The hardest part of cooking beef ribs is finding some decent ones to start with. If you are looking for a source to purchase some beef ribs then this buying guide has you covered! Here is a list of five places where you can find this cut:
- Porter Road
- White Oak Pasture
- Snake River Farms
- Heritage Foods
I will walk you through what is different about the beef from each of these sources but first I want to help educate you about ribs in general. Beef ribs are cut and named in a variety of styles so here is a quick primer so you will know what to look for when you are shopping.
Quick Primer on Beef Ribs
There are two primary types of beef ribs, Back and Short.
Beef Back Ribs
A slab of beef back ribs will usually have between 5-7 rib bones. Typically most of the meat is cut away from the top of the ribs when the ribeye steaks are being cut. Since this is the area on the steer where ribeye steaks come from these ribs are sometimes called “steak on a stick”.
Beef back ribs are usually sold as either a whole/partial slab or are cut thinly across the bones for “Korean barbecue ribs” (Kalbi). The thin cross cut ribs are also known as “Franken Style Beef Ribs”.
Beef Short Ribs
A slab of beef short ribs will typically have only three or four bones but will have a huge amount of meat. These ribs will come from either the plate or chuck primals on the steer and have a brisket/chuck roast flavor. The combination of the massive amount of meat and the huge bone gets some people to call these “brontosaurus ribs” or “dino bones”. Here is my guide on how to smoke beef ribs.
The short ribs are cut several different ways. Common presentations of short ribs are:
- Three or Four Bone Whole Slab
- Single Bone Rib, Texas Style (About 6 inches long)
- Single Bone Rib, English Style (About 3 inches long)
- Thickly Cross Cut Across the Bones
- Bone Removed (Boneless Beef Short Ribs)
Okay, now that you know what you are looking for let’s take a closer look at the different sources.
As of May, 2019 the price of prime beef short ribs at Costco was $9.99 a pound. They have a “two pack” that costs a little less per pound.
These are nice ribs and if you have a Costco in your area then you should definitely check them out. The Costco in Baton Rouge does not have these available everyday. I usually see these on the weekend when they have a specialty meat and seafood display.
The downside of this product is that the meat from Costco is not ethically supportable. Costco is one of the biggest meat buyers in the country and they want a product that is as consistent as possible. The way to get a consistent product is to reduce genetic diversity and raise animals in factory like conditions. Everything you have ever read about the horrors of industrial agriculture and Confined Animal Feedlots is exactly what Costco supports in pursuit of consistency and lower prices.
I wince and cringe every time I buy meat from Costco and am working to break myself of the habit.
Porter Road is based in Nashville and they only buy cattle from small farms in Tennessee and Kentucky. These are cattle that live their whole lives on pasture and are NEVER in Confined Animal Feedlots. The butchers at Porter Road are are a first name basis with all the farmers they work with and routinely visit the farms to make sure the animals are being raised the way they ought to be raised.
This beef comes from Red and Black Angus which usually will grade out at the high end of Choice or even Prime. Since these guys only process a couple head of cattle per week in their own facilities the beef does not have a formal USDA grade. It just doesn’t make sense to hire a USDA inspector for such a small operation.
When you buy from Porter Road you are supporting a small business and family farms. Shipping is dirt cheap.
Here are the links to the three types of beef ribs offered by Porter Road: (By the way, these are my affiliate links to Porter Road)
Short Ribs Cut Cross Bone: This is a three bone cut that’s about two inches thick.
Short Ribs Texas Style: A single bone cut about five inches long.
White Oak Pastures
White Oak Pastures is a 2,500 acre ranch in Bluffton, Georgia that practices a model of ranching, Regenerative Agriculture, that is the exact opposite of the factory farms embraced by Big Box retailers. Animals are treated humanely, raised on pasture and are actually beneficial for the environment.
If you ever wanted a “feel good story” about the meat you eat then White Oak Pastures is what you are looking for. Seriously, for every pound of beef produced the farm sequestiers 3.5 pounds of carbon dioxide. You get to help reverse climate change by eating ribs.
White Oak Pastures sells grass fed beef spare ribs in three pound packs.
Snake River Farms
If you are looking for something deluxe then check out the American Wagyu beef short ribs from Snake River Farms. This is a three bone slab of short ribs from the plate that weighs in at around seven pounds.
These ribs come from American Wagyu which grades out past Prime and into the Japanese BMS grading system. American Wagyu is a term that describes a cross between American Black Angus cows and Wagyu bulls. The resulting meet has much of the marbling of Wagyu with the strong beefy flavor of Angus.
Heritage Foods is an organization that has a mission in direct conflict with the Costco’s of the world. Big Box stores want to limit genetic diversity so they can have a more consistent product. Heritage Foods is working to increase genetic diversity to make sure rare breeds of animals do not go extinct.
Heritage Foods partners with farmers who raise heritage breeds of animals to help them reach a national market.
The beef ribs from Heritage Farms are spectacular and come from 100% Akaushi Wagyu cattle. These red cattle are treasured in Japan and it was only through a fluke loophole in a 1992 Trade Agreement that allowed a small herd of 8 Akaushi cows to be brought into the United States in 1994.
If you have ever wanted to splurge of pure Wagyu beef then now is as good a time as any!