We get more questions about this breed than any other we’ve ever done. What in the world does “Live Aged” mean? Why is it 40 months old? Is it any good? Let’s see if we can help out with some of the questions about our Special Release #1.
First, a brief history of what a typical steer’s life looks like in the American beef industry.
Most animals are born on family farms around America. They are typically raised on grass and mother’s milk until about nine months of age. At that point, they are sold to a finishing operation. The purpose of these is to get weight put on the steer as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is most often done with a steamed, flaked corn based feed. When the animal is “finished”, around 18-20 months of age, they are harvested and sent to your local grocery store.
If you’re familiar with Hi Brau Beef, you know that we do things differently. The animals are born and raised on our family farm, and they live here their entire lives. They are kept on grass from birth to harvest, and are never put in a feedlot. Even our grain finished animals only receive grain as a supplement, and only while they still have constant access to pasture. They are never harvested before 24 months of age, and it’s usually closer to 30 months.
This is where the big differences come into play.
First, these are full blood, 100% Angus cattle. Our other cattle are often crosses of other breeds. Neither way is right or wrong, but this is one time that we use a full blood animal.
Second, and the big point, is the “Live Aging”. We already mentioned that grocery store beef is typically 18 months at harvest, and Hi Brau Beef averages around 29 months at harvest. Our Live Aged Angus are 40 months old at harvest. Why does that matter?
Here in America, we believe that older cows are bad cows. In Europe, they have a different mindset. In fact, many of the highest quality restaurants and selective consumers seek out beef that’s significantly older…sometimes ten years old! This is because they know that, just like a fine wine, with aging comes flavor.
The flavor on these is the pinnacle of robust, grass flavor. The beef has tastes of umami, mineral, and spice. On top of that, the extra time allows for the animal to increase marbling. These animals usually produce steaks in the “Low Prime” area, or the same level as top steakhouses across the nation.
Though we usually don’t address the size of the steaks, these are uniformly larger than most of our other steaks, as these animals are larger at harvest.
With increasing age comes increasing marbling, flavor, and…toughness. At about 40 months of age, the muscle fibers undergo physiological changes that increase toughness. That’s why we have been stopping at 40 months rather than going longer (though we’ll try to go longer at some point as the Europeans do). According to our highly scientific testing of eating the steaks, we would still call these steaks tender, but not as tender as our younger South Poll and Angus.
Because of the extra time and expense involved in Live Aging steers, very, very few people attempt it. Since we love to try new things though, we’re happy to offer the chance to try it…when we have it in stock. Our 40 Month Live Aged Angus is one of our more common Special Releases, but it’s still not something that’s in stock all the time. If you happen to see it in stock, try it out!