Fresh Cut Friday: The Flat Iron Steak

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Basically, me (Tiffany) when I talk about the Flat Iron.

If you follow us on Facebook, you know we love a catchy phrase, so this week we are implementing another one. Fresh Cut Friday won’t be every week, but when something fresh and fun pops up, we’ll talk about it. This week’s feature is one of my all-time favorites. By favorites, I mean talk-about-it-as-often-as-possible-with-whoever-will-listen-long-enough-to-hear-about-it favorite.

The Flat Iron. A cut which is shrouded in mystery and misnomers and might be met with blank stares when you ask for it at your local butcher counter, but one which should not be missed. This cut of beef, which is from the chuck, is an oxymoron. If you know anything about beef and the cuts that come from the beef animal, you know cuts from the chuck are known for their lack of tenderness. But then you have the Flat Iron. It’s not tough, in fact, it is the second most tender cut of beef in the
ENTIRE animal. Yup, that’s right. Right after the tenderloin, the known ruler of beef, sits our lowly, straight from the chuck, Flat Iron.

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That blank stare I previously mentioned.

This cut was first introduced in 2002 and didn’t gain much notoriety until 2008. Even still, it’s a cut which is often impersonated (meaning it’s not cut the proper way) or simply isn’t even known but things are looking up! The Flat Iron, also known as the Top Blade steak, is cut from deep inside the shoulder muscle (aka the chuck), and was used as roasts or ground beef. If you’re a beef nerd, similar to myself, and want to know how to cut this thing at home, check out this video.

This area of the animal is flavorful and juicy, but it had a flaw. A big ol’ piece of connective tissue running straight through the middle. By realizing the simple removal of the connective tissues created two pieces of beef which encompassed the great attributes offered in this area of the animal which offering an easier eating experience, we ended up with another delicious cut of beef which can be afforded by an average family.

ojitoHow do you cook this thing? One of my most favorite recipes is the Cowboy Coffee Rub . First of all, it’s easy. And quick. Bonus, you get a slight caffeine rush, depending on what sort of coffee you use, after eating so you are ready to do those dishes! Often times, I will have leftovers so I save it for lunch and put it on a bed of greens for lunch the next day.

There are MANY ways to cook this delicious piece of beef so be sure to check out more recipes on Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. Trust me, once you try this cut, it’ll be hard for you to cook anything else!

Teaching the Teacher

Every summer, the Arizona Beef Council along with agriculture groups and the University of Arizona plan and execute the Summer Agriculture Institute (SAI) program, a five-day tour designed to teach K-12 teachers about food and fiber production and help them incorporate that knowledge into their classroom curriculum. SAI combines hands-on learning about agriculture with practical curriculum development. In fact, today marks the final day for the 2016 program and although survey results aren’t in yet, we think it was another successful year.

Each year the program focuses on a certain part of the state with this year’s focus being central and northern Arizona with many stops scheduled to cover all aspects of Arizona agriculture. We are excited to note many stages in the beef lifecycle were covered this year, giving teachers a better understanding of how cattle are raised in Arizona.

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The picturesque setting of Groseta Ranches was amplified by Andy and Mary Beth Groseta’s passion for the land, their cattle, and the consumers who purchase their beef. Andy shared many amazing facts with the teachers such as Arizona ranchers raise enough beef to feed every person in our state. Arizona has a population of 6.8 million.

Groseta Ranches, a beautiful ranch in Cottonwood, Arizona working on its fifth generation of ranchers, was the first cattle stop of the week. The teachers heard from Andy Groseta about how the ranch works (For more info on cow-calf ranches, click here) and then covered the many issues they face. A delicious Fiesta Beef Salad lunch along with many yummy desserts was also provided by the Yavapai Cowbelles and Andy’s wife, Mary Beth.

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Paul Heiden took teachers around his family’s feedlot showing all aspects including the steam chest which flakes corn and other ingredients which are used in the mixture fed to his cattle.

The next stage in the beef lifecycle was demonstrated at Heiden Land and Cattle, a family farm which has been operated by the Heiden’s for 60 plus years, led by Paul Heiden. This is the stage after cattle have reached a certain weight and arrive at the feed yard to put on weight while maintaining their health. Many steps go into ensuring the safety and health of the cattle at the feed yard including the utilization of veterinarians to advise on proper health care along with a cattle nutritionist who studies the feed products available and determines which combination will be the healthiest for the animals. This stage of the beef cattle lifecycle is important to the marbling and quality of the beef at your grocery store.

