It’s a bold statement, but I’m going to say it anyway: Saturday night I had the best meal I’ve ever eaten.
I attended the grand opening of Certified Angus Beef’s new Education and Culinary Center, next to the CAB headquarters in Wooster.
Food and agriculture reporters across the nation came to participate in a day-long event that started with a hands-on beef cutting class, followed by a tour of Chippewa Valley Angus Farms, and culminated with a five course beef feast — prepared by some of the finest chefs — who truly know how to make food look and taste spectacular.
The day started a little before 11 a.m. with a carcass cutting lesson by CAB Meat Scientist Phil Bass, who made sure reporters put on their hair nets, safety gloves and aprons, and their chain belt, which supported their cutting knife.
Dr. Phil — as he was called — has a doctorate in meat science from Colorado State University. He spent more than two hours walking us reporters through what he called the “art” of meat cutting, from the time a side of beef is hung on the rail, to the time it’s cut up and ready to cook.
He showed us how important it is to get each cut right — to avoid nicks and inconsistencies. Make too big a mess, he explained, and your top-dollar cut is forced to become ground beef.
The meat took some arm power to cut, and CAB President John Stika reminded reporters what it would be like to cut meat on a full-time basis.
“You get a real appreciation of what those guys do,” he said, and “why they have forearms the size of Popeye.”
Dr. Phil explained some of the newest cuts of beef and their uses, and one trend in particular — leaving the bone on — so that it protrudes from the cut.
“It’s that primal urge to have something to hold onto while you’re eating,” he said.
Phil was a little primal throughout his whole presentation, weaving humor and jokes with science and facts. Before he “fired up” his hand saw, he gave it a little “vroom” sound with his lips, and once he got to cutting, he asked the crowd for some cheering.
The saw and the so-called “Texas butter knife” he pulled from his side were very large and sharp, and he reminded everyone to “count their fingers” after they got done cutting.
On the farm
After a light but satisfying lunch, we headed to Chippewa Valley Angus Farms where we met with cattle breeders Rod and Laurie Ferguson.
They showed us how they care for Angus seedstock and the grass and silage they are fed.
Beef that meets the CAB standard is known for its marbling, among many other standards. But as CAB’s Mark McCully pointed out, “There’s a lot of things we’ve got to get into place first and foremost before we talk about marbling” — and those “things” all happen at the farm level.
In the evening, we returned to the Education & Culinary Center — a newly renovated building that will be used for chefs and meat scientists to experiment with new recipes and cuts of meat. It was dinner time, and expert chefs from Ohio, Texas and North Miami prepared a five course, mouth-watering meal.
I don’t even know how to pronounce half of the things we ate, but they were delicious! In short, we had filet of sirloin, followed by short ribs, spinalis, ribeye, and then desert. Oh, and delicious red wine throughout!
Officials promised to keep the comments short, because in their words, “the program is really all about the food — it’s about the courses you’re going to enjoy.”
The whole meal took about three hours to consume, and it was a great time not just eating, but catching up with cattlemen and farmers across the nation. I talked with American Angus CEO Bryce Schumann about the importance of having this facility and how it will benefit the Angus cattle industry.
And I talked with writers and editors for some national food publications, about the latest trends and consumer attitudes. It was a great way to spend a Saturday, even if I did eat too much. And all of this — less than two miles from my home!
Random scenes from the day