The Benefits of Grain and Grass Fed Beef

All beef cattle start their lives on mother’s milk and are then weaned to graze on pasture grasses until they reach about 400-500 lbs. When calves reach these weights they are sold off to feeders where they either remain grass fed, or are sent to feedlots. In each case, the calves will remain in the pasture or feedlot until they reach desired harvest weights.Beef Supply ChainCattle are bred to be consumed for food. Each feeding method has benefits and detriments that vary markedly, not only in diet, but in cost, taste, consistency and time. Is one system better than the other? The answer is truly subjective – personal preference, palates, and beliefs play heavily on consumer preference.

 

Grain Feed Mixture

Grain Fed Beef  Grain fed cattle are started on grass and then sent to feedlots to be finished on formulated feed rations designed to make the animals grow as much and as fast as possible. In most cases, the formulated feed contains as much as 75% corn grain. Grain fed cattle normally reach harvest weight between 18-24 months of age.  

Feedlot

What exactly is a ‘feedlot’? The beef industry finishes grain fed cattle in feedlots in order to produce the type of carcass desired by the American consumer.

All feedlots are essentially the same in construction, layout, design and purpose with key components being: feed mills, to store and mix feed rations, pens, where cattle are gathered, and feed bunks, where cattle eat and drink water. Cattle are closely monitored in feedlots, efficiently fed and given unlimited access to clean water year round.

Feedlot Monitor SystemAnimal stress is also closely monitored by feedlot managers. Animals under stress are more likely to get sick; sick animals do not gain weight and will most likely lose money for the operator. Most modern feedlot operators employ animal handling protocols to reduce stress in accordance with the guidelines set forth by renown animal behavior authority, Dr. Temple Grandin     

Grain fed cattle are viable in the marketplace because they are available throughout the year. Where grain feed cannot be grown due to unfavorable climate conditions, it can be easily trucked in from other areas of the country. Most feedlots operate in the Midwestern corn belt states.

Grass Fed Beef  Grass fed cattle start on grass and remain on grass until they reach harvest weight – usually between 30-36 months of age. Grass fed cattle must reside where grass is easily available; inclement weather may force cattle to be moved to pastures where grass exists. During the winter months when grass is dormant, grass fed cattle must be supplemented with feed, usually hay and grass silage, to maintain nutrition and sustain their grass fed status.

Grass Fed Beef

Grass fed beef is also very lean. The low fat content in grass fed beef requires greater attention to cooking to prevent an unpleasant eating experience. The tenderness of grass fed steaks can also be inconsistent. Thus, grass fed is better when cooked slower than its grain fed counterpart. It is further essential for grass fed beef to be aged correctly for adequate muscle fiber release to prevent toughness. When properly aged and cooked, grass fed beef is delicious. Some even say it tastes the way beef “used to taste”.  

Increased costs, due to the lengthier amount of time it takes for grass fed cattle to reach harvest weight, are passed on to consumers. Ultimately, grass fed beef costs more than grain fed beef.

Grass & Grain Benefits

 

Grass Fed Steaks

        Grass Fed Steaks

* Grass fed beef is high in Beta-Carotene which is converted to vitamin A (retinol) by the human body. Vitamin A is important for normal vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division, and cell differentiation. Additionally, vitamin A creates a barrier to bacterial and viral infection and supports the production and function of white blood cells.

* Grass fed beef typically has 3 times the amount of vitamin E found in conventional grain fed beef. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that may help prevent or delay coronary heart disease, block the formation of carcinogens formed in the stomach, and protect against cancer development. Vitamin E may also improve eye lens clarity and reduce or prevent the development of cataracts.

* The ratio of Omega-3 fatty acids to Omega-6 fatty acids in our diet plays a prominent role in the prevention and treatment of coronary heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, cancer, and arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. The American Medical Association and the World Health Organization recommend a ratio of roughly 1:4 parts Omega-6 to one part Omega-3. The Omega-3 content in grass fed meat increases by 60% and produces a much more favorable Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio than grain fed beef.