The final stage of the lifecycle was shown at Perkinsville Meat Processing. This segment is where cattle are turned into beef. A slaughterhouse can cause some a sense of apprehension and anxiety. However, Lori Aquilone, a teacher on this year’s tour,  approached us today at the wrap-up lunch, stating she didn’t eat meat before this tour because of concerns including safety, cleanliness, and humane treatment. She was excited to announce her fears were put to rest and she now felt safe and comfortable consuming beef and other meat products after visiting and learning the process. If you are interested in seeing the actual process from start to finish, check out Temple Grandin’s Glass Walls Project. Please be warned, this video could be considered graphic to some.

This week-long journey is exhausting for both teachers and volunteers but one which is important in our society which is so far removed from the farm. Currently, the average citizen is 3 generations removed from any sort of agriculture work so it’s understandable how some might not understand how things work. The teachers who participate in this tour are able to see many aspects of agriculture, first-hand, and take that important information back to their students. We are grateful they take a week out of their schedule to spend time with us!

 

Why God Made a Rancher?

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Meet Jolyn, the wisdom behind the insightful posts on Arizona Ranch Reflections.

This week, we are excited to reuse an insightful and wisdom-packed post from one of our personal favorite Facebook pages, Jolyn Smith at Arizona Ranch Reflections. If you don’t already follow this page, we highly recommend you start because she posts some of the most beautiful photos from southern Arizona and then adds incredible knowledge and insight. Learn more about Jolyn below and then enjoy her post!

Jolyn Smith is a fourth-generation Arizona rancher who along with her husband Shane have a cow-calf operation raising Brangus cattle in the Dragoon area. Ranching for her has been the best way to raise up a family, and she feels blessed beyond measure to have been able to teach her children how to be stewards of the land, to appreciate the beautiful things that God has created all around them, and how to be cattlemen. She is proud to be able to enlist the help of her “top hands” when needed and loves it, even more, when the 6.5 grandchildren tag along learning that when you do something you love, it doesn’t work.


Originally posted March 6th, Arizona Ranch Reflections

Found this little guy out in the pasture last week. He is extra tiny, I thought possibly a little premature or a twin judging by the hair on his hide. He was barely able to walk, and he was really weak and dehydrated. We brought him home and have been nursing him night and day.

We went out and found his mother the same day we found him, she wanted her baby but she is pretty tall, and he just couldn’t reach her bag, he’s seriously that tiny. I also confirmed my suspicions that he might be premature because the momma barely had a bag at all. I don’t think he was a twin. This momma has been a good cow and has had four healthy, perfectly normal calves before, so she’ll get another chance.

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Don’t you just love the look of “What do you mean it’s not normal for me to be in the kitchen wearing a shirt!?”

He has overcome his dehydration and his bowel issues, he is much stronger now, and he sorta chases me around the yard wanting more milk, he’s still very slow, but it seems like he might make it!

Of course, we have all loved him since we found him, problems and all. Two of my littlest Grandgirls are excited for him to go live with them, hopefully, this week. Poor guy, I can’t even imagine what his name will be! The littles went to the Zoo with their parents, and the older of the two got a giraffe stuffed animal and named it “monkey,” so it really is hard to say what his name will end up being!

It has been a challenge to help him overcome his weaknesses and the things he has struggled with in his short little life, had we not found him, he never would have lived out in the “wild.” Some would say it’s silly to spend the time and effort, but I guess that’s why God made a rancher. It’s just what we do.

I couldn’t help but think that this is how our Heavenly Father is with us. We each have weaknesses, problems, and bad habits. He’s not waiting to love us until after we have overcome these things, like us loving this little calf; He loves us right now, today, with a full understanding and knowledge of our struggles. He is here to help us along, day or night; we can’t survive out in this “wild” without Him.

And why yes, it’s all good that he sleeps in my kitchen at night wearing one of my shirts!

Have a blessed day and remember you are loved… just the way you are!

