BEEF MEAT INTRODUCTION
Beef flesh of mature cattle, as distinguished from veal, the flesh of calves. The best beef is obtained from early maturing, special beef breeds. High-quality beef has firm, velvety, fine-grained lean, bright red in colour and well-marbled. The fat is smooth, creamy white, and well distributed. In young beef the bones are soft, porous, and red; the less desirable mature beef has hard white bones. Beef tenderness and flavour are improved by aging; in one common aging method the carcass is hung for about two weeks at approximately 36 °F (2 °C), encouraging physical changes in the muscle tissue that enhance the quality of the meat.
Grading standards are somewhat similar in various countries; there is a large international beef trade. In the United States, grades in order of quality are prime, choice, good, commercial, utility, cutter, and canner. Commercial grades are mainly from mature cattle, especially cows. Utility, cutter, and canner grades are used in processed meat products. Beef hide, used for leather manufacture, is a valuable by-product of beef.
The primary beef-consuming countries of the world (in per capita terms) are Uruguay, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. Beef is relatively scarce—and not particularly popular—in most of Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Indian subcontinent; the sanctity of the cow in the Hindu religion forbids the consumption of its meat by Hindu adherents. Beef is not unusual in the cuisines of Korea and Japan, however; in Kōbe, Japan, near Ōsaka, a highly prized beef is produced from cattle that are vigorously massaged and fed a liberal dietary supplement of beer.
Butchering practices differ among countries, resulting in a variety of names for the different cuts. In the United States, where beef is the most popular meat, steaks—cross-sections from the fleshier parts of the carcass—are among the most desirable cuts. The standing rib roast, called in Britain the best rib, is also a valued cut. Less desirable cuts may be pot-roasted, used in stews, or ground (see hamburger). Boiled beef is popular in some cuisines, as in the French dish known as pot-au-feu. Corned beef (or salt beef in Britain) is a brisket or rump cut that has been pickled in brine.
THE HISTORY OF BEEF
In prehistoric times, we lived as hunter-gatherers. The primitive man hunted and consumed wild animals, including the bovine in its many forms. Some of the oldest cave paintings, such as the one in Lascaux, France, depict aurochs, the ancestor of domestic cattle, being hunted.
As early as 8,000 BC man began domesticating animals including the bovine. The cattle came in two forms, one type Bos taurus came from Europe, and the other Bos indices came from South East Asia and Africa.
aurochThe Spanish brought cattle to the Americas through Mexico. Starting with Columbus himself on his second voyage in 1493, cattle began to make their way from Europe to the New World. The trend continued with the Spaniard Vera Cruz and Portuguese traders.
Later, in 1611, the English brought large numbers of cattle to North America, specifically to the Jamestown colony. The French and English colonists continued to raise cattle throughout the eastern portion of North America throughout the development of the colonies and the Revolutionary War.
Beef, however, was not a significant part of the American diet until after the Civil War. Up until then cattle was used for milk, butter, hides and for drafting. The wild game available contributed greatly to meat consumption. After the Civil War, cattle moved west. In the west, cattlemen found that some of the Spanish missions already had large herds.
In the 19th century, cattle were primarily raised in the west where traditional food crops were harder to cultivate. The cattle grazed on native grasses and were moved, in cattle drives, to feedlots where they were fattened up. They were transported by train to the mid-west where they were slaughtered and shipped via refrigerator cars to the east where the majority of the population was. Chicago was the main focus point for the trains and therefore for the stockyards and slaughter houses. Thus today we have the Chicago Bulls as a basketball team.
Industrialization changed many things in the United States, including the way cattle are raised, slaughtered and processed. The process has been systematically developed and mechanized in a no-nonsense scientific manner, similar to a production line in a Ford model T factory.
In today’s time, as a result of industrialization and the scientific progress made, we find packed feedlots and highly efficient slaughtering and processing techniques.
The increased use of feedlots has created the need for antibiotic usage in cattle for maintaining health in unsanitary conditions. Additionally, advances in bioengineering have created synthetic growth hormones and steroids used to increase beef output per head of cattle.
As America’s culture has evolved, we find a growing demand for grass fed beef. Beef that is raised in open pastures and not put through the feedlot/packing house system that has dominated the landscape of beef production in the US. There is also a rising demand for organic beef as well as people are learning more about diet and nutrition.
Today’s grocery store has neatly packaged beef products ranging from roasts to steaks to ground beef. And as of late we see organic and grass fed beef options landing on the shelves side by side with conventional beef products. It has been a long road from caveman times to today, but beef has been there, with man, throughout the entire timeline of human history.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF BEEF
The most commonly used types of beef are: Chuck, Shank, Brisket, Rib, Short Plate, Flank, Loin, Sirloin, and the Round. The are other less common types of beef such as the Tongue, Neck, and Knuckle, but this hub focuses on the most commonly used types of beef.
DESCRIPTION: The Chuck, also known as the 7-bone steak, (in reference to the shape of the bone), is located near the shoulder and neck area of the cow.
TYPES: The chuck cut of beef yields some of the more economical cuts of beef, such as the chuck roast, chuck arm roast, and the flat iron steak.
DESCRIPTION: The Round, also known as the Rump, is a lean cut of meat with very little fat. It is located at the back of the cow near the rear leg. Like the Shank, the Round is a tough cut of meat due to the constant use of the cow’s legs.
TYPES: Despite the Round or Rump’s toughness, it produces quite a few different cuts of meat that are quite popular. Some of the more common cuts of Round are: Rump Roast, Top Round Roast/Steak, Bottom Round Roast/Steak, Eye of Round Roast/Steak, and the Sirloin Tip Center Roast/Steak.
DESCRIPTION: The Brisket is the cut of meat from the breast or the lower portion of the cow. Like the Shank , the brisket has a lot of connective tissue and can be quite tough unless cooked properly.