* Grass fed beef is leaner and higher in protein than grain fed beef and averages 1.5 times more protein than typical USDA Choice grain fed beef.  Research indicates that eating lean beef can help lower total, LDL and VLDL cholesterol, and triglycerides while increasing beneficial HDL cholesterol. It can also help lower blood pressure, aid in weight loss, and improve insulin sensitivity and glycemic control.

 

Grain Fed Steaks

         Grain Fed Steaks

*  Grain fed beef is juicier and more tender than grass fed. Grain fed beef has a higher fat content; higher fat levels deliver more flavor. 

The fat in the grain of grain fed meat acts as a buffer in cooking which makes it more forgiving to various cooking methods. Grain fed beef can be cooked to perfection in a variety of ways.

Grain fed grades out higher in quality scoring and is desired by most American palates. Grain fed beef is coveted by restaurants offering USDA Prime and Choice beef. 

* Grain fed beef is available in All Natural programs which deliver additional quality benefits without added hormones or antibiotics.

Grain fed cattle are less costly to raise; grain fed beef prices are less than grass fed beef. Grain fed beef is also in ample supply. 

Wrap Up

Whatever your preference, there are economic, environmental, dietary and culinary benefits to both grain fed and grass fed beef.  

In my opinion, one does not eliminate the other, rather both options enhance your menus and provide numerous opportunities to delight your guests.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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5 Ideas to Spark Fall Menus

Braised Lamb Shank

Braised Lamb Shank

Who doesn’t love Fall? The weather is still enjoyable, football is back, and the leaves will soon turn those gorgeous red, purple and orange colors – it is my favorite time of year.

The seasonal change from warm days to chilly nights also signals the introduction of fall menus for chefs and restaurateurs.

September opens the door to robust dishes and heartier meats; wild game and duck are also now in season.

Here are some inspiring ideas for  building Fall menus using a variety of meat selections and slower cooking methods:

Shanks a lot!

Shanks are terrific for braising. They are fattier with more connective tissue rich with collagen that along with the bone adds fabulous flavor when cooked. Shanks are also relatively inexpensive. Lamb, Pork, and Veal Shanks make excellent braising choices.  

Rack of Lamb

Rack of Lamb

We recommend using Domestic Colorado lamb shanks, though Australian and New Zealand lamb will work too. Compared to imported lamb, which is typically grass fed, American lamb has grain in its diet and tastes less “gamey”. Domestic lamb is larger in size and presents beautifully on the plate; many say it is the highest in quality and consistency.

For pork shanks with a little something special, try the Duroc breed hogs. This breed produces well marbled very tasty meat and competitively compares with higher priced Berkshire or Kurobuta pork.  

When it comes to Veal shanks, Domestic No. 1 Special Fed veal is our favorite. These calves are raised on a milk formula supplement. Their meat color is ivory or creamy pink, with a firm, fine, and velvety appearance superbly tender and delicious.

Other Cuts

Beef Short Ribs

Beef Short Ribs

Bone-In Beef Short Ribs can be braised whole, or portion cut in a variety of ways, from traditional 3-bone short ribs to Tomahawk Cut single or double bone-in short ribs. Boneless short ribs can also be rolled & tied before braising for a unique plate presentation.

Shoulder Cuts of all types are also perfect for braising. Lamb, Pork, and Veal shoulder cuts are typically favored for stew dishes.  

Cheek Meat has become quite popular in trendy restaurants and bistros. Beef, pork, and veal cheeks are rich with flavor and suitable for producing smaller portions. Ox Tails are also excellent for braising.

Rotisserie Raves

Rotisserie cooking allows you to cook whole pieces of meat, which can be used across multiple dishes on your menu. This maximizes your yield, saves labor and leverages your food cost.

The best candidates for rotisserie cooking are Lamb Leg, Lamb Rack, Lamb Top Round, Veal Shoulder Pork Rack and Pork Loin. Chicken, Duck, and Cornish Hens are also traditional rotisserie favorites.

Get Your Game On

Venison 8 Rib Rack

Venison 8 Rib Rack

Game meats have also risen in popularity in recent years. Known to be highly flavorful, some of these meats also have lower fat content.

Elk, Venison, Bison, Rabbit and Duck all make great game for fall menus. Elk and Venison racks lend themselves well to a variety of recipes. Bison flanks and chuck rolls are excellent for hearty pot roast. Rabbit can be stewed or braised in a number of ways, and Duck is always a traditional favorite.

