| For the Daily Commercial
As you read this, you may be digesting your third or fourth round of turkey leftovers. While I am a huge fan of the traditional Thanksgiving turkey (and all the delicious leftovers that can be made from it), for me there is no tastier meat than beef. You could blame my love of all things beef on my roots, as my maternal line has called the Sunshine State home since the 1700s. If the preceding sentence doesn’t make a lick of sense to you, read on!
The word “cowboy” often evokes images of the old west but, in truth, cattle in America could be more accurately associated with the “old east”. Ponce de Leon, of fountain of youth fame, first introduced cattle to the new world via Florida in 1521. These first Florida cattle were small statured with sharp horns and a knack for eking out a living in an inhospitable environment. Despite the heat, biting insects, swampy terrain and lack of nutritious forage, the scrappy Spanish cattle not only survived but thrived, paving the way for economic development and growth in Florida.
Nearly 500 years after the first cattle set hoof in Florida, the beef industry continues to play an important role in the economy and culture of our state. Modern Florida is considered a “cow-calf” state with the majority of ranchers caring for brood cows on pasture and raising calves to sell at the market. Weaned calves are typically sent west to grow and mature on rich pasture for several months prior to being moved to the feed yard where they are finished on a grain-based diet.
Modern Florida is home to an estimated 1 million cows (mature females), bulls (mature, intact males) and heifers (young females who have not yet had a calf) that produce approximately 800,000 calves per year. The total value of cattle in Florida is estimated in excess of one billion dollars and the Florida beef industry has an economic impact of 900 million annually.
Many Central Florida residents would be surprised to know that the largest cow-calf operation in the U.S. is located a short drive from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks, and that five of the 10 largest cow calf ranches in the U.S. are located in Florida.
When it comes to purchasing and consuming beef, consumers have more choices now than ever. There are 60 unique retail cuts of beef available, each with its own best use, taste profile and degree of tenderness. In the mood to grill? There’s a cut for that! Do you want to “set it and forget it” in the crockpot? There’s a cut for that as well!
Consumers also have options as to how their beef was raised and fed. You may have seen beef labeled as “grass finished” in the butchers case and wondered what that means and how it differs from conventional beef. All beef cattle live the majority of their lives on…
Read more:: Cattle are a Sunshine State tradition