Beef muscle meat can be cut into roasts, short ribs or steak (filet mignon, sirloin steak, rump steak, rib steak, rib eye steak, hanger steak, etc.) Some cuts are processed (corned beef or beef jerky), and trimmings, usually mixed with meat from older, leaner cattle, are ground, minced or used in sausages. The blood is used in some varieties of blood sausage. Other parts that are eaten include the oxtail, liver, tongue, tripe from the reticulum or rumen, glands (particularly the pancreas and thymus, referred to as sweetbread), the heart, the brain (although forbidden where there is a danger of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE), the kidneys, and the tender testicles of the bull (known in the United States as calf fries, prairie oysters, or Rocky Mountain oysters). Some intestines are cooked and eaten as-is, but are more often cleaned and used as natural sausage casings. The bones are used for making beef stock.
Beef from steers and heifers is very similar. According to the most recent National Beef Quality Audit , heifer carcasses had slightly more marbling than steer carcasses, but USDA quality grade was not significantly different. Depending on economics, the number of heifers kept for breeding varies. The meat from older bulls is usually tougher, so it is frequently used for mince (known as ground beef in the United States). Cattle raised for beef may be allowed to roam free on grasslands, or may be confined at some stage in pens as part of a large feeding operation called a feedlot (or concentrated animal feeding operation), where they are usually fed a ration of grain, protein, roughage and a vitamin/mineral preblend.
Beef is the third most widely consumed meat in the world, accounting for about 25% of meat production worldwide, after pork and poultry at 38% and 30% respectively. In absolute numbers, the United States, Brazil, and the People's Republic of China are the world's three largest consumers of beef; however, Uruguay has the highest beef and veal consumption per capita, followed by Argentina and Brazil. According to the data from OECD, the average Uruguayan ate over 42 kg (93 lb) of beef or veal in 2014, representing the highest beef/veal consumption per capita in the world. In comparison, the average American consumed only about 24 kg (53 lb) beef or veal in the same year, while African countries, such as Mozambique, Ghana, and Nigeria, consumed the least beef or veal per capita.
In 2015, the world's largest exporters of beef were India, Brazil and Australia. Beef production is also important to the economies of Uruguay, Canada, Paraguay, Mexico, Argentina, Belarus and Nicaragua.
The word beef is from the Latin bōs, in contrast to cow which is from Middle English cou (both words have the same Indo-European root *gʷou-). After the Norman Conquest, the French-speaking nobles who ruled England naturally used French words to refer to the meats they were served. Thus, various Anglo-Saxon words were used for the animal (such as nēat, or cu for adult females) by the peasants, but the meat was called boef (ox) (Modern French bœuf) by the French nobles — who did not often deal with the live animal — when it was served to them. This is one example of the common English dichotomy between the words for animals (with largely Germanic origins) and their meat (with Romanic origins) that is also found in such English word-pairs as pig/pork, deer/venison, sheep/mutton and chicken/poultry. Beef is cognate with bovine through the Late Latin bovīnus.
People have eaten the flesh of bovines from prehistoric times; some of the earliest known cave paintings, such as those of Lascaux, show aurochs in hunting scenes. People domesticated cattle around 8000 BC to provide ready access to beef, milk, and leather. Most cattle originated in the Old World, with the exception of bison hybrids, which originated in the Americas. Examples include the Wagyū from Japan, Ankole-Watusi from Egypt, and longhorn Zebu from the Indian subcontinent.
It is unknown exactly when people started cooking beef. Cattle were widely used across the Old World as draft animals (oxen), for milk, or specifically for human consumption. With the mechanization of farming, some breeds were specifically bred to increase meat yield, resulting in Chianina and Charolais cattle, or to improve the texture of meat, giving rise to the Murray Grey, Angus, and Wagyū. Some breeds have been selected for both meat and milk production, such as the Brown Swiss (Braunvieh).
In the United States, the growth of the beef business was largely due to expansion in the Southwest. Upon the acquisition of grasslands through the Mexican–American War of 1848, and later the expulsion of the Plains Indians from this region and the Midwest, the American livestock industry began, starting primarily with the taming of wild longhorn cattle. Chicago and New York City were the first to benefit from these developments in their stockyards and in their meat markets.
