COLLEGE STATION, Texas – When it comes to life here in the Lone Star State, there’s one thing Texas is known for. Beef. From the massive meat portions at the Big Texan in Amarillo, the pristine presentation at the Perini Ranch in Buffalo Gap or the line forming plate, filling fine steaks of Leona, you can find a fine filet just about anywhere between the Sabine and Rio Grande.
Before the big slabs of beef can be brought to the table, they have to be raised by the hardworking ranchers of our great state. Davey Griffin is a professor and Extension meat sprcialist at Texas A&M and every year he teaches cattle raisers the most recent methods of making marvelous meat. His classroom sessions are just a small part of the Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course, a Texas livestock tradition that started in 1942 and brings in producers from all over the planet.
“You’ve got all kinds of different sizes of operations, sizes of ranches, here to learn, here to teach each other to better the product,” Davey said.
Jason Cleere coordinates the three day event.
“Our ranchers need to produce the best quality product that they can so that’s the goal of the Beef Cattle Short Course,” Jason said. “Everybody knows that beef cattle is in town because of all the vehicles and all the hats. We even have to have hat parking.”
Considering Texas has over 133,000 ranches, that’s a lot of hats.
“We’ll have a lot of new people and then we’ll have people that come every year because they say, ‘We just want to pick up some more, something else you might say that you didn’t say last time,’” Davey said.
This course consists of more subjects on sirloin than there are cuts of meat on a cow. From soil fertility, breeding, nutrition, fence building, and farming. No stone is left unturned when it comes to the teaching of topics. But when you have this many ranchers in one place, you have to feed them and chances are you can guess where this is going.
The most popular event at the Beef Cattle Short Coarse is a dinner that people who don’t even have cattle will gladly pay the cost of admission to chow down.
“The prime rib dinner, you ask anybody, if they’ve been to the beef cattle short course they’ve heard of it,” Jason said. “They’re going to tell you that famous Texas Aggie prime rib dinner.”
It all starts with 120 ribeyes slowly cooked on campus is some fancy university cookers.
“The cook all of this in about nine hours is how long it takes to really truly do them really slowly,” Davey said. “That’s one of the things that makes this just a little bit different from the way a lot of people would do this.”
Each cut of beef is carefully prepared by students.
“I have to admit, our graduate students have become kind of prime rib — I don’t want to say snobs but kind of,” Davey said.
Cooking all the beef is the easy part, its when it time to open the feedlot that a little bit fear starts to set in.
“Until we cut that first one and I see what – and I know, I have a lot of confidence in this – but until I see that first one cut I’m a little nervous. Just to be honest. I just have to admit,” Davey said.
With the who’s who of Aggieland on hand and a line that goes long into the Memorial Student Center, the moment of truth arrives, and the stampede commences. A simple meal consisting mostly of meat is dished out to a massive amount of people.
“There’s some that are twenty, five-inch rib eyes and some of us might say, ‘Bring it on! It’s a big old ribeye,” Davey said.
Whether it’s becoming a cattle producer or simply enjoying the fruits of their labor, attending the Beef Cattle Coarse is a culinary and cultural stop that’s worth chewing cud for and some prime rib too.
“For me it’s about seeing the people in the industry that we see every year,” Jennifer said. “Having that comradery and talking to folks and really connecting over a great steak, that I clearly had no issues eating.”