Recipe Starters

To help get your creative juices flowing, check out some of these fab Fall recipes for ideas:

Savuer – 25 Recipes for Braised Meats

Recipes from Chef Hans Susser: Roast Pork Butt, Braised Veggies, Pork Jus & Applesauce  Braised Oxtail & Potato Dumplings  Braised Beef Ribs In Red Wine

Recipes from Chef Danilo Alfaro:  Veal Shank Osso Buco  Braised Lamb Shoulder  Braised Chicken Stew

Happy Fall!

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

 

 

 

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Ribs 101 for Summer Grilling

The summer grilling season is fast approaching and for those of us who live in four season climates, reuniting with our backyard barbeques is an annual rite of spring. Whether you grill year round or not, no matter how you fire it up, it’s that first grill of the season that rejuvenates our fervor for outdoor cooking.

Pork Rib Diagram v4Soon we’ll start seeing ads for ribs – Baby Back, Spare, St. Louis, Country Style, Tips, Roasts and Chops – a wealth of options to grill and prepare. Here’s a quick 101 primer for

distinguishing between rib varieties and some tips on the best ways to grill ribs this season.

Hog Anatomy

We’re all familiar with the term “Rib Cage”, where there is an arrangement of long bones that surround the chest to protect internal organs. Long rib bones start from the top of animals by the spine and extend downward with a curved shape towards the belly.  These are the ribs butchers break down for consumption.

BabyBackRibsBaby Back Ribs   The most popular of all pork ribs, Baby Backs are the most lean and tender.  These types of ribs are located at the top part of the rib bone that is connected to the spine (backbone), just below the loin muscle.  The name “Baby” is derived from the fact they are shorter than spare ribs, and “Back”, because they are nearest the backbone.

Butchers make Baby Back Ribs by cutting them where the longest bone is, around 6″ from the spine.  The meat on top of the bones is tender and delicious.  Depending on how they are butchered, Baby Back Rib racks weigh about 1.75-2.5 lbs and will normally have between 10-13 bones per rack.  Baby Backs  can be grilled, barbecued, roasted and smoked. They are typical to the northern region of the U.S. and  Canada.

SpareRib 416Spare Ribs  The Spare Rib starts from the end of Baby Back Ribs and extends to the end of the rib bone.  Spare Ribs are bigger with more meat between the bones than the top of the bones and are a little tougher and fatter, but much richer in flavor.  Spare Ribs average 10-13 bones per rack weighing between 2.5 – 3.5 lbs. They can also be grilled, barbecued, roasted and smoked.

St. Louis Ribs  This style of ribs was popularized in the 1930’s – 1960’s by butchers in the St. Louis area who wanted a better rib cut than they were receiving from big meat packers at the time.  St. Louis Ribs, or St. Louis Style Ribs are actually Spare Ribs with the rib tips cut off where a lot of cartilage and gristle exists with very little meat.  “Pork Ribs, St. Louis Style” officially became an official USDA cut standard NAMP/IMPSStLouisRib416a #416A in the 1980’s. Spare Ribs and St. Louis Style Spare Ribs are found on grills and smokers in the southern states of the U.S.

Rib Tips   Rib Tips are found at the end tips of the rib bone. They are the by-products of St. Louis Ribs where butchers cut the tips off the end of the ribs into strips with a saw. Even with little meat and a lot of cartilage and gristle, Tips are rich in flavor due to the presence of bone and higher fat content.  People generally either love them or hate them.

CountryStyleCountry-Style Ribs   You may be surprised to know that Country-style Ribs are not cut from the rib cage but from the front end of where the Baby Back Ribs are near the shoulder blade.  They are the meatiest variety of ribs and are perfect for those who prefer to use a knife and fork rather than eating with their hands.

Rib Chops & Roasts  Rib bones are also used in other types of butcher cuts.  Rib Chops are produced where the loin meat is kept attached to the bone and portion cut into a chop.  The end of the rib bone can also be exposed to create a “French Cut” Rib Chop.  A Crown Roast is created when instead of cutting the loin into chops, it’s formed into a circle and tied to look like a crown.  Crown style roasts are  seasonal holiday favorites.

