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The Meat Business with Red Barn Butchers | Starting Strength Radio #44

Mark Rippetoe | February 21, 2020

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Mark Wulfe:
From The Aasgaard Company studios in beautiful Wichita Falls, Texas... From the finest mind in the modern fitness industry... The One True Voice in the strength and conditioning profession... The most important podcast on the internet... Ladies and gentlemen! Starting Strength Radio...

Mark Rippetoe:
Welcome back to Starting Strength Radio. It's Friday and here we are. And today we're here with our friend Eric Kennedy from Red Barn Butchers here in Wichita Falls. And we are going to talk about the meat business.

Mark Rippetoe:
Now, we've already talked about the cattle business and we're going to kind of pick up where the cattle business left off and talk about the meat business.

Mark Rippetoe:
Eric, thanks for coming today. Thank you for being here. Eric runs a butcher shop here in town and he's been in the meat business for 45 years and he's got a whole lot of experience doing this. And I thought we would sit down and pick his brain about what you and I eat and how it gets there.

Mark Rippetoe:
So, Eric, you've been in this business for a long time. Tell us about your background in this.

Eric Kennedy:
I started out like a lot of people did, you know, in a little meat shop somewhere. And we did carcass beef at the time. After several years of experience. Well, then I moved on down to California and I bounced around several different places over the years.

Mark Rippetoe:
You're from Idaho, right?

Eric Kennedy:
Yes. And a lot of people have asked me why I've moved around so much. But I tell them I'm a grocery whore because, you know, I was learning, experience. And so in moving around, though, that I gained a lot of different things from different places, which has helped us tremendously here, because we have the Base community [Sheppard Air Force Base], you know, that are from everywhere. And so a lot of times when they know what they want, they come in and ask, I already know what it is.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. Somebody comes in and asks you for a tritip. You've got you've actually got one.

Eric Kennedy:
We do. Yes.

Mark Rippetoe:
Which is which is interesting for Texas, because nobody here knows what tritip is.

Eric Kennedy:
They're learning quick, though.

Mark Rippetoe:
We'll talk more about that in a minute.

Mark Rippetoe:
So you've been doing this a long time and you've been in every aspect of the retail end of the beef business. What I'd like to know is... Well, we now we we discussed briefly in our in our previous podcast about the cattle business, we discussed briefly the the terminal end of the deal. What happens in the slaughterhouse.

Mark Rippetoe:
Now it is a sad fact that cattle die when beef is produced. All right. And as we as we mentioned previously, life is predicated on death. So grow up. So we kill cattle and we process them into beef. Tell us about that about that process.

Mark Rippetoe:
I don't want to dwell on this a lot, but but we were talking previously about the humane nature of the slaughter business. It's highly regulated, very, very, very regulated. And it... the point I've made previously was that it's in no one in this business's interest to stress a steer before we kill it. .

Eric Kennedy:
Right. And there's you know, why would you invest all that money and time in an animal and then take it somewhere and then just ruin every dime you put into it? It just makes no sense whatsoever.

Mark Rippetoe:
A carcass that is abused, an injured carcass, a sick carcass, an unhealthy carcass is not worth as much money. And the regulations prohibit sick animals on antibiotics from being slaughtered.

Eric Kennedy:
Absolutely. Sick, injured...even if they have a question about it they will quarantine for up to 48 hours, just to observe the animal. Just to make sure that nothing is wrong with it. And that may be a vet coming in to test it or whatever, you know, but they will... they'll watch it strictly.

Mark Rippetoe:
So there at all big plants have got a quarantine facility.

Eric Kennedy:
Absolutely. Yeah. Big little, it don't matter. I mean, we had a small operation and we had a quarantine pen. That's the only thing it was used for was quarantine.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. So we get him off the truck. We put him in a pen, we feed him, let him calm down from the trip. Then what happens?

Eric Kennedy:
Then they go into the system where they're weighed and then they go into a chute. Some of them are automatic. Some of them are physical, you know, to where they actually... there's somebody standing there to put the animal down. But every part of that is observed by an inspector so that they know exactly what's going on with that animal. So there's nothing that goes crazy.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. So how do they put them down?

Eric Kennedy:
Some of them use an automated knocking pin. Some of them use an actual knocking gun. They stand there and actually knock the animal.

Mark Rippetoe:
They hit it in the forehead?

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. It's just a it's just a light pressure to the animal and then lights out so they never know what's going on.

Mark Rippetoe:
Punches a hole in the frontal part of its skull and it loses consciousness instantaneously.

Eric Kennedy:
Right. And then after that they they pull them out, bleed them out, and then they start processing them down, skinningn them, taking the internals out and everything. And then once they have that process done, then they have to go through a chilling factor to bring him down to whatever that particular companies has it program is on the chill. That way it eliminates any chance of getting any type of other infections or anything else.

Mark Rippetoe:
So the refrigeration basically is immediate.

Eric Kennedy:
Oh, yes. Soon as that hide comes off. It's split down the middle into halves or quarters and then straight into the chilling chamber.

Mark Rippetoe:
They cool it down to for how long?

Eric Kennedy:
It's got to be cooled down to temp within two hours. So and it's all we had a digital thermometer that actually was Bluetooth that read straight to the computer to let you know exactly what the temperature was so that it did a print out, you know, so that nobody was involved in that. Nobody's going in there and saying, hey, you know, we slipped out, this thing's not in where it should be or whatever, but they watch that.

Eric Kennedy:
And then once that animal is processed, then we like to let it set up. Once it set up a little bit then we start processing it further from there. Most places like to do a 14-21 day age. 14 is kind of the sweet spot. It actually lets the animal set up a little bit, but it doesn't...doesn't start putting on a lot of the nutty flavors. And when you go into the 21, 45 days, whatever. Then it'll start putting on the nutty flavor of the meat.

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah. We'll talk about that later. I like it five weeks myself, but I know that's consumptive of hanging room in the cooler, but that's that's a...I've done this couple of times and five weeks seems to be the best place.

Mark Rippetoe:
If you guys are contemplating aging any beef yourself... Well, let's let's let's talk about that later as a separate topic because aged box beef and aged sides are two kind of completely different things. And that's a important topic in terms of you buying this beef.

Mark Rippetoe:
So. We mentioned the USDA inspection. Now, I think this is important because the government is heavily involved in the meat industry and this may be one of the places where the government's involvement in an industry is not terribly destructive. Tell us about USDA inspection.

Eric Kennedy:
USDA, whether it's state or it's federal... State, meaning that you can keep the product within the state that you're in. Federal, meaning you can go outside those borders.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well does Texas have an inspection authority?

Eric Kennedy:
They do.

Mark Rippetoe:
But is it... does that derive from USDA?

Eric Kennedy:
It is.

Mark Rippetoe:
So the USDA runs a federal level program and a state level program.

Eric Kennedy:
Correct. And in some areas, your state inspector may also be a federal inspector depending on whether they have enough to keep those inspectors busy in that area.

Mark Rippetoe:
Now, what are they inspecting?

Eric Kennedy:
They inspect everything. They inspect the carcass from the time that you start processing it to make sure there's no hair, no feces, no abnormal looks to the skin or the hide or the meat or...

Mark Rippetoe:
No injuries, no disease, no abscesses, that sort of thing. Yeah. And so that's the first start of the first step and inspection. And can it can can an inspector condemn a carcass?

Eric Kennedy:
Absolutely. Yeah.

Mark Rippetoe:
Do it all the time, I guess don't they?

Eric Kennedy:
And then it's it doesn't go anywhere but in a bone can and it goes shipped off for valley protein. Yeah. Protein. Yes sir. Yeah. Yeah. And you know there's no question about it. I mean it's just done. And you know, same way with a lot of the... we have a lot of customers that want the green tripe, you know, for their animals and stuff for their raw diet, but they don't allow you to do that anymore. They actually dye it so that you can't use it for anything else.

Mark Rippetoe:
And what is green tripe?

Eric Kennedy:
Green tripe is unscalded, unbleached tripe.

Mark Rippetoe:
And his tripe is third and fourth stomach from a ruminant.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. Right. Yeah. I mean it's got a lot of nutrients in it. But also...

Mark Rippetoe:
It's what menudo is made out of. Some people like Menudo. I don't.

Eric Kennedy:
I've had good, I've had bad.

