Frequently Asked Questions
Here you can get answers to our customer’s most frequently asked questions.
Learn more about our beef packages and how they are produced.
How much freezer space do I need to store my boxed beef package?
In terms of how much freezer space will be needed, the general rule is one cubic foot per 35-40 pounds of packaged meat.
Check your home freezer capacity and utilization to determine your space availability. Freezer space can vary significantly based on the size and type of freezer you may have. Kitchen refrigerators can vary from 3 cu-ft. to over 8 cu-ft. of freezer space. Home freezers only appliances can vary from 3 cu-ft. to over 21 cu-ft.
Can we come see where our Beef is produced?
At Midwest Best Beef, we strive to offer more than high quality, safe, healthy beef. We offer our customers a relationship with the land that sustains the beef, the farmer than raises the beef, and the Angus that will ultimately become the beef we sell. We welcome and encourage our customers to help us build that relationship. Farm visits are an important tool used to cultivate the relationship between the farm and the customer.
We do request that you remember this is a working farm. Farming, as with any businesses, requires decisions based on daily priorities. We will not always have time to meet and things will not always be perfect. Certain tasks will sometimes take a backseat to getting a crop harvested before the weather turns bad. That being said, we value the farm visits and encourage all our costumers to schedule a farm visit to learn more about us first hand and how our beef is produced.
How can I be sure the meat is safe?
Our beef is processed in a State licensed and inspected plant. It goes through the same rigorous inspection process as the meat in your local grocery.
What is the difference between Organic and Natural Beef?
Organic Beef is USDA certified organic. This mean the animal is raised and processed under the USDA’s National Organic Standards rules. Organic livestock are given access to the outdoors, fresh air, water, and are fed 100 percent vegetarian organic feed. Production and handling operations must undergo onsite inspections and have farm or operating plans in place in order to be certified organic. The standards also specify feed requirements, including what is and is not allowed. For instance, in organic production, livestock cannot be fed plastic pellets for roughage, or feed formulas containing urea or manure. They cannot be given antibiotics or growth hormones. Processing lockers (butcher) must segregate their handling of organic and non-organic meat.
All of these USDA requirements and record keeping drive significant cost into the final product. Additionally, finding a local locker willing to take on the organic certification regulations can be challenging.
Midwest Best naturally grown beef share many of the same standards of production. Like organic beef, our beef are fed a strict vegetarian diet containing no antibiotics, growth hormones, animal by-products. Our animals are also raised in a fresh, clean environment. Where natural deviates from organic is in the record keeping, processing and source of the vegetarian diet. Natural beef are not required to maintain the exhaustive record keeping from birth through processing that is required for Organic beef. Additionally, we are not limited to processors that are willing to take on the organic regulations required by the USDA. Finally, we are able to feed the animals conventional vegetarian feeds such as alfalfa, corn and soybeans rather than certified organic versions of the same feed stuff.
By opting to market natural beef rather than organic, we are able to provide a high quality source of beef to consumers with many of the same attributes at a price that is much more affordable. We build trust in our product by striving for full transparency. We encourage people visit the farm at any time to see for themselves how we raise our cattle. We feel the “show me” approach is more reliable than a self regulating certification process embraced by the organic industry.
Whether an organic farm or natural like ours, we encourage people to always visit the farm and shake the hand of the person who produces your beef. We feel a farm visit will tell you more about how your food is produced than government regulation.
What do you mean by grass fed, grain finished?
We like to say we raise our cattle “Old School”. We finish our beef the traditional way my father and grandfather did with quality hay and corn raised right on our farm .We appreciate that grass fed beef has many desirable health attributes but we also realize that the majority of people have come to enjoy the taste and texture of grain finished beef. While not as efficient as industrial beef feedlots or as expensive as grass fed beef, we believe our feeding system provides the best of both worlds by providing a superior beef experience you can taste along with many of the health benefits.
Our beef spend their entire life eating a diet rich in various high quality grasses and alfalfa. During the last months of production, we slowly introduce increasing amounts of corn into their diet to provide the grain finished flavor and texture desired in high quality beef. See the “Feeding” section in the Life on the Farm page for more details. Grains like corn are energy-dense, and cattle finished with grain in their diet generally yield more marbled beef with a milder flavor(less gamey) than beef finished on grass alone.