Beef, Lamb & Veal Ribs

The anatomy of pork, beef, lamb and veal is pretty much the same.  Beef ribs are typically produced as Beef Back Ribs, Beef Short Ribs and Beef Rib Chops – aka bone-in rib eye steak.  Denver Ribs are like St. Louis pork ribs but cut from lamb.

A set of five or more ribs together is known as a “rack”; veal and lamb ribs are sold as ‘racks’. Lamb and veal racks are typically roasted whole or cut between the rib bones into chops.

Top Grilling Tips

Regardless of the species, ribs are full of flavor and can be prepared in any number of ways.  You can be creative with different rubs, sauces and marinades, to grill, roast, smoke or braise a variety of rib dishes.  Our Corporate Chef, Russ Kramer, shares his top grill tips below:

Tip #1 – Cook to Perfection

There are a few methods to prepare pork ribs for the summer. Your number one goal should be to serve ribs that have a tender bite off the bone but never where the meat falls off the bone. Ribs that fall off the bone will do you in at competition BBQ s!

Tip #2 – Use Rubs

Rib rubs differ from steak rubs because they are generally sweeter; steak rubs are more savory. As a general guideline, use a Paprika base with spices such as, garlic, onion, cinnamon, clove and dry mustard. (For sweet, I use turbinado sugar.) Herbs are best left for steak rubs.

Generously sprinkle your favorite rib rub a good hour before cooking to let the flavors work into the meat. Be creative and experiment with your different combinations of spice and sweet until you find your favorite.

Tip #3 – Cooking Method

Over medium heat, grill the slabs until they are seared and caramelized, then switch to the indirect heat method and slowly finish cooking. This can take about 3 hours to get the nice bite off the bone. Then sauce them at the end.

Extra Tip  Use a spray bottle with some apple juice in it and spray the ribs every 30 minutes to help keep them moist.

Tip #4 – Smoke Ribs (Competition Style)

Stoke the fire using lump charcoal and fruit wood such as apple. The fruit woods work well with pork since their smoke profile tends to be milder than a hickory or mesquite. Pork, being a lighter meat works best with a milder smoke.

Generously sprinkle your favorite rib rub a good hour before cooking to let the flavors work into the meat. You can also rub on some yellow mustard for a tangy flavor.

Maintain the smoker temperature at 250 degrees. Place ribs in the smoker and slow smoke for 4 hours spraying them down every 30 to 40 minutes with the apple juice infused with a bit of apple cider vinegar.

Foil the slabs after 4 hours by wrapping each slab individually in foil. In the foil pouch, add brown sugar and/or honey, some butter and a little apple juice to help steam the ribs a bit while in the smoker for the final time.

Let them cook for an hour and check for doneness. You will see the bones exposed a bit at the bottom of the slab – that’s a good sign. Remember that ‘tender bite off the bone’ is what you are looking for.

Once the ribs have cooked to perfection, pull the slabs from the foil and brush with your favorite sauce. Return to the smoker for about 10 minutes more to glaze the sauce.

Whether you use the traditional grill or the wood smoked method, have a fantastic grilling season!

From the desk of John Cecala  Twitter @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook  Fan Page

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‘Tis the Season to be Braising

When the weather begins turning colder, at least here in the Midwest, we stow away our back yard barbeque grills before winter rolls in. It’s a change that signifies many things – warmer clothes, winter sports and the start of Braising Season!

Professional Chefs already know the culinary delights of braising meats. Here’s a primer for the rest of us, and some potential new ideas for your menu.

The  4-1-1

Braising is a slow cooking method that combines moisture and heat to break down connective tissue and collagen which makes the meat soft and tender. When combined with your favorite mixture of stock, spices and rubs, the end result is a delicious hearty meal that will warm up your winter. Braised meats are comfort food.

Any type of meat can be braised: beef, pork, veal and lamb – even poultry can be braised. Meat is best braised with tougher and bone-in cuts.

Rule of thumb: Fattier is better for braising, where leaner is worse. If a cut is served as a steak on the menu, it’s probably not the best meat for braising.

