Printed with the permission of the Alpine Avalanche
About a year ago, my husband and I learned of the Sul Ross Meat Retail Store. The man that told us about it said that the “Meat Lab” was the only place he bought his family’s beef and pork products. We were immediately intrigued.
The idea of buying meat from a lab conjured images in my mind of test tubes and bubbling beakers… not exactly what you’d associate with buying meat. But the fella we’d spoken to raved about it and we knew we’d have to check it out.
The Meat Lab at Sul Ross is a state-inspected research and teaching facility that just happens to sell beef and pork. Students in the meat science field get to take care of the entire meat processing process from harvesting the animal and cutting it, processing it, packaging it, freezing it and then selling it retail in the store on site at the Turner Range Animal Science Complex.
They also have a computerized smokehouse where they smoke the bacon, hams and jerky they sell in the retail store. This state of the art lab was revamped in 2006 to include a slaughterhouse, chilling coolers, a processing room, freezer storage and the retail sales counter, where the public can purchase reasonably priced beef and pork.
Students are required to follow all the rules and regulations for inspection, food safety and sanitation at all times.
On a recent trip to Alpine, my husband happened to stop by the Meat Lab retail store and came home with some of the prettiest bone-in ribeye steaks I’ve seen in a very long time. And, as if the price and the marbeling of the ribeye wasn’t enough to make this meat-eating gal’s day, the steaks were dry aged. Dry aged ribeyes?! What a treat!
Adding only salt and pepper to our dry aged, bone-in ribeyes before grilling them, they were the tastiest steaks we’ve eaten in a very long time. With scalloped potatoes and a green salad on the side, these steaks were incredible.
If you’re not familiar with dry aged beef, it is essentially a process where the beef is exposed to precise temperature and humidity levels to increase tenderness and alter the flavor, which happens through a combination of bacteria, enzyme breakdown and oxidations. Many say that the water loss during dry aging makes the “meat” flavor more concentrated. Dry aging requires expensive refrigeration equipment, which the Meat Lab just happens to have. The Meat Lab dry ages the beef for 28 days. Fourteen to 28 days is the most effective time period to taste and see the results of dry aging.
You can also find at the Retail counter ribeye, rump, tri-tip, and arm roasts; various steak cuts including tenderloin, blade, flank, skirt, round, T-bone, sirloin, Porterhouse and strip; stew meat; ground beef, short ribs and brisket.
If red meat isn’t your thing and you’re looking for the “other white meat,” you can choose from boneless pork ribs, Boston Butt steaks and roasts, pork loin chops, Baby-Back and Spare ribs, smoked bacon, smoked ham and breakfast sausage. Everything is sold by the pound. Check out the menu board that has all of their in-stock offerings and prices listed.
It appears the students at the Meat Lab will also harvest and process your meat for a fee of $35 to harvest and $0.75 on the rail. Check out their website at http://www.sulross.edu/meat-retail-sales-counter.
Open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and can be reached at (432)837-8208.
(perfect with our grilled steaks)
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper (or more if you love pepper like I do)
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Gruyere – whatever you prefer – or you can skip the cheese altogether and it’s still delicious)
5 medium potatoes, thinly sliced (I use russets because I like the tenderness)
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
In a small skillet, melt butter. Stir in the flour, salt and pepper until smooth; gradually add milk. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in cheese until blended.
Place half of the potatoes in a 1-1/2-qt. baking dish coated with oil; layer with half of the onion and cheese sauce. Repeat layers.
Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Uncover; bake 10-15 minutes longer or until bubbly and potatoes are tender. Serves 6.