Mark Rippetoe:
I'd rather have chili. I really would.

Mark Rippetoe:
So the inspectors come in and basically supervise the entire process from kill to hang. What do they do after that?

Eric Kennedy:
After that, they're just mainly looking to see that when you start doing cuts that nothing can be brought in that can contaminate an animal. It comes down a rail system. It can't touch anything. It can't touch other boxes or stuff that's coming from other plants. If it does then you have to trim it all off

Mark Rippetoe:
Really? Everything is isolated to the single plant. They can't co-mingle two plants' meat. Is that right?

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. If it comes down that rail and it touches...

Mark Rippetoe:
I guess the reason for that is if something happens and a disease vector's introduced into the product, it allows them to trace it.

Eric Kennedy:
Exactly right. Exactly. And you have to submit samples anyway once a month, you know of different things just to make sure that, you know, none of that had E coli or none of it had any contaminants in it whatsoever. And you have to hold on to that product. That's why there's an inspection bug on the boxes that you get, because that's their way of tracing it back to that plant and...

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, it's got a number.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. And that number will trace back to the plant, telling the plant okay this is what day it happened, this is who was working and this is what went on and everything.

Mark Rippetoe:
And can they probably trace back to that herd then.

Eric Kennedy:
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Because most of the herds now are chipped from calf you know and so they know exactly where that animal's been the whole entire time.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. And I guess most of this is a result of the BSE thing about 20, 25 years ago.

Eric Kennedy:
Some of it's from that and some of it's from cattle rustling back in the day, you know? I don't understand why some of the rules are set up the way they are. It's like they haven't updated the policies even though they're chipping and they know more about those animals step by step than what they used to.

Mark Rippetoe:
So you just got some archaic regulations still in place.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah, there's a few of them.

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah. So I guess they also probably inspect the plant for sanitation and cleanliness, right?

Eric Kennedy:
Absolutely right. Absolutely. Every morning you do a pre-op the pre-op consists of going through all the machinery before you put it together to make sure it's all clean and everything. You do your own pre-op. Then inspector comes in and does a pre-op with you. And if they find anything, then it's... all the equipment has to be rewashed, sanitized and all put back out for them to observe again.

Mark Rippetoe:
Before you can use it. So how do you get it clean?

Eric Kennedy:
When you're done with the day, you break it all down, do the wash, rinse and sanitize procedure. You have to be really thorough on some places, like the hamburger plates, saw blades, anything that's going to grip any meat particle or anything else.

Mark Rippetoe:
So all that's got to be washed out. Bleach? Well, what are they... They probably get some specialized bleaches.

Eric Kennedy:
We try to steer away from that just because it can be overdone really easily. And so there's a lot of companies out there with real good cleaning chemicals that are already set up. They're already FDA approved. They're already, you know, legit.

Mark Rippetoe:
And bleach oxidizes your steel components and you don't want rust on everything.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. It'll...that and salt or the two worst things on equipment.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. So every day is concluded with this extensive cleaning process. And I've seen this a little bit hot water. Everything's washed down the drain and the floors are all drained and everything's set up to make everything clean and correct.

Mark Rippetoe:
And so are USDA inspectors veterinarians?

Eric Kennedy:
Not necessarily, no. There are some that are, but most of them that I've been around are not. They've gone through part of the courses or something. You know, they know what to look for and areas to look for, but they're not actually veterinarians.

Mark Rippetoe:
So what does their background consist of?

Eric Kennedy:
Most of them have gone through some type of course at a college, and then they follow it through with a sort of like a training program following alongside another experienced veterinary...oh not veterinary, but an inspector. And then that way they've got ideas of what to look for and stuff. They've got to report somebody just like everybody else does.

Mark Rippetoe:
All right. Well, I guess. The the total effect of this rigorous program is to create a clean meat supply for them, you know, and you just don't see reports in the media, but occasionally of contaminated meat. Every once in a while they'll recall a hundred thousand pounds a hamburger from somebody screwing something up in your process. I wonder what they do with a hundred thousand pounds of hamburger when they recall it? That landfill, I guess, put it in hole.

Eric Kennedy:
I'm sure it's in fertilizer or something. I don't know.

Mark Rippetoe:
That's a lot of money. Hundred thousand pounds a hamburger's... By the time you pay for transportation that half million dollars. Maybe more than that. The specialized transportation required. That's that's always interesting. You see that in the news every once in a while. But the amazing part is, is you don't see it in the news. When it's in the news, it's unusual because the system works very well.

Eric Kennedy:
It does. Yes. And, you know, they've they've got so many steps in. They're placed in each location that, you know, it just I don't know how anything would slip through unless somebody's sleeping on the job.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right, well it would happen. That does happen occasionally.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right now, in the retail end of the meat business, you've got big grocery stores, you've got the big chains - Wal-Mart, Kroger, all the brands under which Albertsons operates. These great big giant national chains of grocers and they've got a they've got a supply stream and then recently, we've seen a resurgence of shops like yours - small meat markets. What is the the differences between these two opportunities to buy meat to take home to eat?

Eric Kennedy:
Well, there's not... in one way there's not a lot of differences. You know, it may be they're getting some of the same product that I might be getting. The biggest differences is we can stand there and take the time with the customer, find out exactly what they need, help them with cooking instructions. Maybe recommend something better than what they were actually thinking about doing or whatever.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, no, I mean, in terms of the product they are selling. Where does Kroger get its meat as opposed to where do you get your meat? And what is different about Kroger's Meat than your meat?

Eric Kennedy:
Kroger's Meat is going to be, you know, all the top national names, IBP and all them.

Mark Rippetoe:
So IBP is Iowa Beef Processors, right. Who are the bigger players in this business besides these guys?

Eric Kennedy:
They're one of the bigger ones. You've got Cargill, you've got national beef company. National beef company's come a long way. That is used to be kind of like a small processor and then they've grown over about 10, 15 years or so. The bigger players just they had to do like every grocery chain has had to do. They've had to spread out to accommodate everybody, get more a growing space for cattle and stuff. So I mean there...

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, and it did it makes the shipping simple because you don't have a big, long train ride. Back in 1895, I suppose that everything had to go to Chicago. In the formation days of the nation's rail system, but we've got transportation opportunities all over everywhere now, we're not dependent on one location anymore. The shorter the time...

Eric Kennedy:
The less stress on the animal.

Mark Rippetoe:
The less stress on the animal. The shorter the time back, the less money tied up in refrigeration and transport. So these things are everywhere.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. Yeah. And you know, you want it to be. You want it to say, you know, yeah, we know the farm nearby, you know, sells to whatever plan or. You're right. I mean, that's part of the community. You want it to be part of the community.

Mark Rippetoe:
So when Kroger gets in meat - this is this is of interest. I know that Sam's the the Wal-Mart wholesale people and I know that Costco does this, too. They have a actual meat cutter in their stores. What about Wal-Mart and Kroger? Do they get t-bones in in little trays?

Eric Kennedy:
They're already in the trays in a box.

Mark Rippetoe:
When they went on the truck. So those things are packaged up at a plant and are transported like that to to the retailers. And they don't handle anything backstage.

Eric Kennedy:
No, sir. No, they're not even allowed to rewrap anything, so.

Mark Rippetoe:
Oh, really? Something happens to it, they pull it off and throw it away.

Eric Kennedy:
Well, I think it probably has. I don't know. Do you? He probably has something with the gases that they flush in some of them trays too. Once you take that out then...

Mark Rippetoe:
Oh, I see. So how's that done? I don't know... That's a good point. Is there CO2? They purge the the tray and then wrap it in the presence of CO2 or nitrogen or whatever.

Eric Kennedy:
Shelf-stability. They've done tests where they put them actually on a shelf with bread, you know, and left it there overnight and they come back the next day and it's still red. And you do that to any other steak and it's not going to happen. It's gonna go dark quick.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, it's interesting. It's a good way to preserve the thing. I remember a long while. I don't know. I haven't bought grocery store. I'm sorry. I haven't bought grocery store meat in ten or fifteen years. And I and I don't know... But are they still selling water added beef? Is that what...the last time I bought. Last time I bought it. One of the reasons I got into the custom meat purchasing is because I just got sick of the shitty quality of these watery-ass steaks that you'd get 4 percent solution, they call it. Which is to saline.

