Each menu idea, each recipe, each meal, deserves a special selection of exceptional ingredients, and when it comes to beef, Belmont Butchery takes pride in offering you better selection and higher quality than you'll find in a grocery store!
USDA Prime, Conventional, 100% Certified Angus Beef.
All-natural, certified humane, no added hormones or antibiotics, Grain-fed beef.
Local, no added hormones or antibiotics, Pasture-raised beef.
Local, no added hormones or antibiotics, Grass-fed beef.
Why offer locally raised beef? The passion and joy of the local farmer raising very special cattle means a spectacular selection of robust flavors you wouldn't otherwise be able to taste. Each of the local farms that provide us with beef offers its unique take on what makes for an exceptional cut of meat. By bringing these different farms to your table, Belmont offers you a tremendous variety of selection—and that sets us apart from everyone else in Richmond and for that matter - Virginia. We are always trying out new farms as potential sources for our beef. Only a few farms have meet our strict standards!
What's the difference between grass-fed and grain-feed beef? The simple answer - a lot! Cows are designed to eat grass, not grain, but in the past 50 years farmers discovered that if they fed cows grain in addition to grass they can produce a different nuance to the flavor and texture of beef. The addition of grain to the diet produces a sweeter flavor, more marbling—the desirable appearance of fat throughout the meat—and a softer texture. Maintaining a grass-only diet produces a richer taste, a denser texture and a more robust flavor. See how cool having different choices can be?
Taken to extremes, a grain diet is a poor choice. Since cows can't properly digest grain, if their diet includes too much of it they must be given antibiotics. And, since time is money, conventionally-raised cattle are given growth hormones to attain full size faster. When you see an antibiotic-free grain-fed cow like those we offer, you can be sure its diet is carefully balanced to produce the best flavor while preserving the health of the animal.
What’s the difference between Grass-fed and Pasture-raised? When we state that something is ‘grass-fed’ it means just that. All grass, no grain. When the weather is bad, these steers are fed hay - hay is grass! Whereas ‘pastured’ means reared on grass but given grain as a supplement (kind of like dessert!). When grain is fed in conjunction with grass in a balanced diet, it isn’t bad for the animal. Rather you get a hint of sweet from the grain and robust minerality from the grass. Pasture raised is a great place to start if you want to go local (or have had a bad experience from other grass-fed beef).
Our Farms -
Buffalo Creek Farms: For seven-generations, the Potter’s have been a farming family. Located in Lexington, VA (on Buffalo Creek) the Potter’s hand rear their cattle from birth to plate (they even own the abattoir to ensure the proper and humane handling of their beef!). Buffalo Creek Beef is all natural; no added hormones or antibiotics; pasture-fed Angus Beef. This has become our house standard for local pasture raised beef! We always have Buffalo Creek Beef available.
Prospect Farm: Nestled on 170 rolling acres in the heart of Central Virginia. Constance and Carl raise Black Angus –Devon cross steers that graze on sweet nutrient-rich grasses and clover that do not see chemical fertilizers, or pesticides. Their beef is 100% grass-fed, local, humanely raised and harvested beef; as well as, no added growth hormones, routine antibiotics, or by-product feed supplements. This is the standard by which we compare all other grass-fed beef! We age sides for a minimum of 21 days before custom cutting by hand for you. Due to Constance’s strict standards, her beef is only available seasonally.
Beechwood Farm: Located in nearby Goochland, Matt Gottwald is a ‘new generation’ farmer. Utilizing his family’s farm, he has gone back to the land. Raising 100 % grass-fed Black Angus Cattle with no added hormones or antibiotics, this is some of the best 100% grass-fed beef we have ever had! Processed at T & E Meats in Harrisonburg, dry aged for a minimum of 21 days, we custom cut this for you. We are privileged to get a few sides each year.
Gryffon's Aerie: Located on the far side of Charlottesville, Gryffon's Aerie goes above and beyond organic certification requirements. Ramona and Collins breed and raise Red Devon cattle on lush pasture, and their cattle are 100% grass-fed. These 'happy' cows are 100% natural—no added hormones, antibiotics or other stuff. Gryffon’s Aerie was my first exposure to local grass-fed beef (lucky me!) I have been buying beef from GA since 2004.
What about the “conventional” available beef at Belmont? When we reference “conventional”, we are referring to grain-fed beef, not from a local family farm. Our ‘conventional’ beef is either USDA Prime or ‘all Natural with no added hormones or antibiotics’. We carry top-tier Choice grade and Prime, depending on the cut. Since our ‘conventional’ beef is not local – we regularly hold blind tastings to make sure that ours is the best all natural grain-fed beef available! It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!
What do you mean by top-tier Choice or Prime? What do USDA grades mean? Beef is graded according to a quality scale—from best rating to worst, the scale is Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner. Only Prime, Choice and Select are sold to consumers as raw meat. All cuts of meat are available in different grades. The cut of meat determines where it comes from (see the diagram below for information), while the grade of meat speaks to the quality.
The top USDA grade, Prime, makes up only 1 - 2.5% of all beef processed in this country. The inspector considers many characteristics when grading for Prime, but even discriminating consumers mostly look at marbling, that network of fat that traverses the meat. It's the marbling that gives Prime beef the incredible rich, juicy, tender flavor and texture which speaks to the quality of excellent beef.
Choice is the USDA grade below Prime. About 45% of all graded beef is called Choice, so you can imagine that there is a huge range in quality within the grade. We only carry top-tier or 'high' Choice, the best you can get without being Prime (vs. 'low' Choice which is only slightly better than Select—and what grocery stores carry.) Select grade is the lowest of grades available to consumers. It is very lean and lacks marbling, which makes for a less juicy or tender piece of meat.
Which cuts work for which types of cooking? Finding the right cut of meat is often the most neglected part of picking the right beef for your recipe, and is second only to quality in your selection process. Belmont Butchery stocks a wide variety of beef cuts and our team of professional butchers can help you find the right cut to meet your recipe and your budget—with a phone call or a word to one of our staff we can create any special cut you desire. Additionally, several of our butchers have professional cooking experience and are happy to give advice!