I love burgers. Seriously, I think a great big fat burger could be my last meal on earth. Along with a rib eye, a porterhouse, and prime rib…all together on one plate. Yes, I am an unapologetic Arizona beef eater and I like fooling around in my kitchen dreaming up new beefy masterpieces…and most of them involve a burger. Everyone should learn how to make a great burger. There are lots of resources on the internet to teach you – websites, blogs, YouTube, and, of course, right here, at the Arizona Beef Council and also at Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. Learn how to grill or fry a great burger, then experiment with flavors and techniques. I’ve eaten some crazy restaurant burgers that look like a science experiment with 25 toppings, but none of them are as good as the ones I grill at home and with my own crazy toppings. Get the basics down and you’ll be the hit of the backyard barbecue.

So why is this burger named “The Blazing Saddle Burger”?

Three words: beans, cabbage, and jalapenos. You do the gastronomical math.

I bet more than a few of you have seen the classic 1974 film Blazing Saddles. It’s silly slapstick, slightly embarrassing, very politically incorrect, but ultimately a hilarious parody of the old west and of life, in general. If it came out now, it would probably be protested and banned. Political correctness, sadly, is replacing our ability to laugh at ourselves and that particular topic belongs in another blog, so for now, I’ll just say this burger honors one of the funniest films ever made.  At least I think so!

 

The Blazing Saddle Burger
(Cheese Burger with Cilantro-Jalapeno Slaw, Pinto Bean Mash, and Salty Red Pepper Glaze)

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Don’t be put off by the multiple steps in this recipe. All are fast and easy and the slaw can be prepared 2 hours before the main event. The main event being all your family and friends complimenting you on this awesome burger.

 

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  • 1/2 head medium sized green cabbage, core removed and sliced thin
  • 1/2 head medium sized purple cabbage, core removed and sliced thin
  • 1/3 cup chopped pickled jalapenos (from a jar that everyone should have in their refrigerator.  No one should live without pickled jalapenos)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1-2 teaspoons liquid from the pickled jalapeno jar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups roughly chopped cilantro
  1. Mix the two cabbages and chopped pickled jalapenos in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Whisk the milk, mayo, jalapeno juice, sugar, and salt together in small bowl.
  3. Pour the dressing over cabbage and stir until well-combined. Refrigerate for no less than 2 hours. Add the chopped cilantro before serving. You will have leftover slaw, but that’s a good thing, right?

 

Pinto Bean Mash

  • 1 can (15 oz) pinto beans, drained, well-rinsed, and drained again
  • 1/3 cup jalapeno flavored cream cheese (I can find these tubs of deliciousness in most every supermarket)
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion or white, it doesn’t matter – you just need a little onion crunch – add more if you like onions.
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I mean this. Taste as you add your salt and pepper to get the right amount. Beans can take quite a bit of salt.)
  • A drop or two or three of your favorite hot sauce, if you’re so inclined
  1. Place the beans in a small saucepan and mash with the bottom of the empty bean can (clever, huh?) until beans are semi-mashed with a few whole beans remaining.
  2. Place the saucepan over medium-low heat and add the cream cheese and mayo and mix well. Stir in chopped onion, cumin, and briefly cook until cream cheese melts and everything is nice and blended. Start tasting and add salt, pepper, and hot sauce if you’re feeling sassy. Make it your own!
  3. Set aside, with lid on to keep semi-warm until ready to assemble burgers. You may want to re-heat if mash gets too cold.

 

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  • About 1/2 cup red pepper jelly
  • Flakey sea salt – NOT table or kosher salt (I use Maldon salt, which I CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT. I buy it off Amazon and also it’s stocked in some supermarkets.)
  1. Mix the jelly and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Again, add the salt according to your taste.

Mine was so salty that it was like my tongue dove into a salty ocean of red pepper jelly. But I love salt. Ease up, if you don’t.
Burgers

Personally, I don’t monkey around with ingredients INSIDE my meat. I prefer to get creative with the fixin’s that go ON the burger. More important is the meat itself and how you handle it. I used pure ground chuck for these burgers, but my new obsession is ground hangar steak for burgers. Try it – it’s terrific. Many butchers and chefs prefer it for their own hamburgers. It’s difficult to find in most markets, but I have a feeling a few of you have access to a great butcher. It’s becoming “a thing” in the culinary world. If you have no idea how to cook your burgers, please refer to first paragraph in this post. You have lots of options and I feel it’s best to let YOU decide how to prepare your burger, but I’m betting if you are reading this blog, you already know how to cook a burger better than anything I could explain, so I’ll just stop blathering! I cooked this burger on my trusty cast iron griddle, inside, because it was raining. No complaints whatsoever about rain from this Arizona native!

