Janzen Family Farms

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Guide to Slaughter, Cuts of Meat & Preparation

By Kristi Bahrenburg Janzen

WHERE AND HOW IS JANZEN FAMILY FARMS GRASS-FED MEAT PROCESSED?

Janzen Family Farms grass-fed beef is slaughtered and processed at the Peabody Sausage House, a custom-processing facility, which is certified and inspected by the State of Kansas (in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture). Located in Peabody, KS, the Peabody Sausage House is a small-scale, family-owned and independently run slaughterhouse, the kind that allows us to carefully keep track of the slaughtering process. Animals are always treated with respect, and they are killed as humanely as possible. Given that the facility is not geared toward large-scale production, Peabody Sausage House can process meat to our specifications (or yours, if you order in bulk). The Peabody Sausage House allows us to drop off our cattle the day before slaughter, which minimizes stress on the animal or animals, which we believe is important not only for the welfare of the animal but also the flavor of the meat. We make every effort to ensure that our animals are the first ones slaughtered in the morning.

WHAT’S THE BACKGROUND ON THE PEABODY SAUSAGE HOUSE?

Established back in the early 1960s, the Peabody Sausage House has been owned by Mike and Cheryl Berger since 1994. As a small-scale slaughterhouse that caters to the needs of small-scale farmers and hunters, the Peabody Sausage House is a survivor in a legal and economic environment that is extremely tough on this type of slaughter facilities. For more on the startling challenges facing small-scale slaughterhouses, please read Kristi Bahrenburg Janzen’s article entitled, “Loss of Small Slaughterhouses Hurts Farmers, Butchers and Consumers,” in the Winter 2004 issue of Ohio-based Farming Magazine (the Bergers also produce “Grandma’s Mustard,” available at grandmasmustard.com.)

 

HOW WILL JANZEN FAMILY FARMS GRASS-FED BEEF BE PACKED?

You will receive your meat cut, packed in family-size packages, labeled with the cut, and frozen. The meat is packed in plastic-lined paper. Ground beef is typically packed in 1-pound bags, although 1.5- or 2-pound plastic bags are also available for customers who are buying large sections of an animal and would prefer that. (Regarding special instructions on large-size bulk orders, please contact Janzen Family Farms directly.)

WHAT CUTS OF MEAT DO I GET?   

The Peabody Sausage House has a standard way of cutting a side of beef, and most people are happy with this standard selection, which provides a wide array of steaks, roasts, ground beef and other items such as soup bones, organ meats and ribs. Steaks are typically cut at a one-inch thickness. Roasts are usually cut to around three or four pounds.

While we usually go with the butcher’s “standard cut,” customers purchasing large bulk orders will have additional options on cuts, because the Peabody Sausage House can custom-cut an animal. In short, if you have special requests, they (and we!) would be happy to try to accommodate them. Please let us know. Also on bulk orders, please tell us if you do or do not wish to receive organ meats.

It’s worth noting here that many parts of the animal can be cut into various kinds of steaks or roasts, and some of the same cuts have different names, depending on the butcher or the customary name in a certain region. Also, “locker cuts” differ greatly from “grocery store cuts.” For example, when you get a sirloin steak from the Peabody Sausage House (also known as a “meat locker”), you will get a significantly larger piece of meat than at the grocery store, partly because the locker cut of the sirloin will include a piece of the tenderloin (also known as filet mignon).

Preferences on cuts tend to vary by location and through the generations. Some people prefer more meat cut up as steaks (instead of roasts), whereas others would rather receive just the opposite. The latter group tends to like the versatility of roasts, as they figure they can either use the meat as a roast or simply cut the meat further on their own, such as into steaks or smaller pieces for shish kebabs, stew or stir-fry. Some folks would like extra ground beef, while others would prefer as little as possible, because they want to grind it at home.

Please also keep in mind that there really isn’t one “best” cut. People’s preferences vary, as some prefer texture over tenderness, or a stronger flavor over a mild one. At the same time, it’s obvious that some meat is more tender from the start, and those cuts tend to be the more expensive ones. “As a general rule, the further away the cut is from the hoof or horn, the more tender the meat,” notes Harold McGee in his seminal work On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. But don’t give up on the more substantial cuts. With some creativity – and perhaps a call to your grandmother, a quick internet recipe search or a peek in a cookbook at the library – you will find you can whip up a delectable meal with the lower-cost cuts. Many a tender and traditional dish is made with the most reasonably priced cuts of meat. 

Our standard cut typically includes:

  • T-Bone Steaks: Very tender premium cuts, T-Bones are perhaps the most popular grilled, but they can also be roasted or fried. One of the most-prized cuts, the T-Bone comes from the top back portion of the animal known as the “short loin.” The T-Bone includes a bone shaped like the letter “T” with the meat known as the “filet mignon” or “tenderloin” on one side of the “T” and the “KC strip” (also known as the “New York strip”) on the other side. While many people prefer the “T-Bone” to remain as is, the filet mignon and strip steaks can be “boned” out. (This costs an extra 50 cents a pound, however, and is not customary as part of the usual “standard cut.”) The “filet mignon” is widely considered the most tender cut of beef, and it has a mild flavor that won’t overpower the taste of a delicate sauce.

