One of the best parts of being a cattle farmer is talking to people about how we raise our cattle and facts about beef. Here are some amazing facts about beef and facts about cattle. You can decide which (if any) you want to remember for your next trivia night!
One of the best parts of being a cattle farmer is talking to people about how we raise our cattle and facts about beef.
Some of our customers are specifically interested in facts about beef (the meat you eat). Others, want to know facts about cattle (where the beef comes from). Regardless of what aspect of this topic you’re the most interested in, cattle are fascinating animals. They have an amazing superpower — they turn grass into steak!
Here are facts about beef and cattle you may find interesting. You can decide which (if any) you want to remember for your next trivia night!
Facts About Beef
Beef Nutrition Facts:
Beef is one of the best sources available for 10 essential nutrients. Three ounces of lean beef can provide a person with 10% of the daily recommended value of vitamin B12, vitamin B6, iron, protein, selenium, zinc, choline, phosphorous, niacin, and riboflavin. Eating beef is one of the healthiest ways to obtain the necessary amounts of protein, vitamin B12, and zinc.
A three-ounce serving of lean beef contains approximately 2.2 mg of iron. To obtain the same amount of iron,, you’d have to eat at least three cups of raw spinach or eight ounces of chicken breast.
That same three-ounce serving of lean beef supplies the human body with half of the daily amount of protein needed to build, maintain, and repair body tissue. To obtain the same amount of protein without consuming those three ounces of beef, you’d need to eat 236 calories of raw soy tofu, 670 calories of peanut butter, or 374 calories of black beans.
Meat, including beef, is the only natural dietary source of vitamin B12. This essential nutrient is extremely important to the overall health of a human, as it aids in blood formation and the function of both the brain and nervous system.
The healthiest beef is lean beef, and meat must meet rigorous government standards in order to be labeled “lean.” Only 29 cuts of beef meet the proper guidelines for being lean. A cut must then be found to have fewer than 10g of fat, fewer than 95mg of cholesterol per 100g of meat, and no more than 4.5g of saturated fat.
12 cuts of beef are leaner than a skinless chicken thigh and meet the USDA’s Labeling Guidelines for lean or extra lean.
Research shows that cholesterol levels improve when adding lean beef to a diet.
Prime, Choice and Select:
The USDA Grades beef to signify that it’s high-quality beef that is safe to eat. The beef grades also tell you the amount of tenderness and amount of marbling to expect in the beef. There are eight grades of beef, but you usually only hear about three of these USDA beef grades: Prime, Choice and Select.
Prime Beef comes from well-fed beef cattle and it has abundant marbling (i.e. fat within the beef). Cattle that are grain-finished will have more marbling than grass-finished beef. You usually find Prime Beef at restaurants and hotels. It’s known for being full of flavor, and very tender and juicy. Only about 2 percent of today’s beef is of the highest USDA grade, or prime, which, has the highest level of marbling.
Choice Graded Beef is very high quality, but has slightly less marbling than Prime. Choice beef is very tender and juicy. It is the most widely available grade of beef, and about 50 percent of beef is graded choice by the USDA.
Select Graded Beef is typically leaner than the higher grades. It has less marbling, and also lacks some of the juiciness and flavor of the higher graded meat. The USDA grades about 21 percent of beef with the select grade. When cooking Select beef, it’s generally best to marinate before cooking in order to get the maximum tenderness and flavor.
Grass Fed, Natural, Organic, Grain Finished, etc.:
“Grass fed” and “natural” are marketing terms, and they aren’t regulated by the USDA. All cows (even those on feedlots) eat grass at some point of their life, so technically, all cows could be called “grass fed.” This is why it’s important to know where your beef comes from and to know the farmer’s definition of these terms before you buy.
Grass fed beef has more Omega 3 fatty acids than grain-finished beef (3 times as much), but it’s also higher in saturated and transfat (2g more).
Grass fed beef has about twice as much CLA, which is a type of naturally occurring trans-fatty acid that improves brain function, causes weight loss and reduces your risk of cancer.
The term “organic” is a certified term by the USDA.
Organic beef may be grain finished, not grass fed. If the cow eats organic grain and is raised on an organic farm, it can be labeled as organic.
If you ever see beef labeling that says its “vegetarian fed”, please stop and question it. Cows don’t eat meat — ever. This can also be said about chickens, pigs and goats.
Grain finished beef is “finished” on a diet of grains and natural supplements like molasses, corn and soybeans.
Grass fed beef has less marbling than grain finished beef.
All cattle (even grass finished cattle) sometimes need to eat something other than grass in order to be healthy, like mineral. Like all animals, cattle require a balance of nutrients for survival. They receive these nutrients through their diet, which provides six basic cattle nutrients: water, carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins and minerals.
The average U.S. consumer eats approximately 61 pounds of beef per year. Of that, about 40% of the total beef instake is ground beef.
In 1985, an American ate about 80 pounds of beef per year. In 1995, that number had decreased to about 65 pounds per year.
Argentinans eat more beef than anyone else in the world — they each eat about 140 pounds of beef per year.
The hamburger debuted at the 1904 World’s Fair in St Louis.
The White Castle restaurant was founded in Wichita, Kansas, in 1921. It is the oldest hamburger chain today.
Almost 1,000 quarter pound hamburgers can be made from the ground beef in one cow.
When you purchase a cow from a cattle rancher or farmer, there will be about 450-500 pounds of edible beef. Of this, 200+ pounds will be ground beef. The remaining beef is in a variety of cuts like steaks, roasts, ribs, brisket, etc.