  • 3 pounds ground chuck (with 20% fat content – fat is GOOD, people!)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 12 slices good ol’ American or Cheddar cheese
  • 6 good-quality sesame seed buns, sliced open, lightly buttered on both cut sides. Not the flimsy ones that fall apart like tissue paper with your first bite.
  1. To make burgers, divide beef into 6 portions (these are big burgers!), gently making each portion into a patty. The less you handle it, the better the burger! Make a well on top of burgers with your thumb, so burger doesn’t swell up when you cook it. Salt and pepper each patty with the kosher salt and black pepper.
  2. Grill or pan fry as you like.
  3. Drape two cheese slices over the top of each burger after the last flip and let the cheese get all melty.
  4. Toast the cut sides of the buns on edge of grill or in oven while burgers are finishing up.

 

To Assemble Burgers

Spread warm pinto bean mash over cut side of bottom of buns. Top with burgers and a big heap of slaw. Spread cut side of top of buns with salty pepper jelly and place on top. Done!

Serves 6…or 1 Mongo

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And good luck at the campfire!

 

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Cathy Wilkinson is an amateur, untrained and reckless cook with occasional, accidental, totally random bouts of culinary brilliance. Over the years she has appeared on both the Food Network (America’s Best Recipes) and The Cooking Channel (The Great American Steak Cook-Off), participated in many cooking competitions and demonstrations and is a avid beef industry supporter. A few of her cooking competitions include “Best American Lamb Recipe”, Cake-Mate “Best of the Bake Sale”, Tillamook Cheese Cook-off, Gilroy Garlic Cook-off, as well as beef cooking demonstrations for the Yavapai Cowbelles. She is a 5th generation Arizona native, great-granddaughter eastern Arizona ranchers and farmers and daughter and sister of central Arizona hay growers. 

We are excited to introduce to you our current Arizona Beef Ambassador and also a member of the National Beef Ambassador team, Mackenzie Kimbro. Her Roots Run Deep (also the perfect name for her blog) in the Sonoran desert and cattle ranching so take a moment to enjoy her blog post. Be sure to check out her personal page Cola Blanca Productions, LLC..


 

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Mackenzie Kimbro on the ranch.

I am proud to be the sixth generation in my family to be a cattle rancher. My grandpa, my mom and I ranch in scenic southeast Arizona, having one ranch in the Chiricahua Mountains and the other in the San Bernardino Valley along the US/Mexico border. Our landscape is incredibly diverse and is one that has been intensely and continuously sought after for scientific study; and therefore, it is no surprise that we are actively involved in conservation efforts.

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Photo by the Malpai Borderlands Group

Beginning in 1991, my grandparents Warner and Wendy Glenn helped found the Malpai Borderlands Group, an organization who stood to bring progress by getting ranchers and environmental agencies to sit down at the table together. The MBG’s mission: “Our goal is to restore and maintain the natural processes that create and protect a healthy, unfragmented landscape to support a diverse, flourishing community of human, plant and animal life in our borderlands region. Together, we will accomplish this by working to encourage profitable ranching and other traditional livelihoods, which will sustain the open space nature of our land for generations to come.” This organization has made leaps and bounds in the environmental and ranching communities worldwide, and has served as a great meeting place for collaborations as a good amount of grazing lands leased by ranchers are owned by state and federal agencies (so, working partnerships with ranchers/permittees and these agencies are critical).

The MBG’s website goes on to say: “Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this huge landscape is that fewer than 100 human families reside on it. Many of the families who live here have been here for generations. Except for two small wildlife preserves, this is cattle ranching country. As ranchers, we have been concerned about a key resource we depend on for our livelihoods and way of life – the diminishing quality of grasslands for grazing. Fragmentation of the landscape, beginning with the subdivision of some ranches in our area, has also been a looming threat. We formed a nonprofit organization to bring ranchers, scientists, and key agencies together, and today the Malpai Borderlands Group now carries out a series of conservation programs and activities, including land restoration; endangered species habitat protection; cost-sharing range and ranch improvements; and land conservation projects.”