Eric Kennedy:
It's not as much in beef as it is in pork and chicken.

Mark Rippetoe:
Pork and chicken is all water-added. It is it's cheaper to sell water than it is to sell chicken and pork. Yeah, but has that stopped in beef or...?

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. I, I don't know of anybody that does that. You know most time people when they're looking at that steak and it's got juice coming out and everything and they think it's, you know, all the water and everything. But it's actually protein and it's in very little of it is actually the blood. It's actually the water from the animal.That's part of why everybody likes it dry-aged, because all that now moisture's come out of the animal.

Mark Rippetoe:
All that's gone. So they've that that part of the thing is has changed over the past 10 or 15 years, I guess. But they're I guess the primary distinction in a situation like Kroger versus a small shop is the way the meat's handled at the retail outlet. You are actually are handling the meat and they're just setting it on the shelf.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. Yeah. And a lot of them, you know, in the the Wal-Mart super centers and stuff like that, they actually that animal processed. And then as soon as it comes down to chill temperature, they begin to process it, cut it in the steaks and all that stuff. So there's no age. There's no wet age, there's no dry age. There's no nothing.

Mark Rippetoe:
Put in the tray once it's cool.

Eric Kennedy:
And then it's sealed and, you know, a lot of times once it goes through the final process of coming out that wrapping machine. Then it's given sometimes 14-21 day shelf life on it. So when you actually get the product in the store, if it's got a seven day shelf life on it, it may be from three or four weeks ago as a steak form, you know, which is different from the way we do because we get it in the primal form and then we can you know wet age is not a bad thing and can definitely dry age, which is also not a bad thing.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. So the primary difference is, is in handling. Large retail outlets don't handle the beef except to put it on the shelf and you actually deal with it with the product also. So. That's that's interesting. The quality is probably going to be higher in a situation like you've got because of one, the way it's handled and trimmed and and dealt with and sold and b ,the places it's sourced from.

Mark Rippetoe:
How do you source your beef as opposed to to Kroger's national office, which has got a deal made with IBP and everybody else? And so you mentioned that you get your beef from a small producer in Kansas. Right. What's the situation with that?

Eric Kennedy:
Well, back in the drought, they came to us and wanted us to try their program, their High River Angus program, and we tried it and I loved it because it's it's almost exactly like I would produce it if I was from start to finish. And so there's a lot less waste. There's a lot less. It's more affordable in a way, because I don't have as much trim losses and stuff on it, but I just like the quality of the product. It's raised a little bit higher altitude. And, you know, a lot of people, when they finish their animals out there, they're looking to kind of go a little further north where it's not as hard on the animal Which in the marbling, you know, you get more tenderness. That is an actual tenderizer and flavor. So, I mean, you want that to be a successful steak.

Mark Rippetoe:
Sure. So you don't deal with side beef, you deal with box beef. All right, now tell us what the difference is between side beef and box beef.

Eric Kennedy:
The side beef. You have to move a little quicker on some parts of it.

Mark Rippetoe:
A side is. Half of the carcass hanging from a hook. That's all of the whole beef. The whole the whole thing from sirloin to neck meat.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. Shank, everything.

Mark Rippetoe:
The whole thing. All these. All these. We won't go into the details of the names of the beef cuts there. Little maps all over the internet for that. But so round, sirloins, loins, forequarter quarter beef. All that stuff, you guys look that up. But a side is going to have all of that, all of the cuts. Box has the carcass separated into primals primals what are called primals. And what are the primals?

Eric Kennedy:
You've got the round, the rear end of the animal.

Mark Rippetoe:
That's that's the big, the thigh muscles.

Eric Kennedy:
Yep. And then connected with that is the sirloin tip, which a lot of people aren't familiar with that.

Mark Rippetoe:
This is that is the there's the thigh muscles come up into the hip. So sirloin is out of the hip area, the pelvis area.

Eric Kennedy:
Yep. And that it ends up being its own separate primal the sirloin does. And then it goes into the short loin which is the t-Bone, porterhouse, or boned out as the New York strip.

Mark Rippetoe:
The lumbar spine.

Eric Kennedy:
Right. Right. And then the front quarter into the rib-eye section. And then the chuck.

Mark Rippetoe:
The same muscles that run up the rib cage.

Eric Kennedy:
Right. And the chuck and the arm and the brisket are all wrapped into one.

Mark Rippetoe:
That's the shoulder stuff. That's the shoulder area. Are beef ribs used for anything except hamburger.

Eric Kennedy:
Oh, absolutely.

Mark Rippetoe:
Are they? I always thought that was a waste product, myself.

Eric Kennedy:
Back ribs, everybody likes to grill back ribs or the short ribs, everybody.

Mark Rippetoe:
How is it that I don't like these?

Eric Kennedy:
They do the dinosaur now. The dinosaur ribs. The long, short ribs.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, yo. Oh, you're talking about what they call it, a tomahawk steak.

Eric Kennedy:
No, that's the other part. If you take off the shore ribs and bone it out and then you leave the rib bone and then you get a tomahawk.

Mark Rippetoe:
Oh okay, that's fashionable now.

Eric Kennedy:
Wife beater or whatever you want to call it.

Mark Rippetoe:
Big long club wasted. It's about a half pound of shit you're paying for you can't eat.

Eric Kennedy:
It's about eight ounces of bone, yeah, but it looks good.

Mark Rippetoe:
It does look cool. There's a handle for the chef, I guess.

Mark Rippetoe:
So what about... all right so the forequarters are when you see chuck roast and things like seven pin roast and what are some of the other?

Eric Kennedy:
Arm roast, brisket. All of that is off of the chuck.

Mark Rippetoe:
Where's the brisket?

Eric Kennedy:
You actually have to pull the arm back to get to the brisket. And then the brisket runs from the top of the where they split the sides in half, down to the neck.

Mark Rippetoe:
So it's in front of the shoulder, in front of the shoulder. What are they do with the neck meat? That's usually ground, isn't it?

Eric Kennedy:
It's usually ground. Some people like to stew meat, depending on the age of the animal, you can use the neck bones. Some people like those. Neck bones aren't as popular as they used to be. Bone-in roasts aren't as popular as they used to be. People have kind of forgotten how to cook.

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah, well, it's not a shock. Right. People know how to text, but don't know how to cook.

Eric Kennedy:
Google it.

Mark Rippetoe:
Neck bones used to be when I was a kid they sold soup bones. Called them soup bones. Then you get them and roast him in the oven, boil themm, and make beef stock. And that's that's the best cheap. It's cheap and it's good. But anymore more I guess you'd have to... Well shop like you could probably get neck bones. Right?

Eric Kennedy:
We don't sell as many neck bones we do femur bones.

Mark Rippetoe:
But you could get them right, if you if you if you've had an order?

Eric Kennedy:
Most people like the femur bones because they have more marrow in them for making stock. It's a lot healthier for you.

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah. Good, good fat. Our friend Stan Efferding makes a... that plant that he uses for his elevate meals makes their own bone stock out of that.

Mark Rippetoe:
Do you see that video he had the other day, guys? He had a video up a behind the scenes at the thing. They make their own bone broth there just for Stan, in the meals. And they they put it in with the rice. And everything else and his meals are good. You give that a check. Stan Efferding dot com. excelevate.

Mark Rippetoe:
Forget about that. Need to turn that off. [Rip turns off his phone sounds]

Mark Rippetoe:
No, no, no, no, it's not, Joe. Not this time. No, no, not Joe.

Mark Rippetoe:
Joe calls me, bothers me all the time. Wants me to be on his show. I told him to get fucked. Not going to be on Joe Rogan's show. If he wants a bigger audience, he needs to get it without me. That's all there is to it.

Mark Rippetoe:
So the whole carcass, though, is is used. And there's not any waste on it on a carcass.

Eric Kennedy:
None. None.

Mark Rippetoe:
Every piece of that animal goes somewhere.

Eric Kennedy:
I take it back. The one part that is not used is the...

Mark Rippetoe:
Snout.

Eric Kennedy:
Spinal cord. Spinal cord and the brain.

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah. Yeah. That's because of the BSE scare. I guess they just can't take a chance on it. Used to you could buy beef brains. A long, long time ago. Pork brains are still for sale. Brains and eggs used to...

