From Across the Field – It’s About to Get Busy

As I complete my first full year here in Henry County we are entering my favorite time of the work year. While I do enjoy getting to teach and talk with folks during the winter meetings, they don’t hold a candle to being out in the field. Whether it’s conducting on-farm research, checking insect traps, or diagnosing plant disease it does one some good to get away from the office.

This past Sunday I had a chance to get the lawn mower up and running. Remember starting out we should be mowing grass fairly short this time of year, about 2 and a half to 3 inches off the ground is about where I like to be.

The smell of fresh cut grass is an indicator that we are also closing in on barbecue and grilling season. This weekend if it isn’t too chilly, I think I’ll fire up my charcoal smoker and experiment with either a pork loin or perhaps a boneless pork butt.

When cooking outdoors there are a couple of things to remember regarding temperature. The first of which is to preheat the grill or smoker that you are working with. This will allow for an even cooking temperature throughout the cook. For burgers and steaks on direct heat preheat the grill to about 500 degrees. This allows for the proper searing and will prevent the meat from stick to the grate. As for the smoker depending on the cut of choice, I like to preheat to somewhere between 200 and 250 degrees and maintain that temperature over an extended period of time.

This is also a good time to discuss cooking temperatures. All ground meats and poultry products should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees as a food safety measure. Whole muscle cuts such as steaks and chops can be prepared to a range of temperatures and degrees of doneness, including pork. The National Pork Board recommends cooking pork to 145 degrees, which will result in a slight pink internal color, and a juicy pork chop. With integrated pork production there is no longer the need to cook pork to 160 degrees, where it tends to become dry.

Regardless of your target temperature, let the cooked cut of meat rest before slicing and serving. This short wait period will allow the juices to redistribute, resulting a more palatable product and a more satisfactory eating experience.

To help insure a safe and whole meat product many producers are certified in quality assurance. As you may know, Tyson who purchases about 1/4th of U.S. beef and Wendy’s are requiring that their producers be certified in Beef Quality Assurance (BQA). We will host a BQA meeting here in Henry County on June 18th for all cow-calf, feedlot, and dairy producers. The meeting will be at the Ag Hall on the Fairgrounds. Justin Kieffer, veterinarian with OSU Animal Sciences will be on hand to discuss health and handling of feedlot cattle and the Henry County Cattlemen will be serving dinner. Please RSVP to the Extension office by June 11 to become BQA Certified.

I’ll end this week with a quote from American author, Hal Borland, “Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.” Have a great week.

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