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Photo by the Malpai Boarderlands Group

Conservation is key to the continuity of the beef community and is an integral facet in the way we raise quality beef. Ranchers across the country are everyday environmentalists and we take great pride in knowing that we work constantly to provide America with safe, wholesome, nutritious beef in the most sustainable way possible. As said by the Bureau of Land Management, “Besides providing such traditional products as meat and fiber, well-managed rangelands and other private ranch lands support healthy watersheds, carbon sequestration, recreational opportunities and wildlife habitat.” Plus, about eighty-five percent of US grazing lands are unsuitable for producing crops, so grazing cattle on this land more than doubles the area that can be used to raise food. A study done by Oklahoma State University students stated, “[Cattle] can also convert low-quality feeds into high-quality protein from land not suited for cultivation, thereby reducing soil erosion and enhancing soil carbon storage.”

Ranchers and everyone else involved in the beef community work hard so that we may continue to reduce our carbon footprint and raise delicious and nutritious beef using fewer resources. Ranchers specifically have a working relationship with Mother Nature. A few examples of that partnership include providing livestock waters that are utilized by wildlife, maintaining open spaces for ranching and simultaneously preserving wildlife corridors, and grazing cattle strategically which helps prevent wildfires.

All in all, cattle ranchers are proud to be stewards of the land, working to conserve open spaces and sustain the land and the ranching way of life for future generations. We care about our cattle and we care about the environment, not just because they are both integral to our family business, but because we care about preserving this land and our nation’s resources so that future generations are able to appreciate them as much as we do.

To learn more about the beef community’s relationship with the environment, visit FactsAboutBeef.com.

To find out more about the Malpai Borderlands Group, visit www.malpaiborderlandsgroup.org.

Arizona Team Beef member Trisha Grant is a sports enthusiast, agricultural loan officer, University of Arizona Wildcat, and dog lover. Meet Trisha:

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Activity and fun have always been an important part of my life. I grew up in an active family whether it was playing sports, riding horses, or water skiing. As I’ve gotten older, staying active has become even more important – it’s what keeps me going physically and mentally. I can tell a difference in my health, focus, and mood when I’m not as active as I should be. Now the activities have changed to more running, hiking, and biking with friends and family. It keeps me young and happy. When halfway through a half or full marathon training program I may say that it’s a chore, but I really love it.

I wouldn’t be able to stay as active as I am without high-quality protein in my diet. It is just as important to my physical and mental health as staying active. Beef provides the fuel and energy I need to get through a long run or difficult hike. In fact, the protein beef provides helps my muscles recover more quickly, which is important when training for full marathons. My favorite lean cut is the tenderloin – we can grill one night and have steak salads to take to work the next day. I also appreciate that beef contains essential nutrients that help me get through the day including zinc, iron and B vitamins.

Beef is also the best part of my post-race routine! Nothing taste better than a big juicy burger (and maybe a cold beer) after a big race. Many of us joke that the during a long and/or hard run, the only thing that keeps us going is looking forward to that post-race meal.

My favorite race so far would have to be the Big Sur Marathon. It also happens to be the hardest race I’ve done. The views running along the coast on Highway 1 are amazing and breathe taking. Likewise, the elevation changes and wind are also “breathe taking” and brutal. There are all kinds of neat things along the course, including a grand piano at the top of Bixby Bridge at the halfway (13.1 miles) point. If you are looking for a challenging, beautiful, and adventurous marathon this is it! Now, if you are looking to PR (personal record), this is NOT the race for it. I’m so happy I ran it in 2015, and I will probably never run it again.

As for local races, there are so many good ones. One of my favorite half-marathons that we run every year is the Fiesta Bowl Half in December. It tends to be a smaller race and is a nice flat course, great for running a PR. The Phoenix Marathon and Half-Marathon are also great courses.

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John Lillie, Dave Wood and Trisha after finishing the 2013 P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Phoenix. Dave really did run the whole thing in his cow costume!