Mark Rippetoe:
I know you all are... So you're thinking that I'm crazy. Fifty years ago, 60 years ago, you walk in a cafe in Texas and order brains and eggs for breakfast.

[off-camera]:
I worked at a - at the time it was a B&R - in Iowa Park. I remember us getting some in.

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah. I guess they scramble them with eggs. I never had it myself, but I know that it was eaten. It was a common thing. But they condemn all of that part of the carcass.

Eric Kennedy:
Correct. Right. Correct.

Mark Rippetoe:
When they... Well when they make a porterhouse or T-Bone do they excavate the spinal canal and get the nerve tissue out of that steak before it's packaged?

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. And if if they don't get it all, then we have a tool that we run down the spine. It's just a little U-shaped tool and you can run it down. And we used to do that on all the cattle when we got it in before they started making them remove it. They'd come in with it. And the only reason we removed it was because once you went to cut steaks, then it would smear over the meat.

Mark Rippetoe:
Scatter it everywhere. Saw would scatter it across the... That's probably not a good idea. Well, they were going to prohibit the practice anyways. You might as well get ahead them.

Mark Rippetoe:
So you guys get in box beef and box beef is is primals. And a primal is sections of a side. So you order what you think you can sell. And your inventory at any given time is going to consist of a whole bunch of different box beef. How do you decide what to buy?

Eric Kennedy:
It's tough. There's a lot of things that come into factor. You have to factor what time of the month it is. You have to factor in the weather. Whether you've got any holidays or whether you've got any, you know, Super Bowl coming up or whatever. And you just kind of have to be a mind reader and figure out where customers are gonna go with it. It's not always easy. Sometimes you run out, but I try to keep my cooler to where it turns every time I get a truck. I get a truck twice a week. And so I try to empty it out as close as I can to the next one. And that way we're always moving fresh products through there.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. So if something's not selling as well as you thought it was going to you cut the price.

Eric Kennedy:
Cut the price.

Mark Rippetoe:
What a fascinating concept. Here we are in a capitalist society. And it's just it's just so odd that that works.

Eric Kennedy:
Or you find another way to merchandise it.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. Now do you make your own hamburger? Do you guys grind it or do you order it in?

Eric Kennedy:
No. We grind it on the spot. Everything you see in the counter will make 80/20. And then we grind truck tenders for our 90/10, which has the same consistency as doing round meat, but the texture of the meat is actually more inviting to people. People like it better because of the the texture makes a patty where ground round is kind of too dry. It doesn't make a patty.

Mark Rippetoe:
Do you double grind or single grind?

Eric Kennedy:
Double.

Mark Rippetoe:
Everything is ground twice.

Eric Kennedy:
Grinding through once. Pull the knife out, pull the bone chips and everything out because that's what it's designed to do is catch the bone chips and the gristle and then put back together and grind it a second time.

Mark Rippetoe:
So you know, my dad ran a cafe here in Wichita Falls for 30, 35 years and he would make his own hamburger. He had a big Hobart machine in the in the kitchen. And we ground hamburger every couple of days. And he would buy.

Mark Rippetoe:
This is what we call an aside.

Mark Rippetoe:
He would he would buy what they called bull meat. They used to market a product called bull meat. Now I remember this. I don't know what cut it was. I don't know. But it was a great big ten to fifteen pound piece of meat that was purple, it was so dark. That had absolutely no fat in it at all and the the muscle fibers were big and fat. And he would use that as the basis for his hamburger meat. What the hell was that just out of curiosity?

Eric Kennedy:
It's just older bull meat that they can't do anything with. And we used to use it all the time.

Mark Rippetoe:
So five year old bull. He's not gonna grade.

Eric Kennedy:
Yep. And we'd use it to lean up fatty beef so that you'd actually have a 80/20 blend. Back then was more popular with a 73/27 blend. But yeah, that's why you get it in 60 pound boxes. We'd get it up the night before from frozen state. Let it thaw out. Do it as our ground first thing in the morning.

Eric Kennedy:
And you don't see as much anymore because back then we did a lot more hanging beef so we had a lot more fatty beef, we had a lot more trimmings to try and move. And so you had to have something to kind of counter that. Otherwise you're trimming and all that fat off to bring it to a fairly lean consistency and then it's all going in the trash. You never get to use it.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right, not to clarify -- hanging beef. If you've got a side of beef, all the fat still on the side. All of the fats around the kidneys, the suet, the nice dry, what we call leaf fat is around the is around the kidneys and on the inside the abdominal wall of the carcas. And that stuff is gone if you're buying boxed beef because it's all been cut up into primals and you don't have access to that good fat.

Mark Rippetoe:
And at the same time, he would buy tallow. He would buy suet. He would blend the suet with the bull meat and make the hamburger meat that he wanted right there in the kitchen every day. And that's, I guess, what you're talking about doing too, right?

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. And then, you know, if you're buying sides of beef, you know, you try to use that fat as much as you can because you bought that fat and you've got to try and make a dime off of it instead of just throwing it in the can. And that's primarily why are the bull meat and stuff came in. You know, even though we had to buy the bull meat, it helped us also sell the fat that we just broke down and so we're had to add somewhere.

Mark Rippetoe:
And tallow is appearing in the stores now. Have you seen this? Yeah, it's a... Suet, when you take the suet fat and render it down. And I've done this in a slow cooker. You put a whole bunch of it in slow cooker and render it down and skim the the the liquid fat off of that and put it in a jar. That is finally coming back after decades of neglect.

Mark Rippetoe:
Buffalo Wild Wings - correct me on this if I'm wrong, but Buffalo Wild Wings fries their chicken wings in beef tallow.

Eric Kennedy:
Really?

Mark Rippetoe:
That's why they taste damn good. McDonald's fries used to be fried in beef tallow. And it's excellent for fries. Got a better flavor. But remember back when our friend Ancel Keys destroyed American health with this idiotic insistence that fat was poison, all of that went away there for a while. But it's coming back because of the superior quality of the flavor and of the health benefits of not using trans fat when you're frying.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. Some people are actually using some of it for lotion, soap.

Mark Rippetoe:
So it's it's a useful product. And if you find somebody that's got access to some suet, buy it. Shouldn't be much money. But could you get that in if I order some from you?

Eric Kennedy:
We sell it. We have different people and especially during the hunting season, you know, we have a lot of people that come in wanting it for to blend with their deer, to lean...er fatten it up because it's too lean. The beginning of deer season, you know that the deer carcasses are so marbled and fatty. Right. But once I get into the rut, you know, we will get bombarded with people wanting pork fat or...

Mark Rippetoe:
But deer suet is horrible. It's like candle wax. You can't really eat it. It's god.. I've got a buddy of mine shot, a deer. Let me have it. Several years ago. Real fat. Fat all along the back straps and that fat yellow. And I made the mistake of cooking a loin roast with the fat on it. And I'm telling you it's inedible. That fat's inedible. It's just horrible. And... But deer meat, real lean purple deer meat cut with beef suet is excellent hamburger.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. Well, and you know, back to your point on, you know, if we if we grass fed grass finished every animal that was out there, they're eating a lot of the same thing the deer would be. And so...

Mark Rippetoe:
There wouldn't be any suet. Any good suet.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. And the flavor would be different. I mean that's whole reason they feed him out the way they do it is put the good marble and flavor in it.

Mark Rippetoe:
So let's talk about the the grass-fed versus grain finished beef. There's been a lot of attention recently paid to how the how the meat is finished. A lot of people swear by grass fed beef. I don't like it. I don't like the flavor. But a lot of people prefer it because of the supposedly better fatty acid profile that that the grass-fed provides. What has been your experience with this?

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. We have a lot of people that ask whether the products is grass fed, grass finished. All cattle...

Mark Rippetoe:
Probably without knowing what that means.

Eric Kennedy:
Exactly. And once you start to talk to them about it and tell them the differences, you know, then they get confrontational or they just say, well, I'll just go ahead and take what you got in the counter, you know. They don't seem to understand, you know, that if you have a grass fed grass finished piece of meat on there, there's a lot of work that goes into cooking that to get it as tender, you would, you know, a number of steak where you just have half the time.

Mark Rippetoe:
A grass-fed medium rare steak would be an acquired taste for me, I'm not interested in dealing with. If I want to eat something that lean, I'll just have venison. You know, and venison is perfectly fine medium rare. Yeah, perfectly fine. But beef that's that lean is just...