Midwest Best Beef “grass-fed, grain finished” beef is higher quality and better for the environment than conventional feedlot grain-fed beef. In contrast to our high forage diet, commercial feedlots opt for a high grain/byproduct diet with little resemblance to the animal’s natural diet. Besides being harmful to the animal, it has a negative impact on taste and texture. We refer to most traditional industrial feedlots as grain-fed rather than grain finished. Grain fed refers to the practice of feeding very little quality grasses and hay in favor of primarily a grain/byproduct diet through most of the production phase.
By feeding our cattle a diet rich in quality hay, we believe they are able to retain much of the omega 3 essential fatty acids, CLA, and other beneficial nutrients found in grass finished cattle without sacrificing the high quality taste an texture.
The animals are never concentrated in cramped feedlots or subjected to antibiotics or growth hormones. It’s grass fed , grain-finished beef done right.
Why is your beef different than commercial beef?
We are asked all the time why more farmers do not employ similar methods to develop the great tasting beef our customers have come to appreciate? Many times even farmers that direct market will still use commercial feed methods. The short answer of coarse is economics. It is cheaper to use animal and food by products and waste to feed beef than high quality vegetarian feeds. However, feed economics is not the complete answer. The system is set up to encourage a race to the bottom for beef quality. I will try to explain
Farmers in general are amazingly efficient and respond quickly to market demands. In the case of beef production, the market demands and rewards ONLY efficiently. Taste is not a characteristic rewarded and therefore it is not considered. Once this is understood, you will understand why commercial beef is the way it is and why it will never change.
If I take my cattle to the sales barn (where we sell commercial live beef), my cattle are judged on 3 things and only 3 things. The color or breed(are they Angus, Hereford, Holstein, etc)? How much do they weigh? What is the body condition(how much fat, physical shape and health appearance, etc)? That is it!! Taste does not enter into the equation. It is arguable that breed and body condition effect taste but it is not the only determining factors. The cattle go into large groups and are processed at the plant. The carcass is again graded after processing for marbling(fat) content (Prime, Choice, etc) and sold to beef distributors.
While marbling is a contributor to taste and texture, it does not tell the entire story. Fat will vary in taste, texture and color based on the diet of the beef. For example, grassfed only beef will have a yellow appearance verses grain finished which is white in appearance. We believe feeding high quality hay and grains also effects taste but there is no way to differentiate between great tasting beef on the commercial level from poor tasting beef that is derived from cheap food byproducts. The marbling may look the same but the flavor will be different. It is not feasible to have taste tester taste each animal. Since there is no way to reward the farmer for taste, there is not incentive for the farmer to consider taste in the production methods. The only considerations are how fast they can gain weight in minimal facilities, how cheap can we make the weight gain and how to keep the animal healthy until processing time. Perhaps now the commercial methods make sense. The hormone promote muscle growth. This contributes to body condition and appearance as well as rapid weight gain. The antibiotics promote healthy body appearance and keep the animal well in spite of unhealthy feedlot and poor quality feeds. The cheap feed reduces the cost of production by lowering feed costs. None of these practices have any negative consequences in the commercial food system and therefore are tacitly encouraged by the system.
In contrast when we sell beef direct to consumers, we are judged almost exclusively on the taste of the final product. Most people do not care about the breed or the weight. They do not care about the muscling or marbling of the animal. All they usually care about is the taste. Even those who care about how we treat our beef and the additives we do not use, will admit taste is paramount. No matter how healthy the beef or how well we care for them, if it does not taste good consumer will not buy from us. Taste is paramount for us and the production methods we employ are all geared toward that metric.
Given all of this it might be temping to assume any farmer that markets directly has taste as a primary consideration but that is not always true. Some farmers marketing directly to consumers still use commercial methods because of the economics. They realize that most consumers have never experienced great beef and will not realize their farmer direct beef is the same as commercial beef. One way to tell if the farmer uses commercial methods is to ask what they feed and how many beef they sell direct verse sell commercially. For us, we lose money on every beef we sell to the sales barn because of our feeding methods. If a farmer sells the majority of there cattle to the sales barn and pinches a few off for farmers markets, they are using commercial feeding methods. At Midwest Best Beef, we only raise what we think we can sell each year. This removes the commercial incentives and leaves us only with the incentives of taste, animal care, and no additives: all the things our customer care about.
What is “aged” beef?
