Making Hamburger w/o aging question.

Okay so I have a delimia. I hope someone can help. My family has a ranch. One of the steers that would normally just go to the general cattle sale got his back hurt yesterday.
The poor little fellow is okay except he can’t walk. He still eats and drinks fine. If you didn’t know better you’d just think he lays down all the time.
Generally for our own consumption we take a select beef we raise to a processor and have it all done for us. In this case however there simply isn’t time. Generally our beefs dry age for 14 days in a cooler to get the base flavor.
Now to the question: What I’m seriously considering is just killing him and grinding the whole thing up into hamburger.
How much worse will the hamburger be un-aged compared to an aged beef?
Thank you,

Xaidin, assuming you are in the U.S., this is exactly the kind of question you ought to be posing to your county Extension service. If they don’t have a meat science person on staff, they can put you in touch with one.

I’m your average ignorant meat consumer, and I’m not sure I’d notice the difference between aged and un-aged ground meat. Maybe in a hamburger on the grill, but certainly not in lasagna, chili, slopy joes, etc.

Presumably the OP is more familiar with the USDA regulations, but the Wikipedia article on downer cows says, “The downer issue took on another dimension when bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was found in two North American cows in 2003. Many experts believe that nonambulatory cattle are at higher risk of harboring BSE; as a result, USDA on December 30, 2003, announced an immediate ban on the slaughter of downer cattle for human food use.”

Perhaps a steer that has a back injury isn’t considered at higher risk, or the regulations have been changed since then?

How old is he? My husband (dairy farmer for 25 years, beef cattle farmer for 10) says that the younger they are, the less time they need to age.

But call up the butcher you use. Ours is generally quite helpful with that sort of question.

I lived in an area that routinely ate un-aged beef. I’ve had more than my fair share of un-aged hamburgers.

It’s not that good, but it’s edible. It’s got a bit of a metallic blood taste, and generally tastes less beefy. Kind of a bit of a liver taste, but without the richness.

If I went that route I’d use the beef for heavily spiced dishes like meatloaf. I’d also add some MSG (don’t worry, it’s fine for your health) to make up for the loss of complex flavors created by aging. In dishes where the meat isn’t the star attraction, you probably wouldn’t notice. Just make sure to have lots of unami ingredients (cheese, soy sauce, tomato sauce, mushrooms).

Good advice.
Why can’t you age it.
It is youonger so it night not need to age as much. But the quality of hamburger has a direct relationship to the quality meet it came from.

First: Thanks for the quick replies!

I’m not selling the meat. It’s for my family’s own use, so I do not believe the USDA has much of a say. Also he’s perfectly healthy.
As for the downed cow laws. I fully support them. I’ve seen some horrific things that in my opinion are animal cruelty.

We don’t have a cooler large enough for a full beef to age it. Freezers yes, but not a cooler.
As for quality it’s as good as it can get.

He’s only 5 months old.
I think we’re going to go ahead with it. It’s other hamburger or 300 lbs of dog food.
Worst case, dogs eat hamburger right? :wink:

If space is your main concern, could I suggest one of two options: dry age as much of it as you can, perhaps the better cuts; or, rent a refrigerator for the 1-2 weeks necessary?

From what I learned in culinary school, you will definitely be able to taste the difference between aged and not aged. But while watching “In Search of Perfection” by Heston Blumenthal, he was trying to recreate a steak that was aged for a month, but only had access to meat aged two weeks. His solution was blue cheese. He noticed when he was given a tour of the facility that aged the beef, that the smell was overwhelmingly of blue cheese. So he took a pound of butter and cut it into about four long, thing, slices, then layered the slices with slices of blue cheese. He wrapped this with foil and kept it in the fridge for a day or two. The blue cheese infused into the butter, which he was able to melt and poor over the cooked steak. So all the flavour without the actual blue cheese.

There’s too much for me to type, but take a look at p.144 of Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking (rev. ed. 2004). It explains why aging is important. If you don’t have the book, well worth getting. If you want a quick answer without buying, borrow from a library or read at a bookstore. Basically, if there’s any way possible to age the meat, you should. Doesn’t have to be dry-aging; in fact, most beef is only wet-aged (the main action is enzymatic). But it’s a really, really good idea.

You need to hang the meat at least until rigor mortis resolves. Otherwise the meat will not be good quality, no matter what you do with it - this is called cold shortening.
I knew some people who were missionaries in Pakistan, when they visited us on furlough they commented that their meat was always tough and had to be marinated for days before use. I asked about how they got the meat, and was told that (for hygiene) they would go to the butcher and ask when an animal would next be slaughtered. Then they turned up on that day, watched the slaughter and dressing of the animal, purchased their meat, and took it home to freeze. All very quick and hygienic in the circumstances. Because I was working at a research institute dealing with meat processing, I was able to tell them about cold shortening, and how this was causing their meat to go tough. Whether they were able to use the information to help resolve the situation, I don’t know - the problem was finding somewhere cool enough to hang the meat for long enough.
In a meat works they use electrical stimulation to twitch the muscles so that rigor resolves within a couple of hours.


I guess I’m just dense, but I don’t see why the meat can’t be aged for 14 days no matter how or from where the meat was harvested.

Just so you know (and this is genuinely not to be snarky, but FYI) the word you’re after here is “dilemma”.

I just read on another forum about making a temporary aging cooler. Hang your quarters and tarp them with a window shaker to keep it cool. i am going to try that If we get another Elk, as we have never had tender Elk by just getting them into the freezer asap.

Talk to your local home kill service - some have handheld electrical stimulators that you may be able to hire. Unfortunately, googling electrical stimulators gives an entirely different perspective on shocking.


The problem is keeping that amount of meat cool enough for the aging process. It needs to be under 10[sup]o[/sup]C, preferably closer to 5[sup]o[/sup].
Most people don’t have a handy cool room, and if you want to hang the entire carcass, it has to be pretty big. You would need a really big empty fridge available even if you carved up the beast into joints.


How about buying/borrowing some large coolers? If you could butcher it such that it would fit, you could engineer some iceboxes with racks to prevent the ice/water from contacting the beef.

I’ve aged a deer for a week by wrapping it in an old sleeping bag, and putting a bag of ice in the body cavity each day.

OK, aging wasn’t the intent, but my buddy filled his tag the first morning of a week long hunt, and the weather was too warm to let it hang without the ice. That meat was quite toothsome.

Perhaps you could store the meat in someone else’s cooler for a couple of weeks, in exchange for a share of it?

By “Freezer”, are we talking “professional walk-in freezer” or “deep-freeze I bought from Sears”? If the latter, you can turn your freezer into a cooler with one of these.