Eric Kennedy:
Different taste, different texture. Everything.

Mark Rippetoe:
Now let's talk... ecause this leads right into discussion of grade. All right. Tell me about grade and how carcasses are graded and what that actually means.

Eric Kennedy:
Graded. The top rate is a prime grade. Most herd's on the average in the United States only produce 2 to 3 percent prime grade.

Mark Rippetoe:
Of a thousand cattle, 20 or 30 of them will produce carcasses that'll grade prime.

Eric Kennedy:
Yep. And it'll be right on the right on the edge of being either upper two thirds choice or prime.

Mark Rippetoe:
So choice is the next one down and it's it's usually divided into thirds. Bottom third, middle third, upper third or upper two thirds choice. And that's pretty good beef. It is pretty good beef.

Eric Kennedy:
And, you know, it depends on whether you want to add a ton of marbling in there or not so much. I mean, it it is then not so much.

Mark Rippetoe:
So the grade is dependent on the marbling. And the marbling for those of you that are confused about that term is the interstitial fat within the muscle. So if you see a steak that's got white streaks through the meat, that is what is referred to as marbling and prime is going to have a whole lot of that.

Mark Rippetoe:
About 10 years ago, it was fashionable to call everything in your case Kobe beef. All right. This was always bullshit because by law, Kobe beef could not even be exported from Japan. If you were eating Kobe beef, you were sitting in Japan eating it. That didn't keep anybody from not calling it Kobe beef. And Kobe beef was supposed to - I believe this is true - supposed to come from wagyu cattle. Wagyu are a breed that was developed in Japan. All right that was... some of that meat was at least half fat.

Mark Rippetoe:
I have in Korea bought some steaks at a little corner kiosk that were way up in the prime area. They were almost half fat and it was delicious. Oh, my God it was good. Yeah that is an extremely expensive product because anything that grades that high and by grade we mean marble - anything grades that high is such a tiny percentage of of the beef that's produced by the national herd that it's this something like that is a product of an extremely specialized breeding program or all genetics. It's how they convert graze and grain into into meat.

Mark Rippetoe:
And they lay a bunch of meat, a bunch of fat down in there in their muscles. And really, it's probably a disease process. But the flavor of the meat is popular, it's yeah, it's it's it's it's real good. If you ever had any, congratulations. So as we start a prime and go down we're actually talking about the amount of marble and underneath choice is.

Eric Kennedy:
Select.

Mark Rippetoe:
Select. And that's what you see mostly in the grocery store, right?

Eric Kennedy:
It's not as let's say there anymore. You do see it in some lower end markets. Some Hispanic markets. You know, they'll carry this select and mainly because they're cutting it thinner and they're marinating it or or doing something different with it.

Mark Rippetoe:
They're not really using it the way we would fry or grill a steak. And underneath select is what?

Eric Kennedy:
No roll.

Mark Rippetoe:
No roll. All right.

Eric Kennedy:
No roll is a real lean, lean piece of meat. There's not a lot you can really do with it. Lot of them use it for canner meat. It grinds fine and it will give you the flavor of beef fine.

Mark Rippetoe:
If you put fat in with it.

Eric Kennedy:
Right. But you got to have something else with it in order for it to be.

Mark Rippetoe:
There used to be a grade called utility. Is that still available?

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. That's not that's not available to us.

Mark Rippetoe:
It's dogfood.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. Right.

Mark Rippetoe:
What is cutter-canner? Same thing?

Eric Kennedy:
Oh they make more like Dinty More stew and stuff like that where they put it in huge pressure cookers and cook it down

Mark Rippetoe:
Get it soft.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah but I mean, yes, lean and it's good. It serves a purpose.

Mark Rippetoe:
These lower grades. But if you're looking at a steak and in the grocery store, you're probably going to be looking at choice.

Eric Kennedy:
Choice or up.

Mark Rippetoe:
Lower third choice, something like that. Right. So what do you carry in your butcher shop?

Eric Kennedy:
We carry upper two-thirds choice to prime. The sirloins are always prime. I just like the flavor and the texture. I'm a sirloin guy not a ribeye guy.

Mark Rippetoe:
You know, I'm telling you, you and I agree on that. There's a whole bunch of people that think that I'm crazy because I will prefer the flavor of a sirloin over the flavor of ribeye. And I and I now tell you how this happened. I've been in on the eating of a bunch of sides of beef from just my... I bought a side.

Mark Rippetoe:
So I've got all these cuts of meat in my fridge. I've got the sirloin. I got the t-bones, porterhouses, the ribeyes. I've got the the aged hamburger. We're going to talk about age in a minute. Oh, my God. That's the best stuff in the world. Oh, it's good. And, you know, just all the all of the forequarter stuff of all of that meat off of every one of the whole sides that I've bought, the best tasting steaks were the sirloin.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah, I agree.

Mark Rippetoe:
And most people will you know, it's fashionable to, like ribeyes, I guess. But as far as the flavor of the meat is concerned, the sirloin is the best. It's it's handy that it's also cheaper. But that's not my fault. OK. Sirloins, if you can find a fatty sirloin, which hard to do.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. That's why I carry the prime grade, because it;s just...

Mark Rippetoe:
If you can find prime sirloin. Now for some reason, my favorite steakhouse in the world... Those of you that have access to the two locations in Houston and the one in Dallas is Pappas Brothers Steakhouse. I've eaten in very, very good steakhouses all over the country and the best steakhouse I've ever eaten in is Pappas Brothers in Steakhouse in Dallas.

Mark Rippetoe:
They don't offer a sirloin. And I don't know why that is. They don't sell a sirloin. There's not one on the menu. All of their meat is in the case as you walk in the door. You see all the meat in the case. It's all dry aged, but it's all loin and rib-eye.

Mark Rippetoe:
And they don't sell a sirloin. And I don't know, I asked about it one time. And he told me that we can't get prime sirloin.

Eric Kennedy:
Really?

Mark Rippetoe:
But I've seen it.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah I carry it.

Mark Rippetoe:
I don't know what the hell's going on there. I don't know if he's just telling me to something to get me to shut up. But I've always wondered about that.

Mark Rippetoe:
But that is a that's a marvelous place and all they sell is a prime. They don't have anything in store that's not prime. And it's a it's a specialized market and they've got a they worked very hard to develop supply chains to supply them. Nothing but prime beef.

Mark Rippetoe:
Because as you as you mentioned, two to three percent of the national herd will grade prime. And that's not a not a hell of a lot of beef and a lot of it's already spoken for.

Eric Kennedy:
Right. Yeah. That's what you most people don't understand is a lot of it's booked out, you know, so far in advance that if you're fortunate to get some grab it, you know.

Mark Rippetoe:
It's expensive and there's a reason it's expensive.

Mark Rippetoe:
Now, the way they grade a carcass is interesting to me. And what I understand is that they grade the side. They grade the whole side and whatever the side grades, all of the meat on the side carries that grade. And they'll cut it between the sixth and the seventh rib. So when the thing is hanging and cooled off, they'll go in the cooler and take the knife and cut the thing from all the way down the rib to the spine. And look at the cross-section of that rib eye between the sixth and seventh rib. And whatever that is, is the grade the carcass carries. Now that may or may not mean that the rest of the beef on that carcass grades prime. But they have to make the decision about it somehow. How much how reliable do you think that grading method is? In other words, if I cut this side between 6 and 7 and it, it's marbled sufficiently to be called prime, how likely is the sirloin to be prime?

Eric Kennedy:
It really depends on the breed of the animal. And they've gotten away from that somewhat in some of the larger facilities to where they actually have probes that go into the side in five different spots. And it's read by a computer to tell for your very reason out there, because sometimes it didn't always grade. You know, you look at a ribeye and course that's fattiest piece anyway, that inspectors only got a matter of seconds to grade that and stamp it and roll it on down. So now they've got the computers that will actually probe that somehow deciphers how much fat content is actually in there and then register that and then somebody else stamps it.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, that's that's good because that would keep you from ordering a box of prime loins and having them come in middle choice.

Eric Kennedy:
It's happened.

