WHAT IS BEEF?
Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, particularly domestic cattle. Beef can come from heifers and steers, which are younger animals, or cows and bulls, which are older animals. The beef from cows and bulls typically goes into hamburger and processed meats.
Finishing is the final stage of cattle production. Beef animals are typically finished by two basic methods: 1) by going into a feedlot two to six months before animals are ready for market where they are fed a high energy diet to achieve the desired weight and carcass finish (fat) prior to slaughter, and 2) grass finishing on forage pasture or range. The grass finishing portion of the industry is relatively small but growing as producers react to a growing market demand for this product.
WHERE IS BEEF PRODUCED IN BC?
The few feedlots in BC are located throughout the province. Cow-calf operations, rather than feedlots, are predominant. Much of BC’s calf production from these cow-calf operations goes into Alberta feedlots to be finished.
HOW MUCH BEEF DO WE PRODUCE?
is a net importer of beef. BC produced beef accounts for less than
1/4 (~20%) of the beef consumed in BC In part, this is because
cattle are sent to Alberta feedlots to be finished before slaughter.
The reason this is done is that Alberta has a readily available
supply of feed grain. In total, about 45,000 head of cattle are
slaughtered in BC each year.
HOW IS BEEF PRODUCED?
2 to 6 months before an animal is ready for market it is sent to a
feedlot. A feedlot is an enclosed area where the cattle are fed high
energy food, mainly barley, oats, and wheat. The average feedlot in
BC holds about 400 head of cattle, but there are some large feedlots
which hold up to 5,000 animals. In other areas feedlots can be much
larger. Each animal will gain 1.3 to 1.8kg of weight a day. This
stage is called finishing the cattle. The meat will become marbled
with a small amount of fat which helps make beef juicy. The animal is ready for market when it weighs about 600 kg.
WHAT DOES BEEF LOOK LIKE WHEN I USE IT?
We eat beef when we are eating steaks, hamburgers, roasts or beef sausages. Some beef is processed such as corned beef and beef jerky. We can also eat the liver, kidneys, heart, and tongue. Beef is an excellent source of protein, the B vitamins, vitamin A, iron, fat and zinc. Edible by-products from beef include gelatin for marshmallows and ice cream and natural sausage casings.
The hides are tanned and used as leather in shoes, gloves, jackets or sports equipment. Beef by-products are also used for soap, cosmetics, buttons, photographic film, sandpaper, violin strings and explosives. Pharmaceuticals that come from beef by-products include insulin (for diabetes), epinephrine (for hay fever and asthma), heparin (an anti-coagulant), thrombin (for blood clotting), estrogen and thyroid extract.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE BEEF LEAVES THE FARM?
Packing plants send buyers to the feedlots to buy finished cattle. The cattle are taken to a packing plant where they are slaughtered. Beef is graded at the plant based on the age of the animal, quality of the meat and the meat yield. In Canada, top grade beef is quite lean. The carcass is then cut in two and sides of beef are sold to grocery stores and butcher shops. In some cases the carcasses are further processed and cut into portions that fit into a box. This is called 'boxed beef'. Many of the large chain stores now receive their beef in this form. The by-products, like bones and hides, are sent to processing plants.
WHAT CHALLENGES DO BEEF PRODUCERS FACE?
One challenge that feedlot operators face in BC is that the high energy protein feed is grown in the Prairies, therefore, we do not have a ready supply (not a major grain producing area). This gives the Prairie feedlot operators a comparative advantage in feed costs. Many BC cow-calf operations send their cattle to Alberta feedlots.
WHO'S INVOLVED IN PRODUCING BEEF?
- Feedlot operator
- Slaughterhouse buyer
- Meat grader/inspector
- Meat packing plant packager
- Brand inspector
Interesting Fact About Beef:
Beef animals are ruminants and like all ruminants have several
stomachs. Ruminants swallow grass or other vegetation that people
cannot eat. The animal does not chew grass properly. It goes into
the rumen, one of the stomachs, where it is stored and broken down
into balls of cud. The rumen, which is the largest of the
stomachs, is a large fermentation vat. It is this feature that
allows ruminants to digest cellulose and convert it to a usable
product. When the animal has eaten its fill, it rests and
"chews the cud". The balls of cud are brought back up
into the mouth, chewed into a pulp and swallowed again. The chewed
food goes on through the other three stomachs where it is
digested. Other ruminant animals are dairy cattle, sheep, goats
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