent, but never the less, she worries. She worries about the dangers of the world and constantly thinks how to can ensure those risks never fall upon her children.
Each year, we celebrate our Mothers on only one day. During this day of celebration, we try to show our moms how much we care, but it’s a challenge to shove all that gratitude in one day. From flowers to jewelry, there are many options for mom, but we are partial to one idea. And that is a lovely brunch, cooked with love, and served to her in bed. She gets up every morning to ensure everyone is ready to go for their busy days, it’s mom’s turn to take a load off and enjoy some pampering.
Arizona Beef Council: Where you are located? I live in Stanfield (in between Casa Grande and Maricopa) but my husband and I partner on a desert ranch south of Buckeye and I sell beef from my parent’s ranch in the Verde Valley.
What segment of the beef community are you involved in? Cow-calf/meat sales/mom/association staff.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family and about your ranch. Anna Aja: I grew up the 4th generation on my family’s ranch in Cottonwood. I truly believe it was the best way to grow up. I am thankful for the independence it instilled in me and for the responsibility I was given in raising and caring for livestock. I was active in 4-H and FFA and served as the State FFA President my freshman year of college. I attended the University of Arizona and received a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Economics. My husband and I actually met when we were 15 at an Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association convention but we re-met our freshman year and have been together ever since. We now have three kiddos, Basilio (5), Andy Marie (3) and Perry Craig (1). A year ago, I started selling beef directly to the consumer from our family’s ranches. I’ve always wanted to do it and since I’m located near such a large metro area I thought I would give it a shot. Our beef company is called 9F Cattle Co. 9F is the brand my husband’s grandmother gifted us after we got married and is what we use to identify our cattle. It was her father’s and she told us that the 9F stood for the 9 fruits of the Holy Spirit – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” –Galatians 5:22-23
How does the technology you use now differ from the technology that was passed down to you or that generations passed may have used on this ranch? In regards to my direct sales, with today’s technology world, launching my beef sales business was completely different from when my grandpa and his dad would wagon their meat and produce from Middle Verde up to the mining town of Jerome. First I got my website set up and decided to utilize an order form that took customer information but I would take payment upon delivery. Once that was complete I started my Facebook page and began to utilize word of mouth referrals and purchase advertising on social media that hit my desired target audience. I still do plenty of handshake deals which is gratifying to be able to work with people who are true to their word.
What are some common misconceptions that you think people may have about the beef you raise and sell? When I sell beef to a consumer I really enjoy that personal connection. And I’m thrilled when they have questions about our ranch or cattle. I do find my customers are often surprised that the majority of our cattle don’t get sold directly but in fact go through the conventional method and end up in a Fry’s or Safeway somewhere. I always see a light bulb go off when they realize that the beef that is found in their local market was raised with care and respect by a family just like mine. I do take pride in the beef we sell and do consider it to be premium as it is dry-aged 21 days, custom cut for my customers and delivered to their doorstep.
What is the most important thing that you want people to know about beef? I’m often faced with someone who is nervous to purchase a lot of beef because they mention an inaccurate health claim. I want people to know that beef is part of a heart-healthy diet, that you can eat well and enjoy what you’re eating.
What is the most important piece of information that you want people to know about you and your family’s beef? We take a tremendous amount of pride in doing a job well. We care about our animals’ quality of life and respect them for the protein they provide us. We care about the environment and being sustainable – we want to pass on our ranches to future generations. And finally, that the beef we raise and sell to them and their family is the same beef we feed our family.
If you could describe in one word the life of a rancher, what would it be?
Lastly and of course most importantly, what is your favorite cut of beef and how do you like to prepare it? I’m a ribeye girl through and through and I want it grilled over charcoal or mesquite by my husband. But really, I love brisket, tri-tip, flat iron, short ribs and more. One of my all-time favorite recipes is this one by Anne Burrell – I’m actually making these on Sunday!