Mark Rippetoe:
I bet it does.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. And then but on the other end of it, too, you know, you'll get some that you order in upper two-thirds choice and it'll be so marbled up, you're thinking, wow, this crazy. o but it does happen once they stop one chain and you know, one process of animals and then they bring in the second row of them or whatever, you know, there may be one or two that actually get in the wrong box or I've had some that have been just absolutely horrible that, you know, I went and got credit on and...

Mark Rippetoe:
Oh, you call the guy up...

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. I call him and get credit on it and then make it into cutlets or something, you know, because there's nothing else I'm going to do with it.

Mark Rippetoe:
Right. Can't sell it for upper two-thirds.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. No. Doesn't work that way.

Mark Rippetoe:
So now that we know what grade is, let's talk about age because age is very important. Age is a process that takes place within the muscle of the carcass, either as it's hung or as it lays in the box, there are enzymes in the muscle, proteolytic enzymes in the muscle, that are supposed to be there and are normally present at all muscles because of the fact that muscle tissue is constantly being degraded and replaced in the living animal. Once the once animals killed, the enzymes don't go away. They remain. And these are catalyst enzymes that remain in the muscle that continue their their process of breaking down muscle protein.

Mark Rippetoe:
If the meat is refrigerated, it, for example, usually 38 degrees fahrenheit and hung on a hook, the enzyme activity - it's not a bacterial process. Those of you that think this has something to do with bacteria does not. Absolutely not what it's about. It is about proteolytic enzymes in the meat continuing to break down the muscle tissue after the animal is is is hung and cooled off. And this process continues up until the time the thing's cooked. Aged beef is more tender than fresh beef like you're we're talking about in the tray at Kroger's. Aged beef is has got a different flavor. It's got a different texture. And the grade of the carcass controls to a great extent how long you can age the beef.

Eric Kennedy:
Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. If you try to do, you know, no roll or even a select, it will begin to just basically rot from the outside and instead of actually doing what it's meant to do if you have a choice or a prime. Then once those start to break down and especially if you can allow the animal to hang from the hook, it actually has a natural process of pulling the sinew and every muscle and everything downward to where it actually...

Mark Rippetoe:
Because of the stretch, the tension effect.

Eric Kennedy:
To where it begins to pull it apart to where it gives it that tenderness. And and then depending on how aged you want it, then you start to lose the moisture out of it, which they call shrink. And then the the flavor starts to enhance into somewhat of a nutty flavor.

Mark Rippetoe:
It's a different flavor than than unaged beef. It's it's some people like it. Some people don't. You had to eat it once before you can before you can appreciate the vast difference between dry aged beef at five weeks - as I previously mentioned, I prefer to unaged beef.

Mark Rippetoe:
The the the the way that the animal grades largely determines the amount of fat within the muscle, but it also determines the cap of fat over the whole carcass that protects the meat underneath it during the aging process.

Eric Kennedy:
And the more fat, the better if you're wanting to age for any period of time. Because it'll help protect everything that's on the internal. Now, it may not look appetizing, you know.

Mark Rippetoe:
But that's trimmed off.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah, but that's trimmed off. And that's where a lot of people don't understand that, you know, you have a lot of shrink losses and you the longer you age it, the more you have to trim off. And they think, well, why didn't I get back all my meat? Well, you did.

Mark Rippetoe:
But, you know, some of it goes to trim. The longer you hang it, the more trim there's going to be. The cap of fat is going to have to be trimmed off. It'll get a maybe a little bit of mold on it or something like that. But that's all gets trimmed off.

Eric Kennedy:
It's not a bad mold anyway.

Mark Rippetoe:
No, but it's unappetizing to look to most people so they won't... They want it rejected. They want all that trimmed off.

Mark Rippetoe:
Now, as I mentioned, five weeks is where I like where I like to eat a high-grade carcass. What happens after that? Just the shrinkage.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. Once you get past the 14 day period, you don't really you know, most studies have shown that 14 to 21, you don't really get any more tender after that point. It's just the nutty flavor that begins to take off after that. And then depending on what the customer wants then we trim it down. Cut it into steaks.

Mark Rippetoe:
I had a couple of t-bones one time that were given me by guy that had a box loin in his cooler that he had basically lost. And these things were 4 months, they were four months old. The flavor was basically the same as my 5 week age, but the rest of the thing was trim.

Mark Rippetoe:
It had just dried out to the point where it wasn't, wasn't beef anymore, it was just trim. I have heard that there are some restaurants out on the, you know, high end markets on the East Coast that are experimenting with a hundred and twenty day dry age.

Mark Rippetoe:
That's... Eric, that's marketing, I think. Yeah, I don't think you're getting any benefit out of you're not out of that. You just got an extremely, extremely expensive steak because you threw most of it away.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. You made proscuitto out of it.

Mark Rippetoe:
You gotta make money on whatever you... yeah, make proscuitto out of it. This is... dry age is popular. There are a lot of places that advertise wet age. Wet age seems to me a way to market storage in the cryovac, right? Because wet age means you just didn't take it out of the cryovac. You left it in. You left it in its own myoglobin. You're marinating it in its own blood and calling at age. Are the processes similar?

Eric Kennedy:
They are similar. The only difference is when you bring it out of the cryovac, then you don't have that enormous shrink lost that you do when the moisture is coming out as it's aging. And then then taste and texture is a little bit different.

Mark Rippetoe:
Quite a bit different. Yeah, quite a bit.

Eric Kennedy:
You're not experiencing that... But at the same time, you've got to be careful because that product can get gassy in the vacuum pack and then you've got a whole other issue to worry about.

Mark Rippetoe:
Oh you mean if the if the cryovac - we're taught about the plastic wrap - if that blows up. Then you've got to throw it away. Right?

Eric Kennedy:
Trim the trim the daylights out of it to get down to something good. Depending on what it is, you may not be able to trim them much. You might not. I've had it on similar things where you know, like T-Bone short loin you've got so much loss from trimming down the bone to get you known to nice bone and then of course the fillet side is just almost demolished. It's not any good anymore. So. If you want to go that route.

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah. Dry age is my preference. Do you deal with any specialty kinds of meat like bison meat or anything like that?

Eric Kennedy:
I've had a lot of requests for it. The problem is, is getting it.

Mark Rippetoe:
Probably already sold before you have a shot at it.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah, there's a company out of South Dakota that specializes in a lot of it. Their minimums are what kill me. I can't meet their minimums.

Mark Rippetoe:
Oh, really?

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. Some of them are a thousand pound order or some of them or, you know, a certain dollar amount or whatever. And so, if you're in the metro area, then they can hit several different stores at one time and make up that, but us being in Wichita Falls is like being in Timbuktu.

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah, it is in fact in a lot of ways. The the beef industry considers bison beef at this point?

Eric Kennedy:
I don't know the consider beef, but I know there's a lot of customers that are thinking that way on it, just a leaner.

Mark Rippetoe:
Zoologically it's regarded as beef. But in terms of... in terms of bison beef. I've I've had it before. I've had a good rib eye that was fatty. It was an nice, graded ribeye. So I know they'll grade if they're fed, but god almighty it was expensive. That's a high end product and I'm. I don't know that it's worth the extra money, but the one I had was good, but I've never actually sought it out.

Eric Kennedy:
Well, and you know what on top of what makes them expensive is they basically have one type of breed of it, you know, and then you have to go through all the federal regulations and inspection and stuff just like you do the other one. But the end result, you have to find somebody that can actually have an animal that size, you know, in a chute to be able to process.

Mark Rippetoe:
No, I guess that does produce an interesting kill floor problems.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. Longhorns are the same way. I mean, you you've got to be able to accommodate that animal coming through into your chute. You're right.

Mark Rippetoe:
And most people are not going to mess with a longhorn. Is there a market for breed specific beef?

Eric Kennedy:
There didn't used to be, but I think there's getting more and more so.

Mark Rippetoe:
Angus was obviously. The Angus people have done a great job marketing their cattle.

Eric Kennedy:
Angus, Limousin, Red Angus. All of them have done a great job. You know, and they do well in this area. You know, if you go into some other areas, you know, they prefer Hereford brand, you know, because they do well in that area. So it depends on the breed.

Mark Rippetoe:
Do... That is there a market for Indicus beef? And by that I mean what we call Brahman or Bramer, the way they pronounce it around here. That that is that is basically all going to be low grade beef. Is there a market for it specifically?