Farming of beef cattle
Beef cattle are raised and fed using a variety of methods, including feedlots, free range, ranching, backgrounding and Intensive animal farming. Typically, the production of one pound (0.45 kg) of cooked beef requires 27 lb (12 kg) of fodder, over 200 US gal (760 l; 170 imp gal) of water and nearly three hundred square feet (28 m2) of land.
Beef is first divided into primal cuts, pieces of meat initially separated from the carcass during butchering. These are basic sections from which steaks and other subdivisions are cut. The term "primal cut" is quite different from "prime cut", used to characterize cuts considered to be of higher quality. Since the animal's legs and neck muscles do the most work, they are the toughest; the meat becomes more tender as distance from hoof and horn increases. Different countries and cuisines have different cuts and names, and sometimes use the same name for a different cut; for example, the cut described as "brisket" in the United States is from a significantly different part of the carcass than British brisket.
Special beef designations
- Certified Angus Beef (CAB) in Canada and the United States is a specification-based, branded-beef program which was founded in 1978 by Angus cattle producers to increase demand for their breed of cattle, by promoting the impression that Angus cattle have consistent, high-quality beef with superior taste. The brand is owned by the American Angus Association and its 35,000 rancher members. The terms Angus Beef or Black Angus Beef are loosely and commonly misused and/or confused with CAB; this is especially common in the food service industry. The brand or name Certified Angus Beef cannot be legally used by an establishment that is not licensed to do so. In the UK the equivalent is Aberdeen Angus, marketed as higher quality and associated with stricter animal welfare rules. Notable for the herd being free of BSE during the BSE epidemic in the UK. Similar schemes are used elsewhere as in Certified Angus Beef in Ireland.
- Certified Hereford Beef is beef certified to have come from Hereford cattle.
- Grass-fed beef cattle have been raised exclusively on forage. Grain-fed beef cattle are raised primarily on forage, but are "finished" in a feedlot.
- Kobe beef is pure Tajima-gyu breed bull, that was born, raised, and slaughtered solely within the Hyogo prefecture. Very limited amounts of Kobe are exported.
- Halal beef has been certified to have been processed in a prescribed manner in accordance with Muslim dietary laws.
- Kosher beef has been certified to have been processed in a prescribed manner in accordance with Jewish dietary laws.
- Organic beef is produced without added hormones, pesticides, or other chemicals, though requirements for labeling it organic vary widely.
- The EU recognizes the following Protected Designation of Origin beef brands:
- Spain – Carne de Ávila, Carne de Cantabria, Carne de la Sierra de Guadarrama, Carne de Morucha de Salamanca, Carne de Vacuno del País o Euskal Okela, Ternera Galega
- France – Taureau de Camargue, Boeuf charolais du Bourbonnais, Boeuf de Chalosse, Boeuf du Maine
- Portugal – Carne Alentejana, Carne Arouquesa, Carne Barrosã, Carne Cachena da Peneda, Carne da Charneca, Carne de Bovino Cruzado dos Lameiros do Barroso, Carne dos Açores, Carne Marinhoa, Carne Maronesa, Carne Mertolenga, Carne Mirandesa
- United Kingdom – Orkney Beef, Scotch Beef, Welsh Beef
- Belgium – Belgian Blue
Aging and tenderization
To improve tenderness of beef, it is often aged (i.e., stored refrigerated) to allow endogenous proteolytic enzymes to weaken structural and myofibrillar proteins. Wet aging is accomplished using vacuum packaging to reduce spoilage and yield loss. Dry aging involves hanging primals (usually ribs or loins) in humidity-controlled coolers. Outer surfaces dry out and can support growth of molds (and spoilage bacteria, if too humid), resulting in trim and evaporative losses.
Evaporation concentrates the remaining proteins and increases flavor intensity; the molds can contribute a nut-like flavor. After two to three days there are significant effects. The majority of the tenderizing effect occurs in the first 10 days. Boxed beef, stored and distributed in vacuum packaging, is, in effect, wet aged during distribution. Premium steakhouses dry age for 21 to 28 days or wet age up to 45 days for maximum effect on flavor and tenderness.
