I am looking forward to processing my first steer sometime soon... it's a 50/50 Wagu/Highland that's lived on grass on the same hills its whole life. I may be biased but I think it's going to be an excellent beef!
When I look at some guides for farms and beef buyers I often see ballpark 50% of the meat ending up as ground beef.
My understanding is that most of the chuck and round end up as ground.
I'm looking for a framework where I end up with more distinct cuts and less ground. I know the "lesser" cuts are tougher and fattier but I am OK with that... It's up to me to convince my takers that this grass-fed cow is worth long-cooking and experimenting with. Additionally this grass-fed beef fat is a prize in its own right. I am fine with seeing more fat on finished cuts since I know how to cook with that.
My question is... is there a place I can research alternate cutting, or are there different (possibly archaic) cutting schemes? Presumably when a farmer butchered a steer 500 years ago they weren't putting 50% of the finished edible product in the grinder.
Ask the butcher to only mince the off cuts, and leave all the other cuts whole. 50% is minced because that's what the consumer wants not because it has to be, and if you are having it cut for you you get to say how much of the non prime bits you want minced.
The last time we got one done here I actually helped the butcher, they do not understand stew or slow roast meat here, they keep the steak cuts and a bit from the rump and mince everything else. So every time he cut a bit off, like the brisket I was like, nope not minced. the only bits I let go in the mincer where to off-cuts and all the bits between the ribs and on the belly. But basically just talk to the butcher and say you want as little mince as possible.
He does "traditional" butchery. He also cooks the old way and utilizes parts that normally don't these days.
I envy you. I just had my first taste of grass fed beef. It was short ribs which I'd never had so when I saw some in the store, I bought them and they weren't near as good. Short ribs are one of those things you have to slow cook or pressure cook. I got an Instant Pot recently which is what I cooked the short ribs in.
Slow cooking or pressure cooking is a way to use those cuts that would often become ground beef.
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
If not now, when?
While I haven't done this with beef, when I get a hog, I ask the butcher to minimize the ground and instead ask for the smaller bits to be packaged up in 1 lb packages that I then toss with sausage spices and grind myself, or for some sausages half gets hand cut and half ground. I like options when I get whole animals, minimal processing by the butcher allows me more options.
When i took mine in, we filled a form together. 2 areas i remember being an option was the chuck roast(?) That is lean so the option was having the roast or having it ground. The other was the ribs-getting ribs vs having that meat ground.
Oh, i overheard a conversation they had on the phone with someone. It may or may not be a factor for you. It seemed that 30 months of age is a big factor with beef. At that age maybe you DO NOT get t-bones? Maybe the quality of all cuts go down?
When butchering older animals , the meat can be ground fairly course so that its suitable for a wide variety of sausages. The grinding process itself does some tenderizing and depending on how it's spiced, that can really soften it up.
I totally understand your desire to have plenty of cuts from a good animal.
I have eaten a goat that was past its prime. That one would have been much better ground up and spiced with pepper. Almost anything would have been an improvement over how it was prepared.
The grinder has its place, for making use of offcuts and making use of lesser carcasses. It's a shame to run tender meat through it.
Its not clear of you are asking about how to do it yourself or how to talk with a butcher about how you want your beef cut. If you are working with a butcher, just have to ask them what they are willing to do.
From what I've been around, there is lots of flexibility. Cut it all into steaks, all into roasts, the trimmings become burger. A true artist and chef can have valid reasons why each cut is optimal to the muscle group, but if you are doing it yourself and it's almost midnight and you have been cutting all day it turns out any cookable shape works.
A tip for the future, if you have a really old cow or bull and are working with ordinary butchers who don't know any of the beef aging techniques, the guidelines about it being tough are real. My family had to get out the meat grinder and reprocess some tasty but almost inediblly tough meat.
To make sure we’re talking a similar language: you have a castrated bull (steer) that has been grass-fed (free range reared) all its life?
Then you have high quality meat on the hoof!
Here, almost all our domestic beef is free range pasture (semi desert) fed, so the meat has less marbling (fat), is darker in colour and more gamier in flavour, and generally more nutritious than grain fed – high Omega 3, no antibiotics, etc.
Basically, the animal consumes what it was meant to naturally eat.
Wagu will obviously have more marbling because of genetics.
If your beast was raised and (eventually) slaughtered in a stress-free state, then the resultant meat should be perfect – a stressed animal produces lower quality meat, see Lactic Acid production, etc.
A quality Butcher is worth their weight in beef – if one tried to ground (mince) 50% of the meat here, there’d be a separate package containing 100% minced Butcher! In many instances, Butchers charge by the ‘cut’, so I’m guessing a lot of people want to save money and therefore gets a higher percentage minced.
If you’re VERY lucky, you may find a butcher that also knows Charcuterie.
The attached ‘Beef Cuts Poster’ should give you an indication, though it omits the head = jowls and tongue, and organ meat. Marinated beef tongue, tripe, steak (shin beef)and kidney pie, stock (broth) made from the neck and bones, mmmmmmm!
So, there’s bugger-all that really needs to be ground – probably the round steak and the bits and pieces trimmed from elsewhere.
If you are DIY-ing the butchering, let your culinary preferences guide the way you cut. E.g. A LOT of butchers will just bone out the shanks and grind the meat rather than leave them whole (smaller animals like elk, deer, sheep, etc) or cut into sections (like with large beef) for braising. Necks often get that same treatment, but can be excellent braised. Likewise a lot of front shoulder cuts. Few will cut with an eye towards curing, so if you want to do whole muscle cures you'll need to figure out how to produce the cuts specifically for that.
If you're going to have a someone else do the cutting (pro or am) you'll still need to tell them how to cut it so as to not only get the cuts you want, but also to minimize the ground meat. At a minimum you'll need to tell them which types of steaks you want, which types of roasts, etc.
And keep in mind that there are parts of the animal frequently discarded that have significant food value. Besides the edible offal, the heads contain a surprising amount of meat. The last elk my group got was shot by my daughter. It was a cow elk, so no horns, but she wanted the head (sadly it got stolen by a scavenger). But I salvaged the cheek meat and braised that. It was fabulous. I made a head cheese with a cow elk I shot a few years ago. I admit it wasn't great, but it was OK, and if you like that it's a good way to extract a considerable amount of meat from a beef head.
Up-thread a couple folks have mentioned Scott Rea. I definitely recommend you commit some time to surfing his channel on YouTube as there's a wealth of information. Not a huge amount on beef specifically, but a lot of what he does with lambs, deer, etc is transferable to beef. He trims more than I would, but all those pieces he trims goes into the diced (i.e. stew/kabob hunks) or minced (ground) piles.