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What is Dry-Aged Beef?

Updated: Nov 3, 2022

One thing that sets Truly Beef apart from the rest is that we dry-age our beef and we do this longer than most. But what is “dry-aged” beef and how is it different than something you’d find in the store?

Let’s explore some of the science and history behind dry-aging!

(For those of you that may be groaning, don’t worry! I'll try to make it interesting.)

Dry-aging beef
What is Dry-Aged Beef?

What is Dry-Aging?

Dry-aging simply refers to the “maturing” of meat. It takes place after an animal has been killed, skinned and gutted, where then the carcass hangs in a cool, controlled environment for one to five weeks. During this time the meat matures through some neat biochemical and natural enzymatic processes. This enzymatic activity actually breaks down the connective tissues in the beef and creates a more tender, juicier product, richly bringing out its own unique flavors.

The History of Dry-Aging

This term may seem new and trendy, but actually has a rich history as traditional butcher handicraft dating back centuries. History through the eyes of artists Martin van Cleve (“The Slaughtered Ox”, drawn 1566) and Rembrandt (“The slaughtered Ox”, painted 1655) both depict a beef carcass hanging in a cool, dark place.

We’ve learned and perfected a lot since then, but I find there’s wisdom in tradition.

Introducing Arch Nemesis: Wet-Aging

All beef was aged this way until the development of vacuum packaging and boxed beef in the 1960’s. Then the industry began its shift to “wet-aged” beef, and by the 1980s, over 90% of the beef found in grocery stores was marketed as wet-aged.

Wet-aging where the animal is butchered and packaged into retail cuts immediately after killing, skinning and gutting. This process lets the beef “age” in the packaging so that water is retained in the package allowing for a higher pound yield and higher profit margins for companies. Unfortunately, the retention of this water in the packaging yields a drier and tougher product when cooked. You ever have to drain the pan after cooking beef bought at the grocery store? Yeah... It also creates a bland flavor profile and leaves us disappointed.

Beware The Marketing Schemes

Another significant difference between dry-aged and wet-aged beef is that dry-aged beef needs to be frozen after it has been cut into retail products. This is because the aging process has already taken place before being cut and packaged. In order to preserve the product, it needs to be frozen. Don’t worry! Despite what wet-aged marketers will tell you, studies show no significant difference in product after being frozen. In fact, on blind tests, some of the most pristine palates in the country can’t tell if it has been frozen. Due to the resurging popularity of dry-aged beef, large retail companies have countered with the new marketing campaign of “fresh, never frozen.” Who doesn’t like the sound of that? I love fresh food. But wait... Upon looking into the facts, “fresh, never frozen” is only possible with wet-aged beef. Thus, “fresh, never frozen” beef is an inferior product that is trying to use marketing spins to convince you to buy it.

Tradition Revived

This has led to a revival in the beef industry of dry-aged beef. People are craving a superior flavor and tenderness.

Proof of dry aged beef’s superiority, the studies are overwhelmingly in its favor. According to a study done by Warren and Kastner (1992), dry-aged steaks had significantly higher beefy and roasted flavor intensities than the wet-aged steaks. Furthermore, wet-aged steaks had significantly higher bloody, metallic, and sour flavors than the dry-aged steaks.

Take that, wet-aged!

Truly Beef - Crafted Like Fine Wine

Those of you who have had the opportunity to try pasture-raised, dry-aged craft beef know that there is no going back to mass-produced, watered-down, bland grocery store beef. In the way that each winery produces a distinct wine, so it goes with ranches and beef. We want to give you a unique experience with Truly Beef.

We’ve done our research. From the grasses grazed, to finishing specifically with barley grains, each aspect of our business has been carefully chosen with you in mind. Choosing to dry-age our beef up to 28 days, twice as long as some, is like deciding whether to age a fine wine in an oak barrel. It’s the cherry on top of the sunday. It’s truly beef at its finest.

Congratulations! You made it to the end!

Thank you for reading this mini doctoral thesis on dry-aged beef.

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