Best Cuts to Braise

The best cuts for braising are the locomotive muscles from the animal; they are the muscles that are most moved by the animal.  Think: Shoulder, Tail, Cheeks, Ribs (Short), Shank, Feet. These muscles are fattier with more connective tissue that is rich in collagen. When slowly cooked to about 185°F, the intramuscular fat and collagen break down and melt, tenderizing the meat and making it more flavorful and juicy.

The best cuts for braising are:

Beef – Chuck, Brisket, Top Round Roast, Bottom Round Roast, Short Ribs, Cheeks, Shanks (Osso Bucco), Ox Tails

Veal – Shanks (Osso Bucco), Neck, Chuck (shoulder), Round, Short Ribs, Breast

Pork – Blade Roast, Picnic Roast, Shanks, Cheeks

Lamb – Shanks, Shoulder, Arm, Chuck

Cost Wise & Plate Beautiful

Braised meats are also an economical menu choice. They are typically indicative to less costly cuts, yet plate rich and hearty – the perfect marriage. Go for the “wow” factor and try having your bone-in meats “French Cut” to expose the bone; the affect makes for a beautiful plate presentation.

My favorite cuts for braising are beef short ribs. Buedel Fine Meats fabricates a variety of beef short ribs from traditional 3-bone short ribs to Tomahawk Cut single or double bone-in short ribs. Boneless short ribs can also be rolled & tied before braising for a unique plate presentation.

Enjoy the Braising Season, before you know it we’ll be breaking out the grills again.

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I’m Here All Week, Try the Veal | Part II

Traditionally viewed as pricey, today’s variety of Veal cuts are available at a range of prices. Veal can be affordable in everyone’s budget.

5 Types of Veal

Differentiated by raising method, harvest weight and age, there are five types of Veal farmed today:

Bob Veal – Calves that are slaughtered when only a few days old (at most 1 month old) up to 60 lbs.

No.1 Special Formula-fed (or “milk-fed”) Veal – Calves that are raised on a milk formula supplement. The meat color is ivory or creamy pink, with a firm, fine, and velvety appearance. They are usually slaughtered when they reach 18–20 weeks of age (450-500 lbs.).

Non-formula-fed (“red” or “grain-fed”) Veal – Calves that are raised on grain, hay, or other solid food, in addition to milk. This meat is darker in color, and some additional marbling and fat may be apparent. It is usually marketed as “Calf” rather than Veal, at 22–26 weeks of age (650-700 lbs.).

British Rose Veal  – Calves raised on farms in association with the UK RSPCA’s Freedom Food Programme. The name comes from its pink colour, which is a result of the calves being slaughtered at around 35 weeks.

Free-raised Veal – Calves are raised in the pasture, and have unlimited access to mother’s milk and pasture grasses. They are not administered hormones or antibiotics. These conditions replicate those used to raise authentic pasture-raised Veal. The meat is a rich pink color. Free-raised Veal are typically lower in fat than other types of Veal.  Calves are slaughtered at about 24 weeks of age.

Buedel’s Most Popular Veal Cuts

There are over fifteen kinds of Veal portion cuts available from the five key Veal primal cuts. (Buedel Fine Meats offers all of them.) Here are our top ten most popular cuts just in time for the holidays!

Veal Rack 6-Rib Chop Ready  The 6 Rib “Rack” with the natural fat “cap” removed; rib bones are trimmed to 3X3, and the rack is ready roasting or for cutting into Veal rib chops.

 Veal Rack 6-Rib Chop Ready: Frenched To the Eye  This cut is the same as the 6-rib chop ready rack however, the meat is removed from the rib bones down to the loin giving. This is also called a “lollipop” cut.  It makes a beautiful plate presentation.

Veal Chuck, Boneless Shoulder  The main “Shoulder” muscle, it is sometimes “Tied” or “Netted” for  braising and stews.

Veal Breast  The underside or belly of the calf.  Breasts are available Bone-In or Boneless.  It can also be fabricated by a butcher with a “Pocket” cut for stuffing.

Veal Leg, Top Round  This is one of the main muscles of the leg. It is mostly used for slicing into Scaloppini.

