Carving out more value


Marshall, Minn. — Cattle producers arefinding more ways to carve value out of beef.

Two new cuts — the chuck-eye steak andboneless country-style short ribs —wereunveiled at the National Cattlemen’s BeefAssociation (NCBA) convention in February.The steaks and ribs are tender portions ofmeat carved from less expensive cuts foradded value.

The new cuts join the ranch cut and flat iron steaks, which the beef council started promoting several years ago as tender but inexpensive beef cuts.

“Obviously the more steaks you can sell the more value you bring to the beef carcass,” says Clint Gehrke, AURI animal products scientist in Marshall.

For years, Gehrke and others have been promoting new value-added steaks that previously had been sold as ground beef or roasts.

An NCBA test panel ranked the flat iron second only to the tenderloin in tenderness. While the tenderloin wholesales for more than $9 a pound, flat iron steaks wholesale at just over $2 a poundand ranch cut steaks for about $1.50.

The 6-inch long flat iron is cut by removing a tough connective tissue that runs through the top blade muscle. Because it comes from the shoulder, it is more flavorful than a tenderloin, which comes from under the back bone.

AURI has designed educational posters for consumers and meat cutters. Gehrke and Tony Mata, an NCBA consultant, demonstrated how to cut the steaks at the annual Minnesota Association of Meat Processors convention in March. He also exhibited the new cuts and gave out samples at the Twin Cities Food & Wine Experience and the Upper Midwest Foodservice and Lodging Show.

Tyson Foods, the world’s largest protein provider, announced at the NCBA convention that it will wholesale flat iron and ranch steaks, which will increase their availability in grocery stores.

“This is a good situation for consumers who want a good steak at a good price,” says Gehrke. “It’s also good for beef producers because if we have more steaks, we have more value.”

From 1990 to 2001, the average American consumed between 60 and 70 pounds of beef per year. According to NCBA, 63 percent of the beef sold in the United States is ground beef, 16 percent steak and 12 percent roasts. However, 45 percent of a beef carcass’ value is in the steak, compared to only 27 percent for ground beef.

NCBA check-off funded research has analyzed dozens of individual muscles from lower value cuts such as the chuck and round. Tests showed several were tender enough to be sold as steaks, rather than as ground beef or arm and shoulder roasts.¦

Meet the meat specialist

Minnesota has about 25,000 cattle producers, according to the Minnesota Agricultural Statistics Service. AURI’s Clint Gehrke is one of them.

During the workday, Gehrke is AURI’s animal products specialist who helps develop value-added meat products. He also operates AURI’s USDA  inspected meat lab in Marshall.

Nights and weekends, he feeds a small herd of cattle on his father-in-law’s farm near Milroy.

Gehrke hasn’t strayed far from his bovine roots. He grew up working at his grandfather’s corn, soybean and beef cattle farm near Pipestone. In 2005, after graduating from South Dakota State University in Brookings with a degree in animal science, he began working for AURI.

“It’s rewarding to help develop new value-added products or to help clients solve problems,” Gehrke says.

Gehrke has provided assistance to dozens of Minnesota meat processors trying to develop and test new products. For example, he helped hog producers develop nitrate-free cured ham and bacon. He identified and tested the proper process for making shelf-stable meats, seasoned jerkies and sausages. And Gehrke has conducted taste panels, using impartial focus groups to give producers feedback.

Besides product-development assistance, Gehrke also teaches a Culinology® class at Southwest Minnesota State University and provides information to the state’s meat processors. He was named to the recently-formed Minnesota Food Safety and Defense Task Force, which will work on policy, training and ways to deal with food recall issues across the state.

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