Have a cow, man.
Literally. Via Ren + Bos, a Texas-based purveyor of beef, which connects meat lovers with independent ranchers around the country.
R+B allows you to select the exact cuts you want from different ranches, and to base your decision on things like the cattle’s breed, diet and location. It’s possibly the most educational and granular site on beef ever built, and the choices here go far, far beyond the average supermarket’s designation of grass-fed, organic or USDA Prime.
“Our focus is on transparency,” founder Ryan Watson tells us. “Beef is the most misunderstood and underappreciated food that we consume. There are over 800 breeds of cattle on this planet and thousands of diet types;. So, we are delivering customers a unique experience with beef one cow at a time, and allowing them to appreciate the nuances that are associated with each variable of that steer.”
To get started ordering your beef, you type in your zip code and select ranches within a certain distance — you can also filter by specific farm, breed of cattle, cut of meat or even the cattle’s diet.
The site is still in the works — they’re starting with eight ranches, and the search results can be a little maddening unless you just look at all of them at once. Once you’ve selected what you want, the beef is shipped on dry ice and arrives fully frozen.
A few things are readily apparent — there is a lot of info here to, ahem, digest. The cattle’s diet or location is going to offer dozens of clues about taste. As Watson notes: “A steer raised on Bahia grass in Florida simply does not taste the same as one raised on Alkali grasses in the high desert of New Mexico or Alfalfa in Colorado.”
Don’t have time to cull through all the ranches and cuts of meat? Watson offers a few time-saving ordering tips:
Most underrated cut of meat: Flat Iron. “This cut comes from the chuck (forequarter). Studies utilizing the Warner bratzler shear force test revealed that it’s the second most tender cut on the entire animal. But, considering the amount of blood supply that goes to the front legs it is also one of the most flavorful.”
Most crowd-pleasing cut? Tomahawk ribeye. “Everyone loves a good ribeye, and given that it’s generally a larger cut of beef there is more room for error. The reverse-sear method makes it pretty easy to execute this big hunk of meat to a perfect medium rare. Also, with the impact that Instagram has had on the food industry, this is definitely the cut that garners the most social attention.”
Personal preference for breed: Wagyu. “The genetics offer marbling characteristics that are truly special and unique to that breed. That said, a full-blood wagyu steer can create beef that is sometimes too rich for my personal preference. I do think when crossed with European breeds (Angus, Charolais, Hereford, Gelbvieh etc.) that the finished product has just the right amount of marbling.”
For diet: “I tend to prefer animals finished on steam-rolled barley and alfalfa hay. In my opinion it gives beef a rounder nuttier flavor that is really enjoyable.”
And finally, a great, simple grilling tip for beef: “Throw away your timer and invest in a good thermometer. Not all beef is created equal, therefore the amount of time it takes for each piece of beef to get to the appropriate internal temperature is different. Also try finishing with only salt. If you have to marinate it and then coat it in more spices than the Colonel Sanders fried chicken recipe, you’re probably not buying very good beef.”
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