We just left Winfield Livestock Auction. Great info, nice people, and I got a hat. Good times.

Let’s see– important takeaways from the auction house or “sale barn”:

1. Seriously, Justin Brazle was a heckuva nice guy. (Yep, I said heckuva. Deal with it.) He was definitely motivated to make money, but didn’t have the corporate business man feel. Good times.
2. He puts his auctions on the Internet for real time bidding. Take that eBay!
3. His job is to help the beef industry reduce risk.

Sadly, buying cattle is expensive (cattle are bought and sold in 50,000 pound lots.) That means that a lot of money is tied up in a shipment and a lot of money can be lost on a herd. To make matters worse, right now the market is high. If it takes a downturn, a lot of people could lose a lot of money.

Not so good times.

Now… On the way to witness a “harvest.” It’s time to watch a cow die. ūüôĀ

We had to be up at 6:15 this morning to have our bags stowed so we could be on the bus at 7:00 so we could then sit for 15 minutes. Grrr.

Not the it comes up much, but I am not a morning person. At least the restaurant serves Tazo Awake tea. Through it, I am barely functional.. Although, according to some, that makes a commie (thanks Jennifer! :))

I’ll do more of an indepth recap later, but suffice it to say we won the entree round last night (boo yeah!!!!… does anyone say boo yeah anymore?) Our dish was seared terris major steak over red wine risotto with a red wine buerre blanc with sauted vegetables finished with Tasteful Olive cinnamon pear balsamic. I think we could have given the dish a sexier name. Love steak or tender steak well done. Something…

Anyway, the important takeaway is that I made the risotto. Because I am awesome.

Today’s itenerary is very full. We’re headed to a livestock auction and then to a processing plant. Yep, today I get to see them kill a cow.

I had a light breakfast…

Okay, that’s all for now. Enjoy!

So, I went to my first Concentrated Animal Feed Operation and I have to say I am a bit underwhelmed. In a good way.

Muich like California, Pratt Feeders lot seems filled with happy cows. They all had space, food was plentiful, and they had access to water. There wasn’t much shade, but the breeze was nice.

I don’t know maybe I’m just tired, but that seems like the biggest takeaway. The CAFO seemed like a pretty okay place for a cow to be.

Something that stuck with me during the tour… We had a backgrounder on the tour bus talking about what he does. (I had no idea but a backgrounder is, conceptually, an intermediate feedlot. Cows are taken to a backgrounder and fed a cheaper feed to add size.)

I found his comment interesting. After coming from hearing Gordon Stucky talk about the importance of weaning calves in a stress-free environment, we heard the backgrounder mention some of the calves who come to him are weaned on the semi from the Southeast to his ranch. Not exactly stress-free… At least the calves have a backgrounder to look after them.

Hopefully, they are a nice as some of the guys we’ve met.

Now leaving Stucky Ranch. Had a great lunch (courtesy of Fence Post Catering)! Guess what? It was beef! It was really good BBQ beef, beans, spicy chips, and ranch pasta salad with veggies.

During lunch, Gordon Stucky spoke about calf weaning (getting a calf off milk) and how to do it as stress-free as possible. It’s kind of touchy subject because it sounds kind of cruel, but at the same, every calf has to be weaned. For his part, Gordon does everything to make it as stress free as possible and to be as considerate of the calf as possible. He is about as far from the evil villian rancher as you can get. He’s much closer to the “Aw shucks” good ‘ol boy cowboy you might find in a romance novel. Not that he’ll ever talk to me again for saying so. And I’m kind of going off general impression here…can’t say I’ve ever read a cowboy romance novel…

But I digress.

Dr. Dan Thomson also gave a very forceful talk on the public impression of agriculture. As a vet and a policymaker, he feels criticized by certain groups and responded to some of the arguments. Without going point by point, his response generally can be summed with two of his statements.

Do cows get mistreated in the beef industry? Yes.
Is it common? No.

He was very clear that no one gets sicker over videos of cattle abuse than the industry. In general, he feels that perceptions of the industry overall is driven by the actions of a small few. He points to numerous standards, laws, and training that has come from the industry to prevent poor animal welfare.

It was a good presentation that supplied food for thought.

Okay, so I am going to try live blogging my Pasture to Plate trip. So far, things have gotten off to a great start. If by great, I mean further revealing that I have a lot of maturing to do.

First off, everyone is really nice. The Kansas Beef folks have rolled out the red carpet and we’re even staying near about the prettiest spot in Wichita, which is not well know for it’s “pretty.”