Aging occurs while the beef is hanging in a refrigerated cooler, at a specific temperature and humidity, for 10 to 16 days after harvest and prior to cutting. When beef is dry aged two things happen. First, moisture evaporates from the muscle creating a greater concentration of beefy flavor and taste. Secondly, the beef’s natural enzymes break down the fibrous, connective tissue in the muscle, tenderizing it. Most of the tenderizing activity occurs in the first 10 to 14 days. In today’s modern processing plants, the meat is broken down and vacuum-sealed in plastic bags within 24 hours. Much of this beef will show up in a grocery store meat case within 2 to 4 days after harvest. Our beef is dry aged a minimum of 10 days.
Are the beef humanely treated?
At Midwest Best Beef, we appreciate and honor the role beef play in the food chain. Consequently, we care for our animals with as much dignity and compassion as we can until the meat is harvested.
Unlike industrial feedlots, our animals are not crowded into spaces a little as 32 sq. ft./head. We also strive to maintain clean and dry facilities. The conditions we provide eliminate the need to supplement the feed with routine antibiotics.
When it comes time to harvest the meat, the beef are transported to a local small town locker (aka butcher) in a small private livestock trailer rather than being crammed into a large semi-truck livestock trailer.
Once at the local locker, the animals are unloaded into an isolated holding pen and kept overnight for processing the next day. This allows them to calm down from the distress associated with the transport to locker. The entire process is designed to reduce stress and anxiety in the animal. Besides being inhumane, anxiety and stress have negative impacts on the beefs flavor and texture.
The steers are ultimately led to a separate room where they are dispatched. We do not use electric stun equipment. While very efficient for mass volume, these modern industrial methods can be unreliable or cause unnecessary suffering to the animal.
How does ordering bulk direct from the farm work?
You place an order for one quarter, one half, or a whole animal. We traditionally only fill bulk order in the late summer early fall. When we have a full order, we will take the beef to the plant for processing. We will put you in contact with our butcher so you can custom order your processing to your liking. Once your order is complete, you will come to the locker in Dyersville, Iowa for pickup. Delivery can be arranged for an additional charge.
Note that processing can be unique per side but not quarter. Much of the processing for both quarters of a side need to be processed the same way with some exceptions such as grinding hamburger ( ex hamburger verse roast) and packaging ( size or count per package) or specialty items. If you buy an entire half, you have complete discretion on how it is processed. If you only buy a quarter and I do not have another buyer for the other quarter, you will be limited in your processor options since I will need to process the other quarter for our freezer package sales and follow our standard processing conventions.
When can I order and am I obligated by ordering early?
Orders are taken year round, however finished animals are available late summer and fall. We will do our best to accommodate your delivery date. This is dependent on the finish of each beef and coordinating orders to process the whole beef. Once we are close to delivery to the locker, we will confirm the order with you and request a $200/quarter down payment. The down payment demonstrates a commitment to complete the order. The orders are filled on a fist come first serves basis. A down payment guarantees you share.
For orders that come in after our beef is processed, we do keep back a few quarters to fill new orders. However these quarters are processed generically to appeal to the broadest possible customer base. The pre-processed quarters contain the following:
Rib Eye, Sirloin, T-bone, and round steaks.
Chuck, Rump, Sirloin, and Arm Roast
Hamburger and Stew Meat.
Any item can be replaced with Ground beef upon request. For example.. Some people would rather have the chuck roast ground into hamburger.
Can I save by ordering with friends?
Combining orders with friends still gives you the custom processing while reducing costs vs retail and volume of beef for each person on the order.
What am I paying for and how much will it cost?
Purchasing on carcass weight is a common method because this is the weight the locker plant uses to assess charges. We will request a $200 down payment before we delivery the beef to the locker for processing. Once the beef is processed you will pay us for the balanced owed for the meat based on this hanging (carcass) weight plus the remaining butcher processing fees at the time of pick-up. Typically you will pay around $0.65-$0.85/lb/# hanging weight for processing. This will vary based on your processing decisions. For example how much hamburger, any tenderizing and number of hamburger patties you choose.