Meat from less tender cuts or older cattle can be mechanically tenderized by forcing small, sharp blades through the cuts to disrupt the proteins. Also, solutions of exogenous proteolytic enzymes (papain, bromelin or ficin) can be injected to augment the endogenous enzymes. Similarly, solutions of salt and sodium phosphates can be injected to soften and swell the myofibrillar proteins. This improves juiciness and tenderness. Salt can improve the flavor, but phosphate can contribute a soapy flavor.
Cooking and preparation
These methods are applicable to all types of meat and some other foodstuffs.
|Grilling||is cooking the beef over or under a high radiant heat source, generally in excess of 340 °C (650 °F). This leads to searing of the surface of the beef, which creates a flavorsome crust. In Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, the UK, Germany and The Netherlands, grilling, particularly over charcoal, is sometimes known as barbecuing, often shortened to "BBQ". When cooked over charcoal, this method can also be called charbroiling.|
|Barbecue||refers to a technique of cooking that involves cooking meat for long periods of time at low temperatures with smoke from a wood fire.|
|Broiling||is a term used in North America. It is similar to grilling, but with the heat source always above the meat. Elsewhere this is considered a way of grilling.|
|Griddle||Meat may be cooked on a hot metal griddle. A little oil or fat may be added to inhibit sticking; the dividing line when the method becomes shallow frying is not well-defined.|
|Roasting||is a way of cooking meat in a hot oven, producing roast beef. Liquid is not usually added; the beef may be basted by fat on the top, or by spooning hot fat from the oven pan over the top. A gravy may be made from the cooking juices, after skimming off excess fat. Roasting is suitable for thicker pieces of meat; the other methods listed are usually for steaks and similar cuts.|
Beef can be cooked to various degrees, from very rare to well done. The degree of cooking corresponds to the temperature in the approximate center of the meat, which can be measured with a meat thermometer. Beef can be cooked using the sous-vide method, which cooks the entire steak to the same temperature, but when cooked using a method such as broiling or roasting it is typically cooked such that it has a "bulls eye" of doneness, with the least done (coolest) at the center and the most done (warmest) at the outside.
Meat can be cooked in boiling oil, typically by shallow frying, although deep frying may be used, often for meat enrobed with breadcrumbs as in milanesas. Larger pieces such as steaks may be cooked this way, or meat may be cut smaller as in stir frying, typically an Asian way of cooking: cooking oil with flavorings such as garlic, ginger and onions is put in a very hot wok. Then small pieces of meat are added, followed by ingredients which cook more quickly, such as mixed vegetables. The dish is ready when the ingredients are 'just cooked'.
Moist heat cooking methods include braising, pot roasting, stewing and sous-vide. These techniques are often used for cuts of beef that are tougher, as these longer, lower-temperature cooking methods have time to dissolve connecting tissue which otherwise makes meat remain tough after cooking.
- simmering meat, whole or cut into bite-size pieces, in a water-based liquid with flavorings. This technique may be used as part of pressure cooking.
- cooking meats, in a covered container, with small amounts of liquids (usually seasoned or flavored). Unlike stewing, braised meat is not fully immersed in liquid, and usually is browned before the oven step.
- Sous-vide, French for "under vacuum", is a method of cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath for a long time—72 hours is not unknown—at an accurately determined temperature much lower than normally used for other types of cooking. The intention is to maintain the integrity of ingredients and achieve very precise control of cooking. Although water is used in the method, only moisture in or added to the food bags is in contact with the food.
Meat has usually been cooked in water which is just simmering, such as in stewing; higher temperatures make meat tougher by causing the proteins to contract. Since thermostatic temperature control became available, cooking at temperatures well below boiling, 52 °C (126 °F) (sous-vide) to 90 °C (194 °F) (slow cooking), for prolonged periods has become possible; this is just hot enough to convert the tough collagen in connective tissue into gelatin through hydrolysis, with minimal toughening.
