Idaho beef producers view cattle and the land they graze on as their livelihood, and as a legacy to share with future generations. From pasture to plate, everyone works together to ensure that all animals are treated well, and that the hamburgers and steaks enjoyed around the world are safe, wholesome and delicious.
When calves are born, the spend several months with their mothers. Most beef calves are born on cow-calf operations, where cattle graze in herds within sight of their mothers. These are the typical types of operations you see along highways and country roads.
Calves are weaned from mothers at six to ten months of age and typically go to a cattle feeder or a stocker/backgrounder who will prepare the animal for the feedlot.
Cattle usually spend four to six months in a feedlot. During that time, they have constant access to water and are fed a carefully balanced diet of grain, vitamins and mineral supplements. Once cattle have reached 18 to 22 months old, or weigh between 1,000 and 1,250 pounds, they are typically considered finished and are transported to packing plants to be slaughtered and processed.
Today's slaughter process has evolved over the years based on scientific research to ensure both humane animal treatment and the production of safe food. All cattle are inspected by a veterinarian before being allowed to enter the food supply. Beef is subject to strict government oversight, and meat processing facilities undergo rigorous USDA inspections. USDA inspectors oversee all slaughter, food safety, interventions and quality grading at packing plants.
Before the carcass leaves the packing plant, workers skillfully cut the carcass into large sections called subprimals. These are then shipped to retail outlets or to wholesalers and fabricators that supply the ready-to-cook cuts to retailers and foodservice operators.
Ultimately, consumers dictate the actions of the beef production chain by determining what kinds of beef they will buy and at what price. America's beef producers are proud to offer a variety of choices to meet the changing lifestyles and nutritional needs of consumers.
Read a complete overview of this process at Facts About Beef.