Veal Rump  Also known as, Veal Sirloin Butt and Veal Sir-Butt, Rump is a lower cost cut typically used for Medallions and Scaloppini.

Veal Shank  This is the shank from either the front or rear leg of the Veal primarily used for cutting “Osso Bucco”.

Veal Loin, Boneless (Boneless Strip 0X0)  The “Eye” of the Veal Loin removed of all bone and trimmed to the “Sliver Skin” with the tail end removed.  This is a very high quality cut also used for Medallions and Scaloppini.

Veal Loin Chop, Bone-In  The Veal Porterhouse / T-Bone chop is cut from the portion of the Veal “Loin” which contains the “Tenderloin” and trimmed to a 1” “Tail” unless otherwise specified.

Veal Leg, Cutlet  (Leg Slices)  Leg slices can be portioned to a size but are random in shape and appearance. This is a very affordable cut but the lowest in quality.

P.S.

The old iconic line, I’m Here All Week, Try the Veal, was coined by comedians back when formal dinners were standard nightclub fare. Think, ‘Vegas, in the 50’s, baby’.

…you really should try the Veal.

  Part I: Veal Farming & Menu Options

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From the desk of  John Cecala  Twitter @Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

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I’m Here All Week, Try the Veal | Part I

Considered by many professional Chefs the most elegant of all meats, Veal is naturally tender, lean and delicate with a subtle distinctive flavor and texture.

Produced from Holstein bull calves, Veal is a product of the dairy industry – female Holsteins are nurtured to produce milk. Male cows (bulls), are raised for five months on a special formula diet to a harvest weight of 500 pounds.

Dated Raising Methods

Historically speaking, the Veal industry has bore its share of controversy. There has long been inhumane animal treatment issues with regard to the way Veal had been raised.

Male calves were often taken from their mothers soon after birth and placed in confinement cages with little room to move. They were chained by the neck to restrict all movement, making it impossible for them to turn around or even lie down comfortably. This severe confinement made the calves’ meat “tender” since the animals muscles could not develop. Veal producers would severely limit what their animals ate, restricting them to an all liquid milk-substitute which was purposely deficient in iron. This gave them borderline anemia and the pale colored flesh fancied by gourmets.

Today’s Veal

Incredible strides have been made in the Veal industry and much has changed dramatically. While the traditional stall method of raising veal calves is still the predominant management technique, stalls have since been redesigned to provide safer environments to enable calves to stand, stretch, groom themselves, and lay down in a natural position. Environmentally temperature controlled Veal barns further provide natural light and a constant source of fresh circulated air for optimal animal health and safety.

In 2007, American Veal farmers announced they were committed to transitioning all farms to group barns. While experience shows that raising calves in individual pens allows farmers to carefully monitor and manage calves’ nutrition and overall health, advances in group housing now allow farmers to provide the same level of quality care in group settings. It is estimated that 30 percent of Veal calves are raised in group barns today.

Milk-fed Veal continues to be a synonymous industry term. Young calves are unable to digest fiber, such as hay or straw, which is the reason why they receive milk feed. Current feed diets have been improved to use special formulated milk without hormones or preservatives which is easy for calves to digest.

Learn more about today’s trends at VealFarm.com.

Veal on the Menu

Veal has been part of European cuisine for hundreds of years and a staple dish in Italian, French and German restaurants.

Often prepared in the form of cutlets, such as Italian  Cotoletta and Austrian Wiener Schnitzel, Veal can be coated in preparation for frying and/or eaten with a sauce. The traditional Italian dish, Veal Parmigiana, is breaded and served with tomato sauce. Classic French Veal dishes include: fried Escalopes, fried Veal Grenadines (small thick fillet steaks), stuffed Paupiettes, Roast Joints and Blanquettes.

Veal is also considered a diet friendly choice. On average, a trimmed, cooked 3 oz. serving contains 166 calories and only 5.6 grams of fat. Lower in fat than many meats, care must be taken to ensure that Veal does not become tough when prepared. It  is also an excellent source of protein and a good source of niacin, zinc, and vitamin B12 and B6.

 Part II: The Five Types of Veal & Most Popular Cuts

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From the desk of  John Cecala  Twitter @Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

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