Wisconsin beef, it’s what’s for dinner

Crystal Siemers-Peterman
Alice in Dairyland
Wisconsin has more beef farms than dairy farms that contribute more than $2 billion to our state's economy.

As Alice, I welcome any and all questions that anyone might have about our state’s agriculture industry. I always joke that if we grow it or raise it, I get to talk about it. With each question that I get asked, it’s a great opportunity to provide an accurate and thorough answer to not only educate but to also have a genuine conversation on the “How, What, and Whys” of Wisconsin agriculture.

One place that I can expect many questions is in fourth grade classrooms. Questions like, “Do cows get dizzy on the carousel parlor?” or “Why is the skin of the potato the most nutritious part?” keep me on my toes. Recently one question that surprised me was, “Alice, what is your favorite meal?” 

Without skipping a beat my response: A ribeye steak, medium-rare, with Wisconsin blue cheese crumbles on top. Hands down.

Beef, it’s more than what’s for dinner. Here in Wisconsin, we have more beef farms than dairy farms. These farms play a great role in our state’s agriculture industry, providing more than 35,000 jobs and contributing more than $2 billion to our state’s economy.

When it comes to beef choices in the display case, we are fortunate in Wisconsin to have a wide variety of products to choose from. Sometimes these choices can be overwhelming, so here’s a breakdown of some of the terms you may come across.

First and foremost, all beef is inspected for wholesomeness and is graded for quality and palatability. The three beef grades include prime, choice, and select. Prime cuts of beef are highly marbled with fat and full of flavor, choice cuts contain moderate amounts of marbling and are the most widely available grade, and select grades contain minimal marbling, making it a leaner option.

No matter how it’s raised, aged, or processed, beef is part of a healthy diet.

You may also encounter beef raised by a variety of different methods, including grass fed beef. An important thought to consider is that nearly all beef is raised on grass forage. The difference between grass-fed and grain-fed cattle is determined in the finishing period. Grain-finished cattle spend just the last 4 to 6 months consuming a balanced diet of forages and grain, while grass-finished cattle consume solely grass forage.

Beef can also develop additional flavors through wet and dry aging. Wet aged steak is aged up to 21 days in a refrigerated environment and is a common method of aging for a traditional beef flavor. Steaks can also be dry aged for up to 28 days uncovered in a refrigerated environment, producing a distinctive brown-roasted beefy flavor.

No matter how it’s raised, aged, or processed, beef is part of a healthy diet. One 3-oz. serving of lean beef contains just 150 calories. Naturally nutrient-rich foods such as lean beef also help people get more essential nutrients in fewer calories. A 3-oz. serving of lean beef contributes less than 10 percent of calories to a 2,000-calorie diet, yet it supplies more than 10 percent of the Daily Value for ten essential nutrients. Those ten essential nutrients include protein, iron, choline, selenium, B-vitamins, zinc, phosphorus, niacin and riboflavin.

Lean cuts of beef make up more than 60 percent of all beef muscle cuts sold at grocery stores and contain less than 10 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat, and no more than 95 mg of cholesterol per 3.5 ounce serving. When choosing lean cuts of beef, look for “loin” or “round” in the name. Popular lean beef cuts include strip steak, T-bone, or tenderloin steak.

Start your day off right by adding thinly sliced deli beef to your breakfast sandwich or seasoned ground beef to scrambled eggs. While I’m logging thousands of miles across the state, beef jerky and beef sticks are some of my favorite snacks. Whether you’re enjoying steak tacos or a classic pot roast, be sure to incorporate a delicious beef entrée item for dinner. For more beef tips and recipes, visit www.beeftips.com.