  • Sirloin Steaks: Also one of the most tender premium cuts – coming from the “loin” area on the animal, just next to the “short loin” -- and extremely popular in restaurants, sirloins are best grilled or broiled. As with the T-bone, our  “locker cut” sirloin steaks include a piece of the tenderloin (also known as the filet mignon), which runs along the back of the animal. You will not see the filet mignon attached to the sirloin in typical supermarkets. As noted above, the “filet mignon” is widely considered the most tender cut of beef, and it has a mild flavor that won’t overpower the taste of a delicate sauce.

  • Rib Steaks: Considered the “juiciest of steaks” by Saveur magazine, many regard rib steaks as their favorite, as they feel rib steaks provide the best balance of flavor and tenderness. This luxurious steak is also known as a Spencer steak or Delmonico steak. Similar to rib-eye steaks, rib steaks are bigger, as they include the rib eye plus some additional meat and the bone. Rib steaks are great grilled or broiled, but they can also be roasted.

  • Swiss Steaks: Located between the “Pike’s Peak” roast and the round steak on the “round” of the animal, Swiss steaks are great for slow, moist cooking such as stewing or braising.  

  • Round Steaks: Round steaks are de-boned (“boned out”) and tenderized (by a mechanical tenderizer, not through additives). Round steaks are delicious braised or stewed, such as slow-cooked in a crock pot with peppers, potatoes and seasonings, as suggested by Mike Berger, proprietor of the Peabody Sausage House. This meat can also be marinated and used for stir-frying.

  • Flank Steaks: These steaks, great for marinating, are leaner than some of the most tender cuts. Quite flavorful, flank steaks are regarded “underrated” by numerous cooking experts. Common in Cuban food, flank steaks can be roasted, grilled or broiled, as well as stir-fried.

  • Arm Roasts: The most typical cut used for the traditional dish “pot roast,” arm roasts come from the front upper area of the animal known as the “chuck,” and can be braised or roasted.

  • Chuck Roasts: Chuck roasts are also known as “shoulder roasts,” and like the arm roasts come from the front of the animal known as the “chuck.” Like with arm roasts, slow moist cooking will tenderize the chuck roast and maximize its flavor.  

  • Rump Roasts: The rump roast comes from the back of the animal near the “round.” Like chuck roasts, rump roasts are best prepared on low temperatures for a longer period of time, such as by braising or stewing, compared to the more tender steaks listed above.

  • “Pike’s Peak” Roasts: Also known as “heel of round” roasts, these roasts also come from the part of the animal known as the “round.” “Pike’s Peak” roasts can be braised or roasted.

  • Short Ribs: In various parts of the country, rib preparation has been elevated to an art form. But don’t be daunted. They are not difficult to prepare, especially with a combination of oven and grill time, and they’re a great place to try out your favorite sauces. Our rib plates are cut into 3-by-3-inch squares.

  • Ground Beef:  You know one of the best ways to prepare ground beef: make a burger. But don’t forget about all the other options, including meat loaf, meat balls, stuffed peppers or stuffed cabbage, Bolognese sauce, taco fillings, chile, sloppy Joe’s, and more. Our ground beef is typically packaged in 1-pound bags, but customers with large-size bulk orders can request it in 1.5 or 2-pound bags of they wish. You can also get ground beef shaped into square patties. (Let us know if you are interested specifically in “ground chuck,” rather than the more general “ground beef.”)

  • Boiling Beef:  This cut comes from the “short plate,” the area below the ribs where short ribs also originate. Boiling beef is well-known for making delicious boullion (also called soup stock). It is the cut of meat often used in Mexican dishes such as fajitas and chiles rellenos. Many other cuisines from East European to Asian also incorporate boiling beef into various recipes for its good flavor.

  • Brisket: The brisket is the basis of corned beef, a traditional Jewish and Irish meat used in a “Reuben” sandwich. Also, “brisket is the absolute cornerstone of ‘authentic’ Texas BBQ,” notes Ben Chappell, one of the Janzen in-laws and culinary wizard, who spent a great deal of time in that state. Brisket can be prepared in brine, as it is in corned beef, or braised or stewed.

  • Organ Meats, Tongue & Oxtail: Considered delicacies in many cuisines but too-often ignored in America today, the heart, liver and tongue and oxtail are also available with your package, if you wish. Please let us know if you are interested in these items.

  • Soup Bones: Bones add flavor and nutrients to any soup or stew. No traditional soup can be prepared without them. Soup bones come from the front and hind shanks.

 

DO YOU HAVE FURTHER SUGGESTIONS FOR INFO ON CUTS AND COOKING METHODS?

Yes. We would recommend the following sources on cuts of meat, and how to cook them:

 

*Our forebears began farming in Kansas in 1880, and our family has been in the Newton, KS, area for five generations. Janzen Family Farms is a name we adopted in the 1980s. Louis Janzen first registered the "LJ" brand, at the top of this page, with the rotated "J" in the 1930s.