Eric Kennedy:
You know the only thing I would see is the hump. I hear the hump's a delicacy. I've never had it.

Mark Rippetoe:
Never heard of it being for sale.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah, but I've been asked before and I tell me it's a delicacy.

Mark Rippetoe:
Huh. So interesting.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. It is supposed to have a real super sweet flavor and very really tender and...

Mark Rippetoe:
Interesting. I don't even know what the hell is in that hump. It's a big ugly outffit, I do know that.

Eric Kennedy:
It's brutal on you if you're on the back of it. I know that.

Mark Rippetoe:
The the other types of beef in the world would be Highland cattle from Scotland. Those are supposed to be excellent. I've never had the opportunity to buy any, but I hear it's real high grade. Excellent, excellent beef. But there's so little of it available. I don't know how you'd ever get a shot at any of that. The British breeds are primarily what turn in into the higher grade to beef in the United States. That would be Angus, obviously. And Herefords and Devons. And Shorthorn. Things like that that you see occasionally.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah, but you know, I think I think everybody's got to kind of do whatever goes best for their area, you know, and whatever you've got to market for. There's a there's a couple companies out there and I don't remember the exact name of them, but they they specialize in Hereford and they they do a good job marketing it, too. And occasionally I get people from out of town with the Air Force base that are asking for that.

Mark Rippetoe:
For Hereford beef.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. And. But I've not been able to get it through my suppliers.

Mark Rippetoe:
Everybody wants them black. Everybody wants to kill black cattle because the assumption is that it's going to grade higher. And to a certain extent, that's probably true, but I would imagine there are markets for some of the other British breeds. I bought five Devon steers and fed them out myself several years ago, and they were excellent. They were excellent.

Mark Rippetoe:
I guess yak meat is beef. Yes, it would be it would be B? Yeah. What else would be? There should be beef, I guess. Water buffaloes, technically beef. Those aren't those aren't raised in the United States.

Eric Kennedy:
But, you know, it all comes down to the meat that they're fed in the end. You know that.

Mark Rippetoe:
Well, and the genetics that they... You know, a Cape Buffalo is beef. But he's going to be a lot of trouble to kill. He'll be a hell of a bunch of trouble to kill.

Eric Kennedy:
Don't to want to be anywhere around that.

Mark Rippetoe:
Oh, no. No limousines are bad enough. God almighty. So what... Who is the... Who's the customer for this high end beef? Who do you sell this stuff to? You have a completely different market down at your shop than Wal-Mart. Who comes in your store?

Eric Kennedy:
We believe it or not, we get a big variety of people in it. It's because, you know, somebody that may not normally buy a high end steak or doesn't want to go to Texas Roadhouse for a steak or whatever, you know, they'll come in for birthday or for Valentine's Day or whatever and spend the money on that high-end steak.

Mark Rippetoe:
What they perceive to be a special occasion. Yeah, but you're not that much more money than the grocery stores.

Eric Kennedy:
We're not. Absolutely not. You know, a lot of people once I put that steak on the scale and they see how much costs, they're surprised, you know, and it's like because it's not out on the counter with a pretty label that tells them exactly what right is and...

Mark Rippetoe:
Before they even lay it up on the paper.

Eric Kennedy:
And a lot of people shop by dollar wise, you know, they'll. Right. They'll say, wow, I got four ribeyes for the price that bought two over there. But they're gonna gnaw on those and they're not going to do that on mine.

Mark Rippetoe:
But really, you might be $2 a pound higher than Wal-Mart. Maybe three, but you're not twice the money. And I think that surprises a lot of people. And you've got some stuff in there. Like we talked earlier about a tritip.

Mark Rippetoe:
Tritip's a popular beef in California. But most people around here don't know what the hell it is.

Eric Kennedy:
Well, I'm...pichana is becoming a...

Mark Rippetoe:
Pichana looks like a tritip. Kinda. And it's...tritip's a little better. But that's not a lot of money. And it's commonly available in restaurants on the West Coast. You don't see it much around here. A tritip is a is that out of the sirloin?

Eric Kennedy:
It actually, if you're on the carcass of the beef, on the backside of the sirloin tip, it's about halfway down and you start to carve it there and then it comes down to the joints where the the sirloin and tritip and then peel knuckle and flank. They all kind of come together, what they call the pin bone. And they're all seamed out from that point. Yeah. It's got a different it's got a different grain than what normally you would see on the round side of it.

Mark Rippetoe:
Where does that end up if they don't take it out of the carcass as a tritip? Does that end up in the in the sirloin or does...

Eric Kennedy:
It'll end up on the sirloin and the sirloin tip. Used to be. We used to do a bone-in cut called a cattlemen's and it had basically top sirloin, filet minion and tritip up all in one piece of meat. And it was everybody loved it because they kind of got, you know, they're so big that you got to split it with like five different people and everybody got a little taste of everything.

Mark Rippetoe:
You ever sell it? That sounds like an interesting steak.

Eric Kennedy:
I would have to be back on carcass beef, which I hope to be someday and. And do that. But yeah, it is interesting steak. When I was on the West Coast, we sold a lot of them.

Mark Rippetoe:
I've never even heard of it. That sounds interesting.

Eric Kennedy:
It's got a bone in the center of it. And then top sirloin is on the top. Tritips comes off the tail end of the top sirloin and then the filet's on the bottom side.

Mark Rippetoe:
What's it's about five, six pound cut?

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah, about six pounds. At an inch and a quarter inch and a half.

Mark Rippetoe:
So that sounds interesting.

Eric Kennedy:
It's good.

Mark Rippetoe:
I bet it is. So.

Mark Rippetoe:
What what are you guys going to try to do eventually? You mentioned you hope to get back into side beef. I hope you get into side beef myself. The problem with side beef is USDA inspection.

Mark Rippetoe:
Now if you're going to sell beef retail that beef has got to be inspected. Now there is a plant down in Seymour that I do business with. And those guys do what's called custom kill. Right now, if I take my steer down there and set up a kill date with them and I have him in the pen Sunday afternoon, they'll kill me Monday morning for me. Is he inspected? If he's not being sold to anybody but me, I think he is, isn't he?

Eric Kennedy:
He is inspected, but not as as rigorous as if they're going to do it for resale. The inspector will look over the plant to do the pre-op, make sure everything's legit. For the most part, they'll probably leave for the day, go on to some other plant. And this is in smaller operations. And then whoever that business owner is, has the right to go on and go ahead and process the animal and everything. And then it has to be stamped, not for sale.

Mark Rippetoe:
Not for sale means that an end of this side, these two sides, this beef, which is the term for - if I'm going to buy a steer to kill for my own purposes to hang and two sides, he's called a beef.

Mark Rippetoe:
And so if I'm bringing you a beef, it's stamped "Not for sale," and it's understood that that goes to me and me only. And that I can't sell it either. I have to put it in my freezer.

Eric Kennedy:
Right. All of your packages should be stamped, "not for sale" so that, you know, I can't go take it from you and then try to resell it at my my facility. So. And then the difference is the inspectors stays on the premises through the other inspection and then they have to all either have their seal bug, which is a little stamp that says what their establishment number is and everything.

Mark Rippetoe:
That's the purple dye they put on the on the fat.

Eric Kennedy:
And it has to... should be graded. It doesn't have to be graded but it should be graded to some point. And then then you're allowed to do that at your facility. But once you sell that to somebody else, then they're not allowed to go ahead and turn around and sell that to another retail business. They can sell it to their customers, but that's the end of the line.

Mark Rippetoe:
Now, can I buy side beef from a plant? Could you get me a side if you had a place to hang it?

Eric Kennedy:
It depends on the company that you're wanting to buy it from, depends on their hassa plan how they release that animal at the end of the process.

Mark Rippetoe:
What is a hassa plan?

Eric Kennedy:
It's a federal guideline that you have to establish with either state or federal saying, okay, here's the process that we're going to do for every single step of the way through the animal. And then at their release time will either be box, vacuum sealed, or it will be hung and transported via this machine to whoever.

Mark Rippetoe:
So you're going to declare that the the distribution pathway of that beef before it's it's it's dealt with.

Eric Kennedy:
Yes. And everybody's is different. It depends on what they've come into agreement with with state or federal.

Mark Rippetoe:
So if I if I want to go do business with a plant that will sell me a side, they will declare that at the onset of the process and I'll end up with a hanging side of beef. And that's what I would love to do.

Mark Rippetoe:
I'd love to do that. It'd be cheaper, easier than me dealing with my own cattle since I just want to eat them. And if I could buy side. And it would be that would be pretty cool. I wonder if I could do that in Fort Worth. Would I have to go pick the side up? Would they deliver it? How would how's this?

Eric Kennedy:
No, that would be on their side, depending on how they would release it to you. And a lot of times, like when we've done business with in the past with companies like that, one company said, OK, it's got to be in a cargo bin with a tarp over the top of it. And not a tarp, actually, but it's a visqueen wrap. That's only way they would release it. We had another one that they would release it, but they had have to bring it to us in a regulated temperature truck. And then, you know, they could send it over to us. So it just depends on what their regulations are that they have set up through their hassa plan, right.

Mark Rippetoe:
But it's possible to buy side beef. The advantage, as far as I'm concerned about buying side beef. We mentioned this earlier is the hamburger. If I've got a carcass, I've got a side that I've hung for five weeks, I'm going to get all of the forequarter roasts, all of that, all of the rib stuff. All of them, all the loin, all of the sirloin, all the round meat and everything left over gets ground into delicious, dry aged hamburger.

Mark Rippetoe:
Now. It's difficult to explain to people that have never had this just how good dry aged hamburger is. You've had this and it is. It's the most amazing product. It just it's you know, people don't understand how good this is.

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah, and it's it's absolutely the the delicacy that you don't get to eat unless you've gone through the process of purchasing the side and having all of the rest of the side processed and packaged and everything and then everything left over gets ground to 80:20, hamburger right. And it is just absolutely the damnedest thing you've ever had in your mouth.

Mark Rippetoe:
And if there's no other reason to do it, that's why you buy side beef. As far as I'm concerned, yeah.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah, the smell, the taste, everything is different. I mean, it's just. You actually smell beef.

Mark Rippetoe:
It's it's it's really it's, you know, people would just have never had anything but grocery store hamburger don't understand the nature of the product.

Eric Kennedy:
Well, and most people that buy grocery store hamburger don't realize that the minute that that animal comes out of the chill machine and is met their regulations to whatever they decide, that has to be on their hassa plan they begin trimming and processing it on it. So they animal hasn't even been gone maybe an hour and a half hour and they begin and you're a hundred percent hamburger may not be... It's gonna be a hundred percent beef, but it may not be off of what you think it's going to be. You know, it may be parts of the tongue. It may be parts of, you know, tendons or whatever it's going to be.

Mark Rippetoe:
They can put anything they want to in hamburger? Pretty much. There must be some limitation on putting salivary glands and pancreas. But there's but. But skeletal muscle.Any components of that can be in that in the hamburger.

Eric Kennedy:
Right. Yeah.

Mark Rippetoe:
Tongue. They can put tongue in hamburger

Eric Kennedy:
They can put it in there.

Mark Rippetoe:
Tongue is good, as tongue. Oh look at these kids. It's lengua the the the Spanish language calls lengua.

Mark Rippetoe:
And it's it's excellent. Yeah. It really is excellent.

Eric Kennedy:
I've had it where you boil it and then you peel the outer skin off. Yeah. Let it chill down, slice it, slice it then and then bread it and fry it. Oh.

Mark Rippetoe:
Oh good. So it's good if you've never had it, you need to try that. It really is excellent stuff. I can't imagine wasting a tongue on hamburger.

Eric Kennedy:
It's actually really smooth. I mean it's just...

Mark Rippetoe:
Oh yeah. It's good. Yeah, it's excellent. Oh there's all kinds of things that people don't think about eating.

Eric Kennedy:
Sweet bread.

Mark Rippetoe:
Sweetbreads are excellent sweetbreads or sweetbreads or the pineal gland. Sometimes they call the pancreas sweetbread. They're two different organs. Pineal gland is a large gland in a calf and the older the animal gets, the smaller it gets until the animal's 2 years old and eventually the pineal glands been absorbed and it's not there.

Mark Rippetoe:
So anything it's got a decent sized sweetbread in it is a young steer. But that is amazing stuff. Mountain oysters. Calf fries, we call them. That's... you people... I mean, it'sgood. It's got a fabulous flavor. It's hard for you people in Brooklyn and San Francisco to understand this, but we know things that you don't. And that's one of them.

Eric Kennedy:
Hanging tender and, you know, a lot of people...

Mark Rippetoe:
Hanging tenders are... I'm seeing that for sale in places. That's a piece of the diaphragm muscle.

Eric Kennedy:
Yeah. And I'd like to do.

Mark Rippetoe:
But it if it's an awfully good piece of meat. And that's one of those things that doesn't last if you dry age a carcass five weeks, you've got to take the skirt steaks out. And the hanging tenders out because they're exposed and they'll dry out into jerky. You can't use them.

Eric Kennedy:
They have no fat over them or anything to be able to.

Mark Rippetoe:
So you take those two pieces out oh, after five days. You want to get those out of there immediately. But then the rest of the carcass goes ahead and ages. But haning tender I've seen on menus now. And it's good beef. Yeah. It's damn good beef.

Eric Kennedy:
I used to carry it in the shop. The only problem is I now they're often frozen. And once it gets frozen then I try to put it in the case and it doesn't have very good appearance for very long. So right I have to kind of steerr away from it. But yeah it's it's amazing. Amazing piece meat.

Mark Rippetoe:
Yeah. It's, it's got about twice as much flavor. As is the other beef. It would be like cheek meat. Ever seen in a Mexican restaurant, cabeza.

Eric Kennedy:
Barbacoa.

Mark Rippetoe:
Barbacoa. Same thing. Head meat, cheek meat. Stuff's rich. Has a very, very strong beeff flavor. It's delicious. Oh, God, it's good. So if you only eat ribeyes, you're missing out on a lot of excellent food.

Mark Rippetoe:
If you're... if you've got the if if the ick factor is strong in you, you need to grow up because I have... I have seen and I've eaten in a restaurant in Dallas udder meat. Yeah. Oh, God, I had no idea.

Mark Rippetoe:
I just ordered it because I had never seen it before. My God, that's good. It's just, you know, look. Open up. Broaden your horizons. There's a world of good food out there. If you'll just quit being a little titty baby.

Eric Kennedy:
Pun intended?

Mark Rippetoe:
No pun intended.

Mark Rippetoe:
So you've got to if you've just got to you've got to wrap your mind around the the that you don't know all there is to know about what tastes good until you experiment around with it. And guys like Eric here can can help you learn. And if you've got a guy like this in your area, you need to take advantage. Talk to him. Ask him what he thinks. Pick his brain. Ask him if he'll order you stuff. Guys like this are terribly interested in the fact that you're interested in what they do because guys like this are important to us.

Mark Rippetoe:
And I appreciate your being here today.

Mark Rippetoe:
Thank you for having us here for coming down today. Eric Kennedy's at Red Barn Butchers here in Wichita Falls. And he's got a website and that's what?

Eric Kennedy:
WWW dot redbarnbutchers dot com.

Mark Rippetoe:
There's three Ws but we just say Red Barn Butchers dot com and you can get a hold of him there. You'd call him on the phone, call him and talk to him. He'll be glad to discuss all of this stuff with you. And if he can help you, he'll do it. He's a real good guy. He'll he's always been fabulous when I walk in and ask him to do some stupid like make some cutlets form me, he'll stop what he's doing. Stop what he's doing and do it. So we appreciate him being here today.

Mark Rippetoe:
And we appreciate you watching us here on Starting Strength Radio. We'll see you next time.

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Mark Rippetoe and Eric Kennedy from Red Barn Butchers discuss the retail side of the meat business.

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 02:16 Becoming beef
  • 07:48 USDA inspection
  • 16:16 Retailing beef
  • 23:38 Sourcing, cuts
  • 32:26 Primals, fats
  • 40:29 Finishing, grades
  • 46:57 Red Barn
  • 53:18 Aging
  • 01:01:11 Specialty beef
  • 01:07:07 The customer
  • 01:15:36 Aged hamburger

Episode Resources

Red Barn Butchers

Pappas Bros.

The Beef Industry Episode

Discuss in Forums

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