If you’re looking for the highest quality source of protein to build more strength and lean muscle mass, Chad Belding is the guy to talk to. Star of The Fowl Life with Chad Belding on the Outdoor Channel and host of The Fowl Life Podcast, Belding is an avid hunter and a nearly as avid weight-lifter. He’s also the author of a brand-new book of fish and game recipes, The Provider Cookbook. With an appreciation for both wild game and optimizing his health, he insists on knowing where his food comes from. This means considering the source every time he picks out a ribeye, filet mignon, or New York strip for dinner.
With an appreciation for both wild game and optimizing his health, he insists on knowing where his food comes from. This means considering the source every time he picks out a steak weather it be.a ribeye, filet mignon, or New York strip for dinner.
“The main thing about your steaks is that you want to know where it comes from,” says Belding, a former Division I college baseball player at UNLV. “Is it on a farm, or is it somewhere I don’t know about where it’s being injected with all these steroids and stuff I don’t want in my body?”
If you’ve never put this much thought into the piece of meat you throw on your grill, maybe it’s time to start being more selective. In the below interview, Belding tells you where to go and what to look for in your steak shopping.
Courtesy of Chad Belding
What’s the first thing to consider when choosing a steak?
Chad Belding: When we’re talking about domestic [farm raised] versus wild game, what I want to know is, Where does my food come from? Is it coming from an ethically correct feedlot and slaughter program, where we can find out the story of exactly what’s being fed to these cattle, how they’re being taken care of, and what their nutrition plan is? If so, you can have an idea of where your domestic steaks come from.
When hunting wild game, of course, you don’t have to worry about the feedlot and all that. You know where it’s coming from.
Absolutely. When you kill an elk in the mountains of Nevada or Idaho or Utah or Colorado or Arizona somewhere, that elk’s lived its best life. It’s living wild, it’s eating wild berries and wild forms of food that keep his life substantial and keep him healthy for his whole life. Now, as hunters, we’re the biggest conservationists there are in the world, because we believe in management of the herds and we believe in ethically harvesting these animals, respecting the resource, and having compassion for them. That elk dies a quick death, and we’re able to subsidize all that protein from his tenderloins and his back straps, his steaks to his roasts to his ribs, everything. We eat every part. We eat the tongue. We eat the jaw. You name it. We use the bone marrow for stews and sauces.
So, if I’m not a hunter but I want to go pick up a good, quality domestic steak for dinner tonight, could you point me in the right direction? What type of store or butcher shop should I look for?
I think going to a trusted butcher shop in your local area is a good idea. A place where you can talk to the owner and get an idea of what ranch and what farms the meats came from. I would want to know where they lived and if they were grass fed for the first three quarters of their life. And then, once they reached a certain weight, 900 pounds, were they switched over to a different feed to finish them off to whatever desired weight they were going to before slaughter? I personally stay away from buying my meats at Walmart or a store I don’t know, where they’re just pumping out steak after steak because they have so many customers. I really don’t think that’s the best bang for your buck as far as finding the nicest steak.
For those who don’t have a good butcher shop nearby, are there any big-box stores you’d recommend?
Costco, I feel, has a good story behind a lot of their beef. At Costco, it’s very easy to find out who’s supplying their beef. If, for example, it’s a store that uses Harris Ranch out of California, you can find out what Harris Ranch is feeding their cattle.
Where do you buy your steak from when you don’t hunt it yourself?
My favorite way to buy steaks is through an online service. Ours is American Almond Beef, and Snake River Farms is another good one. A lot of their cuts are Wagyu, which is a Japanese strain of cattle. Wagyu beef is very popular, but it’s very expensive. You can read the stories of some of the ways these ranches are taking care of their cattle on their websites.
So, you could order a bunch of steaks online and freeze the ones you’re not going to eat right away?
Yeah, you can freeze them. If you start dealing with online retailers like American Almond Beef or Snake River Farms, when you receive the meat, it’s going to come in a customized freezer box with dry ice as well as ice packs as well. It’s an insulated system that’s all vacuum sealed. You might buy around 10 steaks at a time. You cook one that night, thaw it out, and cook it. The rest of them go right in your freezer being vacuum sealed the way they come. You’re going to pay a little bit more for it, but it’s premium and you’re going to have a story behind where that beef comes from.
And if you do go to Costco and buy a package of 10 ribeyes or whatever, I suggest getting a good vacuum sealer to be able to shrink wrap those and keep the air out of them. That’s going to prevent frost bite once it goes into the freezer, allowing that steak to live a lot longer frozen, where you can take it out in month from now and cook it again.
You mentioned ribeyes. What are your preferred cuts of steak?
I love ribeye. They’re higher in fat, but they’re higher in flavor. As long as you condition yourself not to eat a lot of the fat, I recommend it. I love the pieces of meat that are right up against the bone. My all-time favorite steak, though, is a really lean filet mignon. The one we sell at American Almond Beef is honestly the best I’ve ever had. It’s like butter in your mouth, very tender. It’s a cut that comes off the back strap, or the tenderloin if you will. It’s a very unused muscle in the body. It’s up against the spinal cord of the cow and it doesn’t get a whole lot of exercise, whether they’re walking, running, laying down, or standing up. That piece of meat that runs along both sides of the spinal cord is where you’re going to get your filet mignon, and those are my favorite cuts. That goes for wild game as well.
Courtesy of Chad Belding
Just about every cut of steak is leaner than the ribeye, right?
Yeah. New York strips and sirloins are both going to be leaner. But ribeyes are great, especially if you start going bone in. You also have the option of what they call a tomahawk, where that ribeye comes off the ribcage and the rib bone stays attached. It’s kind of that Fred-Flintstone-looking steak with a big handlebar on it, but it’s got a ton of flavor because all of that fat’s attached and the best meat’s right up against that bone. As I mentioned before with the filet mignon, the closest meat to the bone is the stuff that never gets used, so it’s tender and real flavorful because it’s the first to get those juices of that bone marrow in it when it cooks. If you go the route of a tomahawk bone-in ribeye, you’re going to spend some more money, but it’s great flavor, great protein, and it’s just a great experience because it looks cool and it cooks through really well.
Purchase Chad Belding’s new cookbook at TheProviderLife.com.