With drought driven cattle liquidations and high cost feed, there continues to be a glut of meat. This should drive meat prices even lower and be incentive for you to keep your grills fired up.

However, bargain basement prices often do more to drive customers away from the meat counter. When panic selling sets in, there is little regard for qualify, and often these under-finished cattle end up being sold right alongside the high end beef. Not knowing the difference, the average consumer unwittingly throws it on the grill, only to be so disappointed. Meat standards have to be adhered to and understood, or the satisfaction of the grill will be missed entirely. Cut identification, grade, and proper cutting all contribute to the gourmet, satiety value of the grilling experience. So don’t let this glut of cheap meat ruin a rich experience.

You may have already grilled your way through this summer – the hottest one ever recorded – but with Labor Day a recent memory, and all this extra meat on the market, you may want to reconsider your grilling plans for this year by stretching it out for all winter. And if you  just can’t resist some of these extremely cheap cuts, learn to adjust your grilling methods to accommodate both the weather and these less expensive cuts.

Instead of grilling individual steaks and chops, cook whole muscle cuts that aren’t so sensitive to temperature and actually become more tender the longer they are cooked over low to medium heat. These whole muscle cuts will weigh from 6 to 12 pounds, so you will have to plan accordingly. But they can be most forgiving when simply browned and slowly cooked in any kind of weather. There are just two things to remember — cut across the grain, and cut thin to win the hearts hearts of those of those you’re trying to please. Any cut of meat cut thin enough will be as tender as hamburger.

The high end thick cuts should be reserved for individual steaks and chops, but whole muscles like that of the arm-chuck, top sirloin, or sirloin tip will work just fine. They are also more conducive to the use of the meat thermometer (man’s best friend). With experience, you will find the touch/appearance approach to doneness to be adequate. But with these larger, thicker cuts the thermometer will give you results that will be done to perfection.

But as we work our way through this glut of meat, the hamburger will be the real winner. The hamburger is that one meat product that cuts across the entire beef industry, and from which every weight and grade becomes a contributor. From the finest dining pleasure of prime beef, to that of the lowly cow standing upright at the manger, it all makes hamburger. Each contributes to the mix and blend of all its parts to make whole — the hamburger.

The hamburger is always of greatest demand during the grilling season, but remember, with all these under-finished cattle, lean is not always better. Let’s face it: When it comes to ground meat, fat adds flavor. Fat adds flavor to any cut of meat, thus the need for marbling found in the higher quality cuts of meat. But adding fat will be  particularly important during this time of an abundance of low quality cattle. This meat contains little or no marbling, and would be extremely dry and tasteless if it weren’t for the co-mingling and mixing of fat from higher quality cuts.

Thus, when selecting hamburger, don’t always go for the leanest, most expensive. It will destroy the experience of good outdoor cooking. Select the cheapest, fattest burger you can find, and control the fat content with the sizzle. Turn up the heat, flip quickly and sear in those rich, savory juices. Any excess fat is cooked out of the burger, while at the same time retaining unbelievable, scrumptious flavor.

Though the burger may not be the health food of choice, it has been declared the all-American food of preference. The burger has probably done more for the livestock industry than any other meat product. And the health issue is debatable. Unlike that of all the competitive detractors out there, none compare with the unique nutritional dietary requirements that meat provides. Take for instance, iron. The brain needs iron to make mood-regulating chemicals, like dopamine — in fact, people who are iron-deficient may be fifty-percent more likely to become depressed than those with higher iron levels! Meat contains more happiness-promoting Omega-3 fats than any other source.

So why not add more happiness to your life, while tasting the best product you can put on your plate? Just don’t compromise selection in the temptation of an over-crowded meat case. Just two small servings a week (8 to 12 ounces) will keep you happy and satisfied.

Keep those grills fired up and a smile on your face.


(more insightful stories written by Ken Knight)

Ken E. Knight is the author of the “Knightro Report”, a nationally syndicated livestock-marketing column, which is featured in this publication on a regular basis. Mr. Knight is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a major BS Degree in Meat and Animal Science and a minor in Communications. In addition to being a professional auctioneer, public speaker and livestock judge, he brings many years of corporate level meat and livestock market management and expertise to the industry for which he now serves as an independent voice of shared knowledge and experience.


For more in-depth information regarding the topics that have been touched upon in this report, Knightro conducts livestock marketing seminars on a regular basis. To schedule a seminar, auction, judging, or speaking engagement, please contact Ken Knight, Knightro, W11911 County Road FF,  River  Falls,  WI 54022,  phone  toll free 1-877-KNIGTRO, phone 715-262-8480,  fax 715-262-8480, e-mail [email protected]t; or contact the Midwest Farm & Livestock Directory at [email protected].