 

Bas Aja, a rancher and native Arizonan and Executive Director of the Arizona Beef Council provides us with some thoughts about the food continuum and how it includes not only the people who raise food but everyone, including the consumers.


My, have times changed down here on the ranch. Our previous generations of ancestors were concerned about floods, droughts, fires, losing livestock to predators, markets, and the condition of their animals. Well, we still concern ourselves with all of those items but we now include the 3-C’s: Conservation, Care, and Consumers.

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My grandson and me a few years back.

After 100 years in the livestock business in Arizona, we have grown and we need to grow even more. With my family spending that many years in the same area, with the same type of animals, and 7 million Arizonans asking about our food animals and the land, we are bound to be affected by the need for growth and transparency. We now find ourselves answering questions about items we once took for granted. Sure, we took care of our animals, but now we ask: What can we do better? Sure, the beef and protein we produce is safe and nutritious, but now we ask: What can we do better? Sure, we took care of the land, but now we ask: What can we do better? This type of introspection was difficult at first. Somehow thinking that our grandfathers and grandmothers were not doing the best job is a difficult place to be. But once we understood that they were doing the best they could with the information they had, it easier to ask these questions.

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Rounding up with the family. Two of my grandsons, Jake and Robert Knorr, are pictured on the horses in the front, followed up by my son Bass Aja.

We are all part of the Food Continuum – my family, your family, every rancher, every farmer, every gardener, every grain elevator, every grocery store, every hunter, every farmers market, every crop and soils scientist. All of us are part of the food system. It was not always seen this way but for us here on the ranch, that’s how we now see it. We have a triple bottom line that we must meet to be successful: 1) We must be environmentally resilient; 2) We must be socially sustainable, and 3) We must be economically sustainable. The food system under which we produce must meet these three goals in order for us to maintain our ranch, maintain food production, and maintain consumers.

My family is very important to me so I understand how your family remains vigilant about the food you feed your family. We recently rounded up and worked our cattle with family. Of the many experiences from that day, the way in which we handled a calf that had a hernia in its lower abdomen stood out. We sorted off a 450-pound calf and it did not go to market with the rest of our high-quality animals. We took the animal to the farm, individually restrained it in a chute, performed a palpation and medical review, finally determining that it was going to be difficult and medically dangerous for the animal to grow until it reached 1,200 pounds. The animal was purchased by a local person who determined they might harvest it and best use it for themselves. It was healthy and wholesome, but for us it didn’t fit our program, it had a hernia and it would be better for its quality of life if it was harvested sooner rather than later.

Caring for our animals is very important to us, so much so that we don’t hesitate to delay. The thought of doing what is best for our animals isn’t a conscience one. It is so ingrained in our way of life, we just jump into doing what needs to be done. It’s the right thing to do. As we fulfill our role in the food continuum, we naturally keep conservation, care, and consumers top priorities.

Gathering cattle with my family in Rainbow Valley, Arizona.

Meet Your Dairyman: Wes Kerr

The beef community has many volunteer leaders who dedicate countless hours to sharing how beef is raised and how they care for their cattle. Wes Kerr, fourth generation dairyman, is the chairman of the Arizona Beef Council. He and the other directors carefully plan the Council’s promotion and education efforts, striving to connect Arizona families to the men and women who raise both beef and dairy cattle. Meet Wes!

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My great-grandfather John Kerr Sr. was born in Michigan in 1900 and was the first Kerr to be born in America. He was interested in agriculture from a young age. In 1927 he decided to buy a small herd of Jersey cattle and became the first in our family to be a dairy farmer.

After becoming tired of the harsh Michigan winters he decided to sell the Jerseys and move to Arizona in 1940. He started working for a dairy farmer in Tempe, and when the farmer told him he was planning to sell his cows my great-grandfather bought the herd. This is how my family became Arizona dairy farmers.

I only have one memory of my great-grandfather, however I find it very interesting that the life decisions that he made are largely responsible for what I do today. My family’s passion for caring for animals and raising crops lives on today, four generations later. Those are the main drivers that get me out of bed in the morning. For our family dairy farming is more than just a business, it is a way of life.

For me it is so interesting to see how much dairy farming has changed over the years. Looking at old photographs, one can see how different things looked when compared to today. The cattle in those days looked fleshier and less defined. Instead of metal shades with fans and misters, the cows were shaded by palm fronds thatched together. They were fed hay and during milking a little grain was given. A dairy cattle nutritionist was unimagined in those days. All of the cows were bred to a herd bull using natural service.