With the adequate combination of temperature and cooking time, pathogens, such as bacteria will be killed, and pasteurization can be achieved. Because browning (Maillard reactions) can only occur at higher temperatures (above the boiling point of water), these moist techniques do not develop the flavors associated with browning. Meat will often undergo searing in a very hot pan, grilling or browning with a torch before moist cooking (though sometimes after).
Thermostatically controlled methods, such as sous-vide, can also prevent overcooking by bringing the meat to the exact degree of doneness desired, and holding it at that temperature indefinitely. The combination of precise temperature control and long cooking duration makes it possible to be assured that pasteurization has been achieved, both on the surface and the interior of even very thick cuts of meat, which can not be assured with most other cooking techniques. (Although extremely long-duration cooking can break down the texture of the meat to an undesirable degree.)
Beef can be cooked quickly at the table through several techniques. In hot pot cooking, such as shabu-shabu, very thinly sliced meat is cooked by the diners at the table by immersing it in a heated pot of water or stock with vegetables. In fondue bourguignonne, diners dip small pieces of beef into a pot of hot oil at the table. Both techniques typically feature accompanying flavorful sauces to complement the meat.
Steak tartare is a French dish made from finely chopped or ground (minced) raw meat (often beef). More accurately, it is scraped so as not to let even the slightest of the sinew fat get into the scraped meat. It is often served with onions, capers, seasonings such as fresh ground pepper and Worcestershire sauce, and sometimes raw egg yolk.
The Belgian or Dutch dish filet américain is also made of finely chopped ground beef, though it is seasoned differently, and either eaten as a main dish or can be used as a dressing for a sandwich. Kibbeh nayyeh is a similar Lebanese and Syrian dish. And in Ethiopia, a ground raw meat dish called tire siga or kitfo is eaten (upon availability).
Carpaccio of beef is a thin slice of raw beef dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning. Often, the beef is partially frozen before slicing to allow very thin slices to be cut.
Yukhoe is a variety of hoe, raw dishes in Korean cuisine which is usually made from raw ground beef seasoned with various spices or sauces. The beef part used for yukhoe is tender rump steak. For the seasoning, soy sauce, sugar, salt, sesame oil, green onion, and ground garlic, sesame seed, black pepper and juice of bae (Korean pear) are used. The beef is mostly topped with the yolk of a raw egg.
Cured, smoked, and dried beef
Bresaola is an air-dried, salted beef that has been aged about two to three months until it becomes hard and a dark red, almost purple, colour. It is lean, has a sweet, musty smell and is tender. It originated in Valtellina, a valley in the Alps of northern Italy's Lombardy region. Bündnerfleisch is a similar product from neighbouring Switzerland. Chipped beef is an American industrially produced air-dried beef product, described by one of its manufacturers as being "similar to bresaola, but not as tasty."
Beef jerky is dried, salted, smoked beef popular in the United States.
Biltong is a cured, salted, air dried beef popular in South Africa.
Corned beef is a cut of beef cured or pickled in a seasoned brine. The corn in corned beef refers to the grains of coarse salts (known as corns) used to cure it. The term corned beef can denote different styles of brine-cured beef, depending on the region. Some, like American-style corned beef, are highly seasoned and often considered delicatessen fare.
Spiced beef is a cured and salted joint of round, topside, or silverside, traditionally served at Christmas in Ireland. It is a form of salt beef, cured with spices and saltpetre, intended to be boiled or broiled in Guinness or a similar stout, and then optionally roasted for a period after. There are various other recipes for pickled beef. Sauerbraten is a German variant.
Most Hindus consider killing cattle and eating beef a sin. Bovines have been highly revered as sacred to mankind in Indian culture due to the critical role of cattle, especially cows, as a source of milk, and dairy products, and their relative importance to the pastoral Vedic people allowed this special status; and this rose to prominence with the advent of the Jain tradition and Hindu Golden-age during the Gupta period. The slaughter of cattle has been likened to the matricide in these cultures, due to the idealisation of the cow providing milk and sustenance for society. Cow's milk is again used as curd, butter, cheese, milk sweets and a wide range of other items.
During the season of Lent, Orthodox Christians give up all meat and poultry (as well as dairy products and eggs) as a religious act. Observant Jews and Muslims may not eat any meat or poultry which has not been slaughtered and treated in conformance with religious laws.
