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Beef: It’s more than just meat

February 27, 2013


For the last three weeks, I have written about beef and its nutritive value and I have given you a variety of healthy beef recipes that I hope you have tried. Today, I want to switch gears to another “beefy” topic — the economic importance of beef.

Beef production represents the largest single segment of American agriculture. In fact, USDA says more farms are classified as beef cattle operations (35 percent) than any other type. Cattle are raised in every state with more than one million cattle operations in the United States. Although, we do export some beef to foreign markets, 90 percent of the beef produced in the U.S. is sold here.

Cattle are an important source of food, including beef, dairy products and milk. Surprisingly, cattle are also very important to sports, automobiles, medicine and art. One cannot drive a car without the by-products of cattle. Imagine, not having a Super Bowl or World Series. The footballs, baseballs, and catcher’s mitts all come from the hide of cattle. Cattle are used for much more than food and they always have been. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 50 percent of the world’s people still count on cattle to plow their fields, move heavy objects, provide power to operate machinery, carry heavy burdens, and provide transportation to move goods to market.

As was stated earlier, we get more than meat from beef cattle. Because of beef by-products, we are able to use 99 percent of every steer (everything but the moo). From a 1,300 pound steer, we get 642 pounds of retail beef cuts; 30 pounds of variety meats; 462 pounds of hide, hair, bones, horns, hooves, inedible glands and organs; and 165 pounds of fat, bones and waste. Because of the monetary value of the by-products that come from cattle, the price of beef in the super market is less than it might otherwise be.

The importance of the tremendous quantity of zinc, iron, high quality protein and B vitamins that beef contributes to the American diet is well-known. Equally noteworthy and vital are the contributions that the beef industry makes to the quality of American life beyond the dinner table. Even if, you proclaim to be a vegetarian, I doubt you could live without using some of the by-products that cattle provide for our comfort, health and safety, convenience and entertainment.

It is amazing what comes from cattle beside beef. Look around your home and there may be a cow lurking in every corner. Some of these products that are made from fats or proteins include the following: ceramics, crayons, candles, creams and lotions, deodorants, detergents, pet food, gelatin, glue, insulation, linoleum, paper, shaving cream, soaps, textiles, wallpaper and cosmetics.

To help us get where we are going, whether by land, air or sea, products from cattle include: Antifreeze contains glycerol derived from fat; asphalt contains a binding agent from beef fat; auto and jet lubricants, outboard engine oil, high performance greases and brake fluid have their origin from beef fats and proteins; glue from beef protein is used in manufacturing automobile bodies; and tires hold their shape and stay on the road because of the stearic acid from beef fat.

Cattle make a vital contribution to the medical field that enhances the quality of life for humans. Some examples are listed below:

— Blood factors (for treating hemophilia, killing viruses and making anti-rejection drugs)
— Chymotrypsin (promotes healing of burns and wounds)
— Collagen (used in plastic surgery and to make non-stick bandages)
— Cortisol (anti-inflammatory)
— Glucagon (treats hypoglycemia — low blood sugar)
— Heparin (anticoagulant used to treat blood clots)
— Pancreatin (aids in digestion)
— Thrombin (coagulant which helps clot blood)
— Vitamin B12 (prevention of B-complex deficiencies)

Stop and think about how many sports rely on equipment made from leather that comes from cattle. The next time you get your wallet out, put on a pair of shoes, gloves or jacket or get into your vehicle with leather seats — think beef. Besides, all these products, there are a few other products that are actually edible but are not meat — marshmallows, jello, gummy bears and other foods that have a gelatin base.

For more information about the importance of beef go to

Because this is a food section, this article would not be complete without some recipes.

I’d like to share some really quick and easy recipes that use convenience products found in your grocery store’s refrigerated meat section or in the freezer section. These fully cooked beef products like pot-roasts, meat loaves, meatballs, burgers, and even steaks can help you to prepare a meal in just minutes. When you see these products in your grocery store, you may think they are fairly expensive, stop and think they are practically ready to eat and you do not have to use any gas or electricity to cook it, not to mention your time and effort. For instance, a ready to eat pot roast and gravy may cost about six dollars. The cooked weight is approximately one pound and it serves four with 4 ounces servings (an adequate and healthy serving for $1.50 per serving). This roast is tender and flavorful with its own gravy. An uncooked pot roast is three to four dollars a pound, but still has to be cooked to yield a meal. A typical pot roast is from the chuck, a less tender cut of meat and must be cooked by a moist heat method of cooking for a long period of time to produce a tender product. Of course, these products are not for everyday use for most families, but they can be great for emergency meals when you get home from work late and everybody is asking “when’s dinner?” or for that person who lives alone or for a couple. Most of the fully cooked products can be used simply as is, or by adding a few other ingredients can make a great meal. Try some of these products using the recipes below:

Nelda Starks — Oktibbeha County Farm Bureau Women’s Chair — Featuring Farm to Plate information as part of Farm Bureau’s Agriculture Promotion

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