The weight for a whole steer typically ranges from 750-850 pound carcass weight. Prices are calculated on that weight for meat and processing charges. Keep in mind that processing removes much of the bone and waste resulting in approximately 61-63% net product. Finals cost usually work out to $6.00/lb for retails beef depending on yield and processing decisions. For Example :
1/4 Beef hanging weight = 200 lbs
Beef Cost = 200 * $3.00 = $600 to the farmer
Processing = $0.75 * 200 lbs = $150 to the processor
Retail beef yield = 125 lbs
Total Cost = $150 + $600 = $750
Retail value = $750/125lb = 6.00/lb total for ground beef, roasts up to t-bone and ribeye steaks)
What do you mean by carcass weight?
Carcass weight – The weight of the side of beef hanging in the cooler. An Angus would yield approximately 500 pounds of retail cuts from a 800 pound carcass. 15-17% are steaks, 32-35% are roasts, 45-50% is ground beef, and 10-15% is made-up of other cuts such as brisket, and trim products.(source USDA)
What do you mean by "custom" processing?
Each side of beef is cut to the customer specifications, such as thickness of steaks, size of roasts, one or two pound packages of ground beef, etc. You can also ask the butcher about Beef summer sausage, ring bologna, hamburger patties, bratwurst, or a variety of beef sticks . Extra charges would apply for specialty items. You can choose more ground beef and less roasts? You can eliminate certain cuts such as brisket. When your side of beef is at the locker, we will put you in contact with the butcher to discuss all your options.
What is a CSA Beef Share?
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in an arrangement where the members buy shares of the farmer’s product. The share can be a percentage of a vegetable harvest, eggs, dairy, etc. In our case, the CSA member is buying a share of beef. You will receive a monthly share delivery. The share subscriptions are 6 or 12 months in duration. Shares are available for an 1/8 (6 month only) , 1/4, or 1/2 beef. We ask our customs to place a down payment for their share. Each month you will receive a 1/6 or 1/12 of your share for 6 months or 12 months respectively. Buying shares allows our customers to enjoy some of the savings associated with bulk purchasing without the large lump sum expense or the need to store 100’s of pounds of beef at home
For example: If you purchase an 1/4 share 12 month membership, we will ask for a $240 down payment. We will then deliver a 10 lb package of meat each month to your local drop site for 12 months. You will be billed approximately $50 with each delivery (depending on actual weight).
Are all my monthly deliveries the same in content and size?
The monthly delivers will be relatively the same in size(weight) but will vary in content. Since the individual cuts of a beef are not equally portioned, it is impossible to delivery the same content each month. One month you may receive a rib-eye and an round steak. The next month you may receive a T-bone and a sirloin. We do our best to give you a little of each of the major groups each month (steaks, roasts, ground beef, stew meat), but that will vary depending on the size of your share and any special requests such as steaks only in the summer. You will receive the entire contents of your share over the 6 month span.
Can I define what is delivered each month? For example can I have my roasts and ground beef delivered in the winter and steaks and hamburger delivered in the summer when I grill?
Absolutely. It is your share and we will deliver your share content in any order or mix you request. If you want your roasts in the winter and more steaks in the summer grilling season, make sense to us. If you have a guests coming and you want something special to serve, just let us know and we will adjust your monthly deliveries accordingly. When you buy a share, you are buying a portion of a beef. You will get your entire share over the subscription period. How we deliver that share can be up to you. If you do not want to think about it, we can delivery an equal mix of steaks, roasts, and ground beef each month.
What if I have not consumed all of my monthly beef delivery and want to skip the next delivery?
You may contact us at anytime to request skipping a delivery. We will simply skip the next month’s delivery and push your subscription out a month. We will also contact you approximately 1 week before each delivery as a reminder. This will give you an opportunity to re-schedule your share delivery if needed.
Why does my total share specify a range items rather than a set number of cuts?
CSA members are buying a share of an animal. Each animal will vary in size and content. For example, a longer animal will have more steaks. The share contents are based on averages and will vary slightly from animal to animal. Since each share is billed based on weight, you will always get all the meat your payed for. If you are interested in a set cut count, we do offer our packages that specify a specific count rather than a range.
How do I know when and where my order will be picked up?
Each month’s delivery location will be the same but the date will be the next pickup date available. Your reminder email will specify the delivery location, date and time one week in advance. If you desire a new drop site location at a more convenient location, we are happy to create a new one. We just require a 50 lb monthly delivery to add a new site. Get some of your friends and neighbors together to create a 50 lbs delivery delivery demand and we can meet at a place of your choosing.
Any other questions? Please Contact Us