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Beef is a food loved by chefs and food-lovers for its diversity and typical taste. Its hearty aroma goes well with stews and beef can be prepared by a variety of methods, for example grilling, pan-frying, boiling or braising. Meat cuts differ greatly in their consistency and advisable cooking methods. For perfect results cooks should have knowledge about meat parts and their best preparation.
Meat cuts in Germany
Many factors have influence on the quality of beef. Especially the method of raising, the feeding and the breed itself. Furthermore maturing of the meat contributes to its quality. In general beef is not suited for consumption right after slaughtering. The meat should hang for 14 days in a cold storage house at low air humidity. This is called maturing of meat. During this time the protein structure of the meat changes. It becomes mellow, is easier to digest and develops its typical aroma. Dark red meat with tough fibres, which stays tough even after long cooking times, is probably from an older animal. This meat is only suited for cooking stocks or for the sausage production. Meat that is sold should come from young animals, usually not older than two years.
All cattle varieties descended from the extinct aurochs (lat.: Bos primigenius). Modern cattle varieties were purposefully bred from this "proto-ox". They may be classified in varieties suitable for raising in highland and lowland environments. More often they are grouped in those varieties bred for milk (dairy cattle), meat (beef cattle) or both (multipurpose cattle). Some robust older breeds are highly adaptable and can survive rough climatic environments and do not make great demands concerning feed and ground.
Some well-known cattle varieties
- Aberdeen Angus or Black Angus (Scotland)
- Charolais (France)
- Chianina (Italy)
- German Angus (Germany)
- Hereford (North and South America)
- Galloway (Great Britain)
- Limousin (France)
- Marchigiana (Italy)
- Maremmana (Italy)
- Piedmontese (Italy)
- Romagnola (Italy)
- Belgian Blue (Belgium)
- Ayrshire (Scotland, Finland)
- Braunvieh (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, South Tyrol)
- Dexter (Great Britain)
- Simmental Cattle (Germany, Austria, Switzerland)
- Gelbvieh (Germany - Hesse and Bavaria)
- Pinzgau Cattle (Austria, South Tyrol, Slovakia, Romania, North America, South Africa)
- German Red Pied (Northern Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg)
- Red Cattle (South East Europe, GUS-Countries, Asia Minor, Africa)
- Black Pied Cattle (Northern Europe, low mountain ranges)
Terminology of Cattle
- Cattle: This generic term includes all male and female animals.
- Calf: Young cattle of both gender are called calf until they are weaned. See also: veal
- Weaner or Feeder: Young cattle that have been weaned are called weaner, feed-calf or feeder until they are one year old.
- Yearling: Cattle of both genders between one and two years of age.
- Bull: Bulls are intact adult males.
- Ox or steer: Castrated male cattle are called ox or steer. Steer is usually used for young castrated animals, ox is used for animals kept for draft purposes. The meat of castrated males has more fat and a finer marbling. The animals are calmer and less aggressive than bulls.
- Heifer: Female cattle before their first calf are called heifer. A first-calf heifer is a cow that has only had one calf.
- Cow: Female cattle are simply called cow after they had their first calf.
Besides the breed cattle husbandry is one of the most important factors for the quality and composition of the meat. Most animals are raised by one of the following three methods of cattle husbandry.
Most cattle in Europe are raised in intensive or factory farming. Large numