Good afternoon, Benson Farms Family,
Jason here. I’m sending this out a little early this week for Thanksgiving, but there are a few things going on that I really wanted to tell you about.
Benson Farms Update: With the cooler (and sometimes downright cold) weather here, the summer grasses have quit growing and gone dormant. That means we are now in a new routine of feeding hay. We try to put out enough hay each weekend to last through the week. We place metal hay rings around the bales so that the cows don’t waste hay by strewing it out and making a mess.
News Spotlight: Many of you may have seen the Tyson Foods recall in the news this week. If you missed it, recalled over 90,000 pounds of ground beef. Now, as y’all know, I’m no fan of the Big Four meat packers. I’ve gone into great detail in the past about why our dry-aged beef tastes better. I’ve covered how our dry-aging process intensifies the flavor and produces a more tender product, like the steaks you find in the finest chop houses. I also explained why commercial beef is grain finished instead of being finished naturally on grass. Today I want to address something that I really can’t emphasize enough… SAFTEY.
The Grass-finished Difference: As I said, I’ve often pointed out recalls and incidents associated with the big commercial meat processors. But it occurred to me this week that I’ve never gone into detail about “why” and “how” our beef is safer. So, I’d like to take a minute and dive into that. But first, let’s answer a few questions:
[Q] Why does meat get recalled?
[A] Most meat safety recalls are due to concerns over some kind of health risk. Sometimes it could be due to possible “foreign matter” contamination, such as metal or plastic from the processing or packing machines. However, recalls are often the result of dangerous bacteria such as E. Coli or Salmonella. That was the case for the recent Hello Fresh and Whole Foods incidents.
[Q] How does commercial beef increase safety risk?
[A] There are really two ways that the Big Four meat processors contribute to the increased safety concerns in beef. First, because their model is based on volume. Large plants can process 300 to 400 cows per hour. That means that more than 3,000 cows can go through equipment in an 8-hour shift. If an average cow produces 400 pounds of ground beef, that over a million pounds per day. All it takes is one mistake, where some manure gets on some meat. Then all of that meat is mixed together, passes though the same equipment, and is all potentially contaminated.
Which brings me to my second point, employee turnover. Processing plants have historically seen 75 to 100% employee turnover per year. Because of the extremely high turnover rate, many of the most important jobs, where mistakes can lead to contamination, are performed by unskilled workers. It is hard work and doesn’t typically include good pay or benefits.
I know what you’re thinking, “Here you are going off on the meat processors again. What does that have to do with your meat?” Well, now let me explain why our meat is safer. To do that, I want to take a moment to contrast our production processes with those I just mentioned.
First, dry-aging kills bacteria. Our dry-aging process involves hanging the beef in a cold room with low humidity and good airflow for at least 14 days. Since bacteria require warm, moist conditions to survive, the process of dry-aging acts as a natural (there’s that word again) antimicrobial, eradicating bacteria on the carcass.
Second, our artisan butchers are very skilled in their craft. Like us, they are a multi-generation family business. They don’t use assembly lines of giant equipment to process our meat. They use knives. Sharp ones. And they do it with the skill that has been passed down from father to son from one generation to the next. Because they butcher each beef individually, there isn’t a chance for hundreds of cows to be mixed together and contaminating thousands of pounds of beef. And because they take pride in their craft, they are careful to avoid dangerous, costly mistakes.
Appreciation: I know that sometimes I may seem like a bit of a curmudgeon, but Sandy and I try to always live a life of gratitude and to raise the kids to do the same. We teach them to “look at the bright side” and remind them that when things get bad, they could be worse. As we prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow, I just want to say again how thankful I am for you. None of this is possible without people like you who have a desire to do things differently and are willing to think outside the box.
From our family to yours, have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving.
Until next time,