Facts About Cattle
The first cow arrived in the U.S. in 1611 in Jamestown. In the 1850’s, nearly every family in the U.S. had its own cow.
Today, the U.S. produces about 25% of the world’s beef. This is extremely impressive when you consider that the 31.7 million beef cattle in the U.S. only account for 10% of the world’s beef cattle. Other top beef producing countries are Brazil, China, Australia and the European Union.
Missouri is one of the leading beef producers in the United States, and has ranked among the top three states for years.
Missouri has more beef cows than any other state in America, except for Texas.
The U.S.’s cattle herd size is shrinking. The total cows in the US are at their lowest level since 1952, which is one of the many reasons beef prices are rising.
Cow vs. Heifer vs. Steer vs. Bull vs. Calf
The terms cow, heifer, steer, bull, calf and bovine have very specific meanings.
- Cow: A cow is a female animal that has had at least one calf. Using everyday lingo, the cows are the “moms” All cows are female.
- Heifer: A heifer is a female animal that has never had a calf. Once a heifer has a calf, she automatically becomes a cow. In other words, heifers are like “first-time moms”
- Bull: A mature male animal that is used for breeding. The bulls are the “dads.” All bulls are male.
- Steer: A steer is a male animal that has been neutered.
- Bovine: An animal in the cattle group, which includes bison and buffalo
Cattle’s Amazing Senses and Personalities:
There are over 800 different cattle breeds recognized worldwide. For example, beef breeds are raised for their meat, and dairy cows are raised to produce milk. At Clover Meadows Beef, we raise Angus-based cattle, which is a beef breed.
Cows can see almost 360 degrees. As a result of this near-panoramic view, they can watch for predators from all angles. However, they don’t see well straight in front of them and they will typically turn their head to look at you.
Cows can see color. They can even see red. When you see a Matador waving a red flag at a bull, the bull charges because of the flag’s movement.
Cows have an acute sense of smell and can detect odors up to six miles away.
Cows are very social and don’t like to be alone. For example, when a cow isolates herself it’s usually because she is sick or about to give birth.
Cows spend about 10 hours a day lying down, and they will stand up and lay down about fourteen times a day. Cows can sleep while they’re standing.
Cattle are great swimmers and have successfully crossed rivers. However, they’re not great sleepers. They only sleep about four hours a day, but you wouldn’t know it since they lay down for 10-12 hours a day.
Cow’s teeth and tongue:
Cows are unique because they have fewer teeth than most animals. Cattle have 32 teeth — six incisors or biting teeth, and 2 canines in the bottom front of the jaw. They have no upper front teeth. In place of the top incisors, there is a hard leathery pad known as a dental pad. Due to this, cows use their tongue to grasp a chunk of grass and bite it off.
Cattle digestion facts:
Cows are ruminants, which are cud chewing mammals. Other ruminant animals are sheep, giraffe, goats, and deer, just to name a few. Cows have 4 digestive compartments in one stomach – the rumen (this is where the cud comes from); the reticulum; omasum; and abomasum (this is sort of like a human’s stomach).
The main stomach of a cow, the rumen, holds up to 50 gallons of food that has been partially digested. To put that in perspective, a bathtub can usually hold 30-50 gallons of water. It will consume about 40 pounds of food in a day.
A cow will chew for up to eight hours a day, and can move their jaws about 40,000 times a day. It chews about 40-50 times a minute.
Since grass isn’t available in the winter for cattle to eat in pastures, it’s very important that farmers harvest grass so that cattle can eat it in the winter. That process is called “making hay”. This is a very busy and critical time of the year on any cattle farm. In short, the fields have to produce enough hay in order to feed the animals through the winter.
On average, one cow will eat five bales of hay during a typical winter. Each bale of hay weighs 600 pounds. Our cattle love hay and they follow the tractor whenever they see it coming.
More than beef:
Raising cattle is about more than beef production. Approximately 99% of the animal is used after it’s processed. Approximately 65% produces meat, while the rest is used for products such as pet food, leather, glue, insulin and other pharmaceuticals, gelatin, cosmetics and soap, among other things.
All of your favorite sports equipment is made with from beef cattle. The hide from a single processed steer or heifer can be used to produce 12 basketballs, 144 baseballs, and 20 soccerballs. Furthermore, it takes 3,000 hides to make the number of footballs used each year by the NFL.
You may have seen reports that cattle contribute to greenhouse gases. Cattle do produce methane, but they only account for 3.3 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. A study by the USDA found that beef production was NOT a significant contributor to climate change. (Fossil fuel use is a far bigger culprit.)
Cattle Farmers and Ranchers use ear tags as an animal identification system that helps keep track of important information about each animal, such as birth date, gender, age, weight, etc. Here’s a video of a baby calf getting an ear tag.
Cows in the winter:
The average body temperature of a cow is 102 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the winter, cows thick skin and hair is a natural insulator that protects them from the bitter cold.
One More Thing!
Do you want to learn more about beef? Join our weekly e-newsletter where we share farm happenings, recipes and beef availability. Sign-up and get a cheat sheet with 9-must-ask questions before buying beef directly from a farmer. Or, we have an entire ebook about beef that goes through purchasing and preparing beef from a cattle farmers perspective.
Here are a few other links you may like:
- Do Cows Have Teeth?
- What everybody ought to know about beef cuts
- Buying a Cow. How Much Beef Is It?
- 7 Steps to Grilling a Steak to Perfection
- How We Raise Our Grass Fed Beef
- Easy Beef Brisket Recipe (oven-roasted)
- The Best Farm Books for Kids
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