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The benefits of beef

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May is National Beef Month, and it almost seems like the month was made to celebrate this protein. Between taking Mom out for a fancy steak dinner, finally firing up the grills as spring warms up and graduation parties for certain regions, May is made for beef. The good news is, as a homesteader or someone who is more appreciative of where their food comes from, you can celebrate in myriad ways.

The United States is the world’s largest beef producer, but not all beef if raised on enormous feedlots and sold with added red food dye to make it look more appetizing in big chain grocery stores. Many local cattle producers will sell beef in quarters, halves and wholes. This can be an economical way to stock your freezer. What does that mean? You can purchase – literally – a whole cow, or half of one, or a quarter of one. Many times, the price you pay for your meat includes the time and skill it takes to cut up into the cuts you know (such as brisket, tenderloin, flank, round and chuck). By purchasing bigger pieces, you can save money by cutting up the meat yourself, or you can help support a local butcher by bringing it to them. Just make sure you have the storage space before you invest in that much beef!

If you’re not feeling that ambitious, you can always find good, local cuts of beeves raised on good, local farms by visiting your local farmers market or food co-op. The producers can provide you with all the information you need about what you’re about to eat – what the cow ate, the conditions it lived in, its care protocols (even its name, if you feel so inclined to know!).

Beef is an amazing source of protein, iron, vitamin B12 and zinc. Three ounces of lean ground beef contains 22 grams of protein – 43% of your daily needs. This size serving only contains 6.8 grams of total fat (10% of your daily needs), so a diet including lean, nutritional beef can be a great option.

And if you’re interested in raising your own beeves? These cattle are some of the easiest to care for, especially if you’re going the grass-fed route. Just make sure they have plenty of space to graze in the summer and plenty of hay to get them through the winter. (My family raised Hereford and Hereford x Angus on a pasture of about five acres, and we could comfortably raise three or four at a time. We had a great local butcher who even came and picked up the animals for us when it was time for slaughter.)

If you love beef and want to try something new, be sure to check out Beef – It’s What’s for Dinner for dozens of recipes.

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