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Bacon is among the most popular and best selling of a line of Nevada developed meat products. It is bacon, though, with a difference. What it's not is the ordinary pork bacon with which we're all acquainted. It is beef bacon. "Beef bacon," you say, "Never heard of it!" You are not likely to have unless you're familiar with research and experimentation that has been underway now for the past six years at the Meats Laboratory, University of Nevada, Reno, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Resources. These efforts, to date, have resulted in some 20 varieties of specially created meats, mostly of beef or sheep origins but also pork, that bring new tastes and textures to such products. Some, too, are "designer" items for specialty markets. The meat creations have earned some high praise by consumers who have been able to buy them at Scolari's Markets in Reno. They are vacuum packaged and sold under the label of "Wolf Pack Meats."

"BEEF IS WHAT'S FOR BREAKFAST," a play on the National Beef Council's, "Beef is What's For Dinner," was coined as a slogan based on the development of beef bacon and beef ham, sausages and other similar breakfast fare. In addition to the breakfast meats there are gourmet burgers; Carne Para Asar or fajita type beef; Mesquite flavored New York Strips; smoked, barbequed, and cajun flavored steak; Maple flavored bacon; Lamb Racks; Shish Kabobs; salami, and similar items.

"The primary motivation for getting into the meats creation business," said Bob Butler, who heads the Meats Lab and who is also in charge of the University's Main Station Farm off East McCarran Blvd. in Reno, "is to enhance the value of meat animals mostly beef and sheep that ordinarily would be classed as low value animals in the meat trade. These are often referred to as "cull" cattle or sheep and would go to the ground meats segment of the industry." What is a "cull" animal? Butler supplied the following in answer, "cattle or sheep may be culled for a variety of reasons. Today's beef rancher, for example, must operate within certain efficiencies or he won't make it. A cow that calves and then doesn't breed back in a required time is inefficient and a rancher will get rid of it. A cow that often has calving problems, one that's got a bad disposition such as over agressiveness which can be a danger in handling, or a bad mother who neglects her calf are candidates for "culling" as are older age animals. In short they fall out of that group of cattle, mostly steers, specifically headed for the prime beef market." Butler summed it up by saying, " if we can sell hamburger from a cull animal for a particular price but can double it by improving that hamburger then we've made the animal more valuable."

Butler pointed out that there are three main considerations in creating the special meats. They are tenderness, first and foremost, followed by taste and juiciness. He along with a number of graduate students have used a host of techniques in creating meat products with these desired qualities. They have done this by marinating both to improve juiciness and flavor; mechanical tenderizing, vacuum tumbling (20 minutes in a tumbler can equal 24 hours of marinating by soaking meat in a pan), smoking, glazing, partial and slow cooking, added flavor, incorporating seasoning, grinding and mixing for hamburger, sausage, salami and other such items.

One example of using these methods has been the creation of what Butler labels the "Gourmet Burger." This is a burger that has been developed, say, with bacon and cheese ground into it. "It's right tasty," says Butler, "and you can pop it on the grill and get a bacon cheeseburger flavor without having to cook the bacon or add a piece of cheese." He pointed out that they sell regular hamburger for $1.45 a pound but the "Gourmet Burger" sells for $3.00 a pound. "We have to invest additional time and ingredients to make the burger which adds to cost but we can still make more money on the improved burger than the regular one," Butler notes. Oh, by the way, if a bacon cheese burger is not your thing you can choose Vidalia Onion, Hawaiin (teriyaki and pineapple), Mexi (pepper jack cheese and jalapenos), Blue Cheese or Wine and Garlic.

The "Bistec de Res Prepardo," the "Carne Para Asar" and Texas Trim Barbequed Brisket represent special products designed for those that like fajita type meats and flavoring or hispanic foods. These have been good sellers for "Wolf Pack Meats." "What our research and development efforts have indicated is that we can make a less valuable meat animal a more valuable one," Butler said. He added that the work goes on with the likehood of more desirable specialized meat products being created.

Contributing to Butler and his students projects has been the Nevada Agricultural Foundation. NAF has provided grant funds to help finance the work. A meat slicing machine was one item of equipment purchased with the help of NAF grants. "We have been very interested in Butler's work," said Gail Munk of Lovelock, NAF Executive Director/Secretary,"because it offers additional prospects for increasing consumer markets for agriculturally produced foods."

What have some others in the meat processing field thought of the "Wolf Pack Meats" innovations? During the past three years, Butler and his students have entered specialty products in the annual cured meats competition at the California Association of Meat Processors Annual Convention. This year's entry won Grand Championship, placing over 190 other entries. This followed the two previous years when the Nevada products took away the Reserve Grand Championship ribbons.

Totally some 70 meat products are marketed under the "Wolf Pack Meats" label. Most of them, with the exception of the specially produced ones, are what have been sold by the Meats Lab for years - that is regular cuts. You can, for instance, buy a half or quarter of beef for the home freezer, regular hamburger beef patties, ribs, steaks, roasts, lamb, pork and other such meats. Those interested can obtain additional information by calling the Meats Lab at 775 857-3663.
Hell they've been making Beef Bacon at a local store here for years Gotvalds Store Randall Mn.

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