Summer supplies beef aplenty for the grill

Ryan M. Taylor


For the Capital Press

We didn't get much of a chance at spring this year on the northern plains, which is too bad because spring is probably my favorite season. I may be speaking too soon, but it looks like we'll basically go from winter right into summer.

When remnants of the December snowbanks are still hanging on in the shade of the trees in May, it means winter was an extended affair. If they're still here two weeks from now we may have to reclassify them as glaciers.

I suppose there are some good tradeoffs to the extended cool weather. If you forget your groceries in the car trunk overnight when you get home from town it's just like having them in the fridge, or freezer. The milk won't spoil and the butter stays firm. The oranges and the broccoli might take a hit, however.

Considering the way we managed our family beef supply this year, it's a good thing we had a little extra cool weather. As usual, we eat our mistakes and grill our problems.

The yearling heifers that didn't breed up, or breed in season, got fed a little extra this winter in anticipation of a trip to the abattoir. I always use the word "abattoir" when I'm within earshot of the cattle destined for that end. I'm assuming, of course, that my cattle don't understand French, and will feel less distressed than if I said words like "butcher shop." Bon appetit.

Our young, growing family requires a lot of protein, and for us that means a lot of hamburger. Luckily, we had an old cow with a stiff, arthritic hip to put in the abattoir-bound pen with two heifers.

"They'd just steal her anyway if we took her to town to the auction," we tell ourselves each year when we discover an old cow with a bad gimp or a hitch in her get along. "We'll make hamburger out of her."

Of course, I've never had a cow buyer say it really hurt his feelings not to get a chance at these kind of cows in the sales ring.

The way it works on our place, these cows and heifers meet their end right on the ranch in as peaceful and respectful a way possible. Once that's done, we haul the carcasses, lightened of what could be classified as all natural, premium ranch dog food, to the local abattoir for cutting, processing and packaging.

That's where the extra cool weather this year came in handy. It got a little late and into what might have been warm weather time when we got around to doing this job. But, no worries about getting carcasses to or meat home from 37 miles away with any sunshine or thawing this year. We may not have retrieved these packages of steaks, roasts and hamburger until the first week of May but it was still nice and cold for the trip in the plastic crates and cardboard boxes in the back of our pickup.

It was a pretty pristine operation, a good chill in the air, not a bug in sight, and any bacteria or pathogens were left shivering and hiding well away from our food supply.

There's some satisfaction to having a full freezer. Now, when I invite friends and family to come visit and spend a night or two with us, I finish with, "Don't worry, we have plenty of fresh beef."

Of course, if it's hamburgers we throw on the grill, I skip over the part about the stiff hip and the arthritis.

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