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Sourcing our Steak

Posted April 5th, 2013.

Dear steak lovers,

Have you ever wondered where the steak in your burrito comes from? Well, whether or not that thought has crossed your mind, you’re about to learn.

We recently embarked on a mission we like to call Boloco CIA: Culinary Investigation Assignment. We’re tracking down the source of some of our ingredients. Our Director of Digital Creative & Social Media – now turned CIA Agent – Cassidy reported back in October 2012 with the source of the corn in our tortilla chips, but this time, she (along with Boloco’s CEO, John Pepper) headed all the way to Uruguay, where the life of Boloco’s grass-fed beef begins.

She documented it in video form – the life of our steak, in under 6 minutes:


But for those of you who don’t want to watch the video (or you want some more details after watching the video!), we’ll lay it out for you here, in all its gory – er, grassy! – detail.

THIS is where the journey of Boloco’s grass-fed beef begins.

Doesn’t it look nice? It’s sunny, green, and there’s plenty of room!

The cows are raised on farms like this for their entire lives.

They eat grass, they roam around, just hangin’ out. On average, each cow has 2 acres of beautiful, grassy land all to itself!

They’re never injected with hormones or antibiotics (which is very different than the way 97% of cattle are raised in the US – stay tuned for that in a later post), so they grow and gain weight at a natural pace.

The cattle live a happy life here on the ranch for about 2-3 years. Then, unfortunately, in order to get inside Boloco’s delicious burritos, the cattle have to head to their next destination… the slaughterhouse.

This is Tacuarembo, a plant that slaughters 1,100 heads of grass-fed cattle each day, making steak, hamburgers, beef jerky, and other beef products. It sits 5-hours north of Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, and just south of the Brazilian border.

As you might expect, it’s pretty intense in here (so intense that we had our resident artist, Sean Boyce, illustrate some of the scenes inside the slaughterhouse so as to not unnecessarily upset you). Cassidy and John will be sharing their personal reactions here on this blog soon – but for now, let’s focus on the facts.

The fact is: if you’re ever forced to see a slaughter happen, this is likely the best place to see it. The moment you walk into the facility, you can tell it’s been thoughtfully designed over many years. It was so much cleaner and more organized than we had expected (for what it’s worth, we were really impressed).

On top of the white walls, white uniforms, and sanitary steel surfaces, this slaughterhouse has great morals and is extremely humane. The workers inside it care deeply about animals. That’s why they have a strict animal welfare program in place, which is monitored by a government employee. This ensures the animals don’t go through any unnecessary suffering.

But these humane processes weren’t born overnight. It’s taken years. There’s an animal science expert named Temple Grandin.

Her autism allowed her to somewhat relate to the feelings cows were experiencing in the moments before and leading up to their death. Her findings have led to massive changes in ethical slaughterhouses all over the world, including here, in Tacuarembo. She visited this very plant in 2004 and 2008, and helped them make positive changes for the sake of the animals.

Thanks to her, this facility now has its cattle walk in a curve, rather than a straight line, which allows them to stay calm.

The ramp they walk up is made in a way that’s easy for them to walk on, and the cattle are cleaned with flowing water as they go. This helps to ensure the cattle experience a peaceful and humane end of life.

So when the cattle arrive at the plant, they’re lined up in a naturally comforting queue. It’s quiet, the sun is shining down on them, and they have room to move around. As they continue down the queue, there’s no poking, no prodding, no distractions – no one lays a hand on them. As a human, it’s sad to know what’s about to happen, but the cattle don’t seem to have any idea.

When they finally enter the slaughter room, they enter a device that secures them in place, being gently squeezed but still comfortable.

The slaughterman uses a stun-gun to render the animal unconscious immediately, without causing pain. So it no longer feels anything or has any emotion.

So yes, this is as humane as this process can possibly be. It’s difficult to see and hear about, but this plant truly gives as much care to the cattle as they possibly can.

After the stunning, the cow is sent on its way down the disassembly line. This disassembly line is an extremely organized process. Every worker in the plant has a very specific job. Each one requires constant focus, immense skill, and a strong state of mind.

It’s hide gets removed and sent to the leather industry. Its insides (called offals) are taken to another part of the plant to be used. And the body continues to be broken down into the various cuts of beef. In the end, pretty much all of each cow is used, including the blood and hooves.

It takes less than 60 minutes for all of this to happen. Then the various cuts of beef are perfectly sectioned out and packaged up, and placed in a ginormous freezer.

Once sufficiently frozen, the beef is ready to be taken from the slaughterhouse to the port – or, as they say in Uruguay, El Puerto de Montevideo.

From the port, our steak is sent in giant boxes onto the open ocean. After its time at sea, it lands in the USA, at a port in Newark, New Jersey. Then it’s inspected, repacked, and delivered to Boloco’s restaurants.

Once the steak is inside our doors, we marinate it in a spice mix of chipotle chili powder, coriander, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, kosher salt, oregano, and a sprinkle of sugar, for 12 hours.

Then we grill it, and chop it up into bite-size pieces for optimum burrito-eating enjoyment.

Yes, it’s a long process to get our steak from the farm to our tables. But we source our steak from Uruguay because it allows us to provide you, our guests, with the highest-quality, most delicious, most tender, naturally and responsibly-raised steak option possible… at a price we can all stomach.


If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about anything you’ve read about here, please let us know in the comments, or send us an email at buzz@boloco.com.

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2 Responses to “Sourcing our Steak”

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