Raising Cattle

Canada, Alberta specifically, is known for its ranching culture and high-quality beef. The beef industry is heavily regulated and monitored to assure consumers within the country and abroad that beef is safely raised and safe to consume. Cattle roam the pastures and eat grasses and alfalfa for most of the year but can be fed grains (corn and barley) in the winter or when it comes time to "fatten them up" for the market. Beef that are not fed grain as a finisher are referred to as "grass fed".

Cattle that is raised as veal are slaughtered at 200-225kg, or around 5 months. If a steer or heifer grow to around 18 months and 1350-1400kg they are ready to be slaughtered.

Cattle Classification

  • Bulls: male cattle, usually not raised to be eaten
  • Cows: female cattle after their first calving (birthing of a calf)
  • Heifers: young cows before their first calving
  • Stags: male cattle castrated after maturity
  • Steers: castrated prior to maturity and specifically raised for beef
  • Veal: young (pre-adolescent) bovine carcass

Muscle Composition

Beef is around 72% water (similar to other meats), 20% protein, 7% fat, and 1% carbohydrates. Due to the water content, beef shrinks when cooked. Beef is an excellent source of protein and lean cuts (less fat) can be eaten in small portions as part of a healthy and balanced diet.


In Canada, we have:

  • Canada Prime
  • AAA, AA, and A
  • B1, B2, B3, B4
  • D and E

Around 82% of beef production in Canada is Grade A or higher. Beef is graded on its muscle composition (texture), fat content and marbling, and colour of the muscle and fat, and ossification (hardening of bones). Beef is inspected at a Federal level and Provincial level both before and after slaughter.


There are 2 ways to age beef and improve its taste and texture;

  • Dry aging: carcass is is held in a cooler
  • Wet aging: smaller cuts are sealed in vacuum bags and stored in the cooler

Ways To Cook

Beef is extremely versatile. Hamburgers and steaks never seem to get old and the market for carnivores will always exist. To choose a cooking method, you must understand the cut of beef. Already tender cuts of beef (those that are exercised less) are suitable for fast-cooking methods like grilling, pan frying, or sautéing. Tougher cuts with a lot of connective tissue are best when cooked slowly and in moist heat cooking methods like braising and stewing.

Beef can be;

  • grilled
  • sautéed
  • stewed
  • braised
  • cooked low temperature (sous vide in an immersion circulator)
  • poached
  • fried
  • baked
  • seared
  • eaten raw

Additionally, marinating or smoking can help add flavour and tenderize meat. Other ways to tenderize include mechanical (using meat hammer/mallet) or chemical tenderizers (baking soda).

More on Cooking Beef

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Alberta Beef Producers