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A photo from Kerr Dairy circa 1963-1964, as printed in United Dairymen of Arizona’s magazines.

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Today’s dairy with a more sophisticated shade and cooling system for the cows.

Taking stock of all of these apparent differences one can ask, “Has anything stayed the same?” The answer to that question is definitely yes! Our family, like so many farm and ranch families, has continued to use the best technology and know-how available at the time. Each generation worked hard to improve over the previous one.

Today dairy cattle are far more productive, healthier and produce higher quality milk than ever before in history. People often speak of “the good old days”, but when I look at the data it becomes apparent to me that perhaps the “the good old days” are today. I sometimes wonder what my great-grandfather would say if he could see the practices we use today. I suspect that he would find them incredible.

I believe that our job as modern agriculturalists is to share our unique stories with consumers. We food producers are not faceless greedy people who cut corners trying to make a quick buck. We food producers are made up of families who work hard every day through the good times and the difficult times, to bring quality products to feed families.

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Wes with this wife Lauren and daughters Madelyn and Caroline.

Meet Your Rancher: Dave Schafer

This week’s feature is Dave Schafer, Resident Director at the University of Arizona’s V Bar V Ranch located in Rimrock, Arizona. Learn how Dave got into the ranching business, low-stress cattle handling and why it is important for a productive ranch.

Resized DaveArizona Beef: How did you get involved with beef cattle? The University of Arizona ranch, the V Bar V?

Dave Schafer: I grew up on a farm in NW Missouri and we raised cattle but it was not until I entered college that I found I really liked working with beef cattle and wanted to make a career of it.  I obtained a B.S. Degree from Northwest Missouri State University then went on to Colorado State University (CSU) to obtain a M.S. and PhD degrees in Animal Breeding/Genetics with emphasis in beef cattle.  When I finished my M.S. degree, I was hired by CSU to manage the cattle records and activities for the CSU-Beef Improvement Center, the San Juan Basin Research Center and Four Corners Bull Test.  Upon finishing my PhD, I accepted a two-year postdoctoral position at the San Juan Basin Research Center and then assumed management of that facility at the end of my post-doc.

Dr. Roy Ax approached me in 1999 about the possibility of coming to Arizona to run the V Bar V Ranch.  I saw many possibilities and a great opportunity so I applied and was fortunate to get the job as Resident Director.

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An example of flight zone. Cattle create a similar pattern.*

Arizona Beef: What is low-stress cattle handling?

Dave Schafer:  Low-stress cattle handling is basically a form of communication between the animal and handler.  Animals are usually willing to do the activities we want them to but there is an obvious communication barrier.  Therefore, it is the responsibility of the handler to make the animal understand what you want it to do by utilizing the animal’s flight zone and point of balance** to move the animal.  Using these techniques, you build trust with your animals and they move more easily and are less frightened.

flightdistance

Diagram of flight zone and point of balance.**

Arizona Beef: Why is low-stress cattle handling important to you and your ranch?

Dave Schafer:Stressed animals are more susceptible to sickness and their weight gains are affected.  As a producer, we want the animals to be healthy not only for the sake of animal but also the economics.  Stressed animals cost producers money.

Arizona Beef: How do you ensure low-stress cattle handling happens on your ranch?
Dave Schafer: We use the animal’s flight zone* and point of balance** to move them and do it in a quiet non-threatening way.  Another part of low-stress handling is having good facilities.  Good facilities ensure not only your workers’ safety but also the safety of the animals.  Designing facilities to work with the natural movement of livestock and understanding potential distractions around your facilities can help you move the animals quietly and efficiently.  We have tried to design our facilities to be as efficient as possible.

understanding cattle 2

A diagram of point of balance.***

Arizona Beef: How do genetics play into this?

Dave Schafer: There is a genetic component to docility in animals.  Therefore, we can collect a chute score on an animal to assess their response to handling.  Some animals are naturally more nervous than others despite being treated the same.  We can make selection decisions using these scores to select the tamer animals and thereby reduce stress levels within the herd.