So, thanks for that.

Also, thanks to the McCurry Bros (and wives and grandchildren.) Your land was beauitful and your knowledge of cattle production was amazing. The amount of science that goes into what you do is pretty astounding.

Which is why I hope that I was able to keep my giggling to a minimum during the conversation on cow artificial insemination and semen extraction in bulls. Those who know me will be proud of my restraint…

More later! Enjoy!

Beef Spice Rubs

So, I’ve been gearing up for the cooking competition¬†(technically I think it’s just a showcase, but I¬†bet there will be judging or others eating…so I call it a competition)¬†which lay ahead¬†(the one I’m being sponsored to compete in by the Missouri Beef Council that I mentioned in an earlier post.)¬† I’ve been doing a lot of cooking with different cuts of beef (mmm…rib eye), but mainly I’ve been thinking.

Amongst the major proteins, red meat, and steak in particular, has one unique property that I have to account for in the competition: it tastes good by itself.¬† You can take a steak, sprinkle it with salt and pepper, let heat do its thing for 2-3 minutes per side plus 6-8 minutes in the oven and you have a masterpiece…and you didn’t have to fuss one second . With a good steak, the best thing you can do is get out of its way.

But This is Still a Competition

I keep seeing the judges’ face (who look¬†a lot like Tom Colicchio in my mind’s eye) as they examine¬† my perfectly cooked steak and giving me the “all¬† you did was add salt and pepper to this steak?¬† Please pack your knives and go” look.¬† No, wait, Padma’s there, too.¬† Which starts Mrs. WellDone yelling at me because I’m spending time with that woman and suddenly, this imagining is getting me into a lot of trouble…

Anyway, until Sunday, ¬†my thought was that this competition will live and die on the sides I prepare.¬† Which is why I have been cooking sides.¬† Lots of sides.¬† And maybe a sauce.¬† So I’ve been cooking sauces.

But then it occurs to me…I could choose spice rubs other than salt and pepper.¬† Theywouldn’t need to be as aggressive as the rub I’d put on BBQ or chicken or slow cooked Mexican pork because they would tend to hide the flavor of the steak.¬† But, a little rub might be just the trick.

Here’s three rubs I am seriously considering.

Continue Reading

artichoke ginseng flipTea-sty Tuesday: Ginseng Artichoke Teas

There are some teas that make you run–not walk– to the kitchen to get more hot water.¬† There are some teas that make you happy to be awake.¬† And there are some teas that make you say “What the [insert favorite expletive here]…”

Ginseng Artichoke Tea – Making You Say What The…?

So I ran across this particular gem that a coworker brought (or perhaps an ex-coworker left, I’m not really sure…)¬† It was nestled amongst some taro candy and something gelantinous that I’m not entirely sure what was (coconut I think.)¬† To be honest, I don’t really know anything about that the tea, except that no one else was drinking it.¬† So I, of course, had to.

And really, that’s how I get myself into trouble.¬† I’m the Mikey of my generation… I’ll try anything.¬† Sometimes, like my first experience with pig’s salad, everything¬†goes okay.¬† Other times, I end up drinking ginseng artichoke tea.

All¬†I can say is that it was an experience I shan’t soon forget.¬† From the weird way drops of water fell off the teabag into my mug, diffusing in a way that looked a little too much¬†like blood to the taste of fried foot odor, ginseng artichoke tea is not a memory I’ll be able to destroy any time soon.

And with that, we go to the breakdown.

Ginseng Artichoke Tea’s Ingredients

I have no idea.  I am assuming ginseng or artificial ginseng flavoring and artichoke or artificial artichoke flavoring.  And tea.

Ginseng Artichoke Tea’s Aroma

Not awful, actually.  The smell was very savory, but a little sweet, kind of like fried artichokes with a side of mayo.  The smell of the ginseng, an odor I associate with awful, was completely masked under the pleasant smell of artichoke.

In fact, the aroma gave me high hopes.  They were soon to be dashed.

Ginseng Artichoke Tea’s Taste

Above I described the taste as being akin to fried foot odor.  I stand by that.

Ginseng Artichoke Teas’s Effects

Well…let’s see…people laughed at me.¬† Does that count?

All in all, for a tea that is supposed to have ginseng, the overall effect was pretty weak.  I got a little bit of a boost, but that could have been from the rush of folk laughing at me.

Ginseng Artichoke Tea Overall

Surprise surprise..1 cup out of 5.¬† I was just not a fan, but nonetheless…enjoy!