TYPES: The Brisket is known by two main cuts of meat: Brisket Flat cut and the Brisket Point cut
DESCRIPTION: The Rib includes some of the finest cuts of the cow, and are the known for their juiciness, tendernass, supurb marbling and flavor. The Rib cut refers to ribs 6-12 on the cow
TYPES: The Rib includes several of the finest cuts of the cow, including the prime rib, short rib, rib eye steak, and rib eye roasts.
- SHORT PLATE
DESCRIPTION: The short plate is located on the front belly of the cow below the ribs. The short plate contains a lot of cartilage and is kind of fatty and tough.
TYPES: The Short Plate contains a few different cuts including the Short Ribs, Hangar Steak, and the Skirt Steak. It is best known for being used to make Carne Asada.
DESCRIPTION: The Flank is a long flat cut of meat from the abdominal muscles of the cow. The Flank is one of the toughest cuts of meat.
TYPES: The Flank is usually cut into flab steaks or flank steaks. It is typically used in Asian and Mexican cuisine as Stir-Fry beef, or Fajita Beef. It can also be used in London Broil.
DESCRIPTION: The Loin is cut from the back of the cow, typically a portion of the hindquarter directly behind the ribs. It is known for the most tender and desirable cuts of beef.
TYPES: The Loin is best known for the Filet Mignon, Porterhouse Steak, and the T-bone Steak. However, it also contains the KC Strip, Tenderloin Roast, and the Shell Steak.
- CUTS OF BEEF: SIRLOIN
DESCRIPTION: The Sirloin is also cut from the back of the cow, just past the Loin (a.k.a Short Loin). Although, not as tender as the Loin cuts, the Sirloin is still a very popular tender cut of beef.
TYPES: The Sirloin contains the Top Sirloin, Bottom Sirloin, and Center Cut Sirloin Steaks, as well as, the Tri-Tip Steak, Filet of Sirloin, and the Ball Tip Roast.
DESCRIPTION: The Shank cut of beef is the leg of the cow and is one of the toughest meats on the cow. This is due to the fact that the leg muscle is constantly used, creating a tough, sinewy cut of beef. Therefore, it is one of the less popular cuts of beef, but also one of the cheapest cuts of meat there is.
TYPES: The Shank doesn’t yield very many cuts of meat, just the Shank or the Shank Cross Cut. It is also used in very low fat ratios of ground beef.
WHY IS BEEF GOOD FOR ME?
One of the most nutritious foods, beef has appetite-sating high-quality protein, which has all the essential amino acids needed (isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine and more)to build muscle and bone. Beef is a great source of B vitamins (vital for brain function), and the most absorbable form of iron (called haem iron), which builds red blood cells and gives you energy. Its rich store of zinc supports the immune system.
Beef contains both saturated and monounsaturated fat (thought to be protective against heart disease). Contrary to the prevalent dogma, it’s emerging that there is no good evidence to support the notion that saturated fat is harmful. Beef from grass-fed cattle is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, and conjugated linoleic acid, which some studies show reduces the risk of cancer, obesity, diabetes and some immune system disorders.
THE BENEFITS OF BEEF IN THE HUMAN DIET
May is Beef Month and the spring weather will encourage Americans to beef buying spend quality family time grilling and appreciating the satisfying flavor that beef provides.
It is also very important to remember the numerous benefits that beef provides to human nutrition.
As a nutrient dense red meat, beef contains a number of nutrients that are critical to the development and maintenance of key functions in the human body. In fact, several of these nutrients are not found in any other type of food in the abundance and correct proportion that human physiology demands.
Nutritionists argue that the most common nutritional deficiency on the planet is iron deficiency.
It is estimated that 2/3 to 3/4 of the human population is deficient in iron to some extent.
Beef is a very good source of iron, with perhaps the highest concentration of iron than any other commonly consumed meat.
Additionally, the iron in beef is more biologically available than iron from other sources. Since this iron is already in the heme form needed by mammals, upwards of one quarter of the iron in beef is absorbed by the human body, as opposed to 1-2 percent from non-heme iron sources, such as green vegetables.
Another common human nutritional deficiency is zinc, with an estimated one fourth of the population deficient. Foods that are rich in zinc are also typically rich in iron. Thus, beef is a very good source of zinc, with approximately 25 percent absorbed by the human body.
Moreover, beef provides a notable amount of selenium to the diet, a nutrient critical to the human antioxidant defense system.
Vitamin B12 is essential to development and can only be found in animal derived foods such as beef. Additionally, vitamin B6 is necessary for the absorption of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Beef is a good source of both of these B vitamins.
Regarding amino acids, red meats such as beef are a dense source of these protein precursors, and are in the same proportion needed by humans. Access to high quality protein sources such as beef allows for the proper development of the major structure and functional systems in the human body.
Fat consumption has a negative stigma, but a closer evaluation indicates that properly proportioned fat consumption plays a very important role in the maintenance of human physiology and development. There has been a great deal of recent interest in the beneficial effects of the very long chain polyunsaturated acids, in particular eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).. Anti-atherogenic, anti-thrombotic and anti-inflammatory effects have been noted with consumption of these specific nutrients.
Additionally, there is some evidence that increased maternal polyunsaturated fatty acid intake during pregnancy may produce beneficial effects.
Impact on human health is among the primary concerns of the consumer when considering consumption of beef and other red meat products. Lean beef not only provides a positive eating experience, it is a very nutrient dense food with many benefits to human health. With high concentrations of nutrients such as biologically available iron and vitamins needed for proper metabolism, beef also contains a noted amount of healthy fats that are important to human functions.
During Beef Month, remember these numerous benefits and enjoy the numerous eating opportunities that beef provides.