69% of the world’s protein comes from cattle in the form of beef or milk, however not all steaks were created equal. The variety in quality of beef varies from the cheap and nasty to heaven in a bite.
Rachel Zammit Cutajar
The cut of the beef has always influenced selling prices, with a chateubriand demanding a much higher price than the meagre flank steak. However the breed of the cattle also has some bearing as to the quality of the meat being sold and therefore of the price it demands.
Of course it is not only the breed that makes some beef superior over others as many other factors come into play. Feed, maturity, ageing and general happiness of the cow all influence the quality of the beef, however genetics plays an important part in the quality of the beef.
The Chianina breed is considered one of the oldest breeds of cattle in existence, coming from the Chiana Valley in Tuscany. The renowed “Bistecca di Fiorentina” comes from this breed of cattle with its lean, dark red meat, which retains a marbling of fat among the muscling making the meat very tender as well as incredibly tasty.
This large breed of cattle, originally from Scotland, has a high carcass yield which makes it an appealing breed to farmers. It’s highly marbled meat, creates great flavours and has been proven to be among the tenderest of all beef breeds.
The meat has increased in popularity over the last 10 years due to the Certified Angus Beef company that ensures all certified meat comes from Angus-influenced cattle and has a minimum amount of marbling.
The history of Limousin cattle may be as old as the European continent itself. Cattle found in cave drawings estimated to be 20,000 years old in the Lascaux Caves near Montignac, France have a striking resemblance to today’s Limousin.
Originally from South West France, a rather rainy region with harsh climatic conditions and poor granite soil, the breed developed into a sturdy animal with fast adaptability. Though the animal tends not to put on fat, the meat is tender and fine fibred, and considered jucier than other breeds of beef producing cattle.
Wagyu and Kobe
The word Wagyu technically refers to all Japanese cattle, ‘wa’ means Japanese and ‘gyu’ means cattle.
Wagyu cattle are renowed for their intense marbling, with almost 10 times more marbled fat than other breeds. It is also praised for having a higher percentage of unsaturated fat than other breeds.
To earn the designation Kobe beef, the Wagyu must come from Kobe, Japan and meet rigid production standards. Due to the high prices of land and grain in Japan, producers are contracting rearing services in Australia and California, sending the carcasses to be butchered in Kobe.
The cows are said to be fed on a diet of beer and massaged every day. The beer is thought to increase the cow’s appetite, especially in the hot summer months when appetite is depressed, while the massage relieves stress and stiffness and makes for a happier cow, which will in turn render better quality meat.
How to measure the quality of premium beef
High-quality premium beef product should feel dry to the touch and should yield to gentle pressure when touched.
Premium beef products usually contain a lot of marbled fat that is embedded within the beef, which will affect the flavour of the beef.
Premium beef should be a very bright red in colour.
High quality premium beef products tend to be thicker and denser than lower-grade beef products. This seems to be the case because the cattle that are used to produce premium beef products tend to be bred to produce bigger and denser meat products.