A few months ago, there was an amendment to the Food Freedom Act allowing ranchers to sell meat products directly to the consumer in Wyoming. This allows ranchers to skip sending their cattle off to be bought wholesale, and they can also skip the grading process from the USDA. It is something totally unique to Wyoming, and something pretty cool.
While this does cut out the middle men down the line, it can be a valuable new revenue stream for ranchers and farmers in Wyoming.
It is all complicated, and I invite you to check out the animal-share amendment for yourself at wyoleg.com. I’m just a food columnist and want to dive into the differences this can bring you.
In my case, I buy directly from a farm who has their cows butchered, inspected and packaged before they sell it. They also sell in the markets in the area, but you can skip that premium and just go directly to the source.
The difference in quality between a ribeye you pick up at the supermarket and a locally raised cow on a small farm is mind-blowing. You pay a small premium for a far superior product. Before I get into that, let's go over some steak facts.
Grades of steaks you will see
Around 5% of cattle make the prime grade. Prime beef comes from young cows where the meat is amply marbled, with lots of white fat running through the beef. It is the most costly of the beef grades and you will pay a premium for it. Prime beef stands up to high, dry cooking well: think grilled or broiled steaks, or fancy roasts.
The majority of graded beef is choice and it’s the most common grade you’re likely to see at your grocery store. Choice beef has moderate marbling and is lower on the scale from prime. Buying a choice steak or ribeye is certainly cheaper than a prime option that will still result in a perfectly delicious piece of beef.
About a quarter of beef is graded select. Select beef has less fat content and considerably less marbling.
For a good steak, you want to see that marbling. The problem is, a good steak with marbling will set you back a small car payment — not to mention you will hardly ever see prime in the grocery store. I don't think I ever have. Costco is the only major chain I have seen constantly carry prime beef.
When you buy that grocery store steak, it will still be delicious cooked properly, but it just won't be the same. It’s like having an opportunity to have wagyu steak on your trip to Japan and then coming home, knowing that was an experience you might not have again. Once you have a prime grade steak constantly, anything less is lacking.
If you are in the mood for a steak, consider finding a local rancher and see if they have any programs running. Heck, hit up a meat market, they will have better cuts than the major chains. It will cost more, but you have been pent up in your house for almost a year, treat yourself.