*This photo “illustrates the flight zone of a large flock of sheep, herds of cattle behave much the same way. Notice that the sheep are circling around the handlers while maintaining a safe distance and keeping the people in sight. Note that the sheep tend to move in the opposite direction of handler movement.” (Source)

** The point of balance is usually at the animal’s shoulder and it is determined by the animal’s wide angle vision. All species of livestock will move forward if the handler stands behind the point of balance. They will back up if the handler stands in front of the point of balance.

***This photo provides a bird’s eye view and allows one to see the point of balance. Where the handler is currently standing is called the point of balance because the animal will not move (if out of the flight zone). If the handler moves towards the back of the animal, behind the point of balance, the animal will move forward. If the handler moves towards the head of the animal, it will move backward.

For more information on the V Bar V Ranch visit their website here. To learn more about low-stress cattle handling visit Dr. Temple Grandin’s website.

Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.® Of course.

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Hi, all! I’m Lauren. I love beef, red wine, and pie.

I think we can all agree on one thing: no one wants to get home from a long day at work and slave over the stove as our precious time ticks away. Maybe you’ve just sat in traffic for an hour or maybe you just got home from sweating up a storm at the gym. Either way, something quick and easy for dinner is in order.

I’d like to share with you one of my go-to weeknight dinners: steak salad. The ingredient options are endless and they can be a snap to throw together, while also remaining healthy and delicious. Have New York Strip leftover from last night’s steak house outing? Toss it in a salad. Out of ideas for that shredded or Ground Beef from Taco Tuesday? Make a salad. What to do with some of our favorite lean beef cuts (like Flank Steak)? Marinate them and, you guessed it, make a salad! Plus, it gets hot here in the desert and who wants to slave over a hot stove in the summer? Not me.

This week, I found my inspiration from a BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com recipe: Beef Steak Salad with Dried Cherries. I had a Skirt Steak ready to marinate and violà – a delicious, nutritious and fulfilling meal option. Prep was a snap. It could even be packed for lunch at work. Salad ingredients are easy to keep prepped in the fridge as easy go-tos. Then you can say a little “abracadabra” while tossing the salad ingredients in bowl and you are set in a jiffy.

The beauty of salad recipes? You don’t have to follow them exactly. If you don’t like blue cheese – exchange for feta. Have Tri-Tip to use? Go for it. Here are my ideas but don’t let me stifle your creativity. This is in the style of a no-recipe-recipe. If you are the type who needs a recipe, click on the link below.

BEEF STEAK SALAD (modified from this inspiration)

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INGREDIENTS

  1. Beef Skirt Steak (or Top Sirloin, Flank Steak, any leftover steak). Note: see marinade idea below.
  2. Lettuce – I used romaine that I cleaned and chopped. Spring mix or Boston/Bib/Butter lettuce (apparently they are different) will also do.
  3. Dried cherries or cranberries or golden raisins. Use your discretion on how much you like.
  4. Crumbled blue cheese or feta cheese
  5. Sliced red onion
  6. Some nuts: I really like sweet and spicy pecans but other options are pine nuts or coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted.
  7. Diced avocado

DRESSING (I did follow this recipe and it was tasty. Or you can simply use extra virgin olive oil and red wine or balsamic vinegar and a dash of salt and pepper).

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

INSTRUCTIONS
Important: If you are pre-marinating the beef (Flank and Skirt Steak need this extra treatment), here is a marinade you could use and follow these marinade tips. Or use the one in the original inspiration recipe.

  1. Combine dressing ingredients in medium bowl.
  2. Cut steak lengthwise in half and then crosswise into 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick strips. Add beef to remaining dressing; toss to coat. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes.
  3. Remove beef from marinade; discard marinade. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1/2 of beef; stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until outside surface of beef is no longer pink. (Do not overcook.) Remove from skillet. Repeat with remaining beef.

If you are using leftover beef, start here (so easy!):

4. Combine lettuce and reserved dressing in large bowl; toss to coat. Don’t over dress! No one like a soggy salad. Arrange beef over lettuce; sprinkle with cheese, cherries, red onion, nuts, and avocado, as desired. Serve immediately.

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Disclaimer: I don’t claim to be an exper food photograher. Just good enough for Instagram. 

Enjoy! What are your favorite salad ingredients to go with beef?