Several states of India impose various types of prohibition on beef. Maharashtra bans any form of selling and consumption of beef. Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act passed in 1976 prohibits slaughtering cows, which was amended in 1995 to include bulls and bullocks. Violation of this act is punishable with up to five years imprisonment and ₹10,000 (US$150) fine. In 2015, this law was signed into law by presidential assent. Gujarat passed the Animal Preservation Act in October 2011 that prohibits killing of cows along with buying, selling and transport of beef. Orissa and Andhra Pradesh states allow butchering of cattle other than cows if the animal carries a "fit-for-slaughter" certificate. However, in Kerala, Goa, consumption of beef is not deemed an offence. Most of the exported "beef" from India is water buffalo meat, as buffalo is not considered holy in Hinduism.
In 2003, Cuba banned cow slaughter due to severe shortage of milk and milk products.
Nutrition and health
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||1,047 kJ (250 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||0 g|
Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults. |
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Beef is a source of complete protein and minerals such as zinc, selenium, phosphorus and iron, and B vitamins. Red meat is the most significant dietary source of carnitine and, like any other meat (pork, fish, veal, lamb etc.), is a source of creatine. Creatine is converted to creatinine during cooking.
- Cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease
The Harvard School of Public Health recommends consumers eat red meat sparingly as it has high levels of undesirable saturated fat. This recommendation is not without controversy, though. Another study from The Harvard School of Public Health appearing in Circulation (journal) found "Consumption of processed meats, but not red meats, is associated with higher incidence of coronary heart disease and diabetes mellitus."
This finding tended to confirm an earlier meta-analysis of the nutritional effects of saturated fat in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which found "[P]rospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease. More data are needed to elucidate whether cardiovascular disease risks are likely to be influenced by the specific nutrients used to replace saturated fat."
- January 2011, One Great Burger expands recall.
- February 2011, American Food Service, a Pico Rivera, Calif. establishment, is recalling approximately 3,170 pounds (1,440 kg) of fresh ground beef patties and other bulk packages of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.
- March 2011, 14,000 pounds (6,400 kg) beef recalled by Creekstone Farms Premium Beef due to E. coli concerns.
- April 2011, National Beef Packaging recalled more than 60,000 pounds (27,000 kg) of ground beef due to E. coli contamination.
- May 2011, Irish Hills Meat Company of Michigan, a Tipton, Mich., establishment is recalling approximately 900 pounds (410 kg) of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.
- September 2011, Tyson Fresh Meats recalled 131,100 pounds (59,500 kg) of ground beef due to E. coli contamination.
- December 2011, Tyson Fresh Meats recalled 40,000 pounds (18,000 kg) of ground beef due to E. coli contamination.
- January 2012, Hannaford Supermarkets recalled all ground beef with sell by dates 17 December 2011 or earlier.
- September 2012, XL Foods recalled more than 1800 products believed to be contaminated with E. coli 0157:H7. The recalled products were produced at the company's plant in Brooks, Alberta, Canada; this was the largest recall of its kind in Canadian History.
Mad cow disease
Since then, other countries have had outbreaks of BSE:
- In May 2003, after a cow with BSE was discovered in Alberta, Canada, the American border was closed to live Canadian cattle, but was reopened in early 2005.
- In June 2005 Dr. John Clifford, chief veterinary officer for the United States Department of Agriculture animal health inspection service, confirmed a fully domestic case of BSE in Texas. Clifford would not identify the ranch, calling that "privileged information." The 12-year-old animal was alive at the time when Oprah Winfrey raised concerns about cannibalistic feeding practices on her show which aired 16 April 1996.
In 2010, the EU, through the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), proposed a roadmap to gradually lift the restrictions in the feed ban. EU Regulation No 999/2001 had outlined a complete ban on feeding mammal-based products to cattle. A regulation that modified Annex IV of 999/2001, was published in 2013 that allowed for certain milk, fish, eggs, and plant-fed farm animal products to be used.
Beef production (1000 Metric Tons CWE)
National cattle herds (Per 1000 Head)
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- Beef State Documentary produced by Nebraska Educational Telecommunications