I was cozy on the couch a few weeks ago when I was taken aback by an episode of Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern. I’m watching Andrew gallivant around the University of Wisconsin’s dairy farm talking about cheese, and all was well in the world…until all of a sudden I see him reach into the stomach of a large female cow! Immediately my interest was sparked as I am fascinated by the things the medical world (both for human and animal) can do. Here this beautiful female cow is just standing there minding her own business chewing on some grass, as Andrew is elbow deep in her tummy! Andrew then pulls out large handfuls of the grass (or cud) that she is consuming and the big girl just turns and looks at him, I’m presuming with the thought of, “Hey, Dude, I’m hungry.”
The University of Wisconsin’s Department of Dairy Science is committed to researching, developing, and spreading the word of quality production of milk. As are several other universities, such as Ohio State who has cannulated cows in their Ruminant Nutrition Department as well. A cannulated cow is the technical term for a cow that has been fitted with a cannula (or what looks like a window.) A surgery is performed to provide ingress to the cow’s Rumen, so that the researchers may collect data and study the best feed combinations for future cows. The Rumen is the cow’s largest part of their four compartmental stomach and the Rumen can hold up to 50 gallons of partially digested food. Interesting, huh?
I had no idea these mysterious “cow windows” existed in the dairy science world. Andrew Zimmern, and a professor at the University of Wisconsin, go on to discuss the difference of milk and butter from a grain feed cow versus a grass fed cow, and pasteurized milk and butter versus non pasteurized.
Andrew focuses on the taste, and while I have never tried grass-fed cow milk I can imagine that it is better for you, with a higher content of vitamins.
All this cow talk started me to thinking about our grass versus grain fed beef in our restaurant. Currently we are featuring grass-fed, New Zealand Wagyu breed beef, from First Light and Darling Downs farms. These grass-fed cows feed on their pastures and are never finished on grain, and no additional supplements or hormones are given. A lot of people think that all cows eat grass, which is true, but a lot of cows feed on grass for about six months and then they are finished on a mix of corn, grains, and other supplements, and hormones, and antibiotics. Our lead line cook, Nathan Shaw, likes to joke, “Have you ever seen cows grazing on corn fields before?”
Our restaurant offers a beef tasting in addition to our Wagyu beef selection, which allows you to taste the difference between grass-fed hanging tender, New Zealand American Style Wagyu, and grain-fed beef. Pretty neat if you have never tasted grain and grass side by side before. Grass tastes a little earthier than grain, it is a bit more aromatic, and it is clean, lighter, and somewhat healthier than grain-fed. Come check it out sometime!
The world of beef, like anything else in life, is always changing. Another new exciting trend in the state of Michigan is dry-aged beef versus wet-aged beef. Wet-aged is what we are most commonly used to, where as dry-aged beef is hung in extreme climate and humidity controlled locations, to further enhance its tenderness and flavor. Webster’s has, and will continue, to offer dry-aged beef. On our new spring menu we are very pleased to offer 14 oz dry-aged ribeye, cut from 15 LB and up loin,* dry-aged 28 days, and cut in house. Very unique and very tasty! Again, if you have never tried dry and wet beef side by side, stop in and ask for a sampling of both.
The big thing that I took from writing this blog is that we are what we eat. And if we are what we eat, than the animals that we eat are what they eat. Recently a Chef said something to me during a discussion on where to dine out next that really resonated with me. He said that it worries him when he looks at a dinner menu and the restaurant does not tell you where their beef is coming from. I started thinking about that, and started thinking that it may be even more unsettling to ask the servers, who I bet will hesitate and look at you with a quizzical face as if you were trying to pull one over on them. That thought makes my stomach churn even more, and it makes me appreciate our restaurant and all that we stand for. It also makes me appreciate our servers who are eager to learn and for a culinary staff who is eager to teach them.
Please tell me to get off my high horse at anytime by the way, as I am a recovering Taco Bell addict by night. I realize that it is not realistic to eat out all the time, or to eat premium quality food at all times, but every once in awhile while I’m painting the town red (those few times that they let me out of the four walls of what is Webster’s Prime…) 🙂 I choose to dine in those very rare finds, that treat you like deserve to be treated, and feed you like you deserve to be fed.
* Which means that every primal (the whole boneless rib loin of the domestic cow) that Webster’s gets in house will be at least 15 pounds and no less.