There’s more to beef than meets the eye these days. Among the questions that come up: So what’s all this talk about “Aged Beef?” Does it refer to the age of the animal? Where is this aging taking place, the cooler or outside in a barn? Do I want dry aged or wet aged? I don’t want a “dry” steak. I like mine juicy! Does this mean “wet aged” is better? I’m confused!
A little beef industry history
Four decades ago, all beef was dry-aged. Butchers discovered that beef carcasses that were allowed to hang for several days tended to be more tender and flavorful than those that were processed and eaten immediately. While dry-aging had a positive impact on flavor and tenderness, it had a negative impact on yield. Dry-aged beef lost water moisture and, therefore, weight. And less weight equals more cost to the customer.
Wet-aging came in with vacuum packing in the early ‘60s. In this process, meat is allowed to sit in a vacuum packed bag in its own juices for 7-28 days, at a temperature of 34-38 degrees F. Tenderness is positively impacted by wet aging, but flavor is not, since there is no loss of moisture. Wet aging is a much less expensive proposition for the beef industry.
What happens to beef when it is dry-aged that creates such a buzz? The scientific word is proteolysis, or breakdown of muscle proteins. This process depends on specific enzymes that focus on digesting proteins when the animal is alive. When the animal is slaughtered, these enzymes are released into the meat where they begin to breakdown proteins into their more flavorful components, amino acids, and act on the muscle tissue to make it softer. This all occurs under very controlled conditions, temperature of 35-38 degrees F, and humidity of 50-60% with a very controlled air flow over the meat. All products chosen for Winn Meat Company's dry-age program spends a minimum of 21 days in the dry-age cooler.
Successful results for this time-honored process are achieved with only the finest quality beef. Winn Meat Company uses Prime U.S.D.A. and Sterling Silver® Premium beef in its dry-aging program. The bottom line is an incredibly tender and intensely flavored steak that is truly more than a meal, it is an experience. In a massed produced commercial environment where all attention is given to profit margin, Winn Meat is one of the few companies that are producing custom, dry-aged beef for their customers.