The three remaining Angus Boys, Sir Loin and Numbers 27 and 30, took a 40 mile drive to a ranch where the ultrasounding guy was all set up.
Ultrasound tests for beef cattle? (A friend wondered if it was something Rick Santorum said.)
In the world of artisanal beef production, it's becoming more common for grass fed beef producers to have their steers measured for fat content, tenderness and marbling before they are sent to the great pasture in the sky. It's a way to market the beef to the butchers and stores which will sell the beef to you, the discerning grass fed beef consumers.
When we arrived, a group of Black Angus was being rounded up for their testing. Off in the distance are the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, close to where we live.
This is the ranch's owner, who rounded up the cattle and acted as host to the groups arriving for testing. She reminded me of Barbara Stanwyck in the old tv show, The Big Valley.
The farther east in New Mexico you travel, the closer you are to Texas horse and cattle culture. Check out these boots:
I was a worried cattle mama during the ride to the ranch because the steers had only been in a trailer once before, when they were carried to our ranch as youngsters. I didn't need to worry because they did just fine and were not mooing or nervous at all. They trotted down the alley to the squeeze chute.
The squeeze chute was automatic and quiet. When a steer stepped in, he was trapped, but didn't seem to mind at all. If you get a chance to see the film Temple Grandin, she makes a squeeze box for herself after seeing how it calmed the cattle once they were inside.
The sonogram operator shaved a patch of thick winter fur, squeezed some sonogram goo onto the bare skin and laid a wand both on the steer's back and in the ribeye area.
Here's Sir Loin getting his ultrasound: (He had the highest score!)
The computer showed several views of the animal's interior, how much ribeye area there was, fat content, and marbling. Each steer had three scores and all of our guys passed with flying colors.
I write about this and worry that I sound callous about the steers and their fate. But please know that none of this is easy, and I think hard before I order meat at a restaurant nowadays.
I want to know where my burger lived, if the ranch was a good one, were the owners kind, and did the steers get lots of good grass and hay to eat-and no corn to hurt their tummies. I wonder if the rancher laid out various blocks of salt and minerals in a row, allowing the steers to choose what they needed each day and could they have as long a lick fest as they wanted. Was their life calm? Were they treated ethically?
And if I am not sure, I eat a vegetarian meal. It's weird that a cattle producer would eat a veggie meal, but now I know what should go into a steak or a burger and I don't want to compromise.
And it's even better when they can graze right next to a Buddha.