2Bits: Beef from the “dark side.”
“Never stress about what you can’t control.”
Cattle farmers and ranchers can’t control the weather. However, they do their best to plan for it. Providing customers with premium beef includes managing for weather.
Dark beef or “dark cutters” is a beef industry term that refers to meat from cattle that have been stressed before harvest. While safe to eat, it is darker in color and may have a metallic taste.
Weather stress can create dark beef for up to two weeks prior to harvest.
The biggest risk for meat from the dark side is mother nature—weather changes and big temperature swings. So, how do farmers and ranchers that raise and market grass-fed and finished beef minimize weather risks they can’t control?
Plan for shade and shelter.
Rotational grazing with planned places for shade, rest, and shelter is an effective way to reduce weather risk. In addition to managing their cattle’s forage consumption, farmers and ranchers watch weather forecasts for an indication of temperature, wind speeds, and storms.
Pasture rotation is adjusted to give their cattle access to shade on hot days, trees to block wind on gusty days, and places for them to lay down and be warm on cold evenings. In grazing areas where there isn’t adequate protection, such as prairies, large hay bales may be positioned to protect cattle and be an additional feed source.
Plan for access to clean temperate water.
Good cattle farmers and ranchers know that having access to clean water at a moderate temperature helps maintain good digestion and maximum forage usage. Watering systems are preferred over a pond so cattle can’t stand in the water and make it muddy.
Schedule harvest times during months with the least temperature change when possible.
In many cattle raising areas, spring and fall have the greatest temperatures swings. Scheduling harvest dates to avoid these times is ideal; however, this isn’t possible for farmers and ranchers that harvest all year to meet customer needs.
Why is dark beef dark?
When cattle are stressed they use glycogen reserves. Glycogen is used by muscles after harvest to create lactic acid, which gives muscle (meat) the cherry-red color we look for. When the glycogen supply is reduced or depleted there is less lactic acid formed, leaving the meat a darker color.
Is dark meat safe to eat? Yes, it is safe to eat. However, it may not have the vibrant beef flavor you’re used to.
Get to know the farmers and ranchers that raise the beef you eat.
Ask them questions about how they manage their cattle. Learn how they rotate pastures for best forage use, while providing their cattle with protection from inclement weather.
Join 2BuyAg today. Message the farmers and ranchers that sell beef in the 2BuyAg online marketplace. Ask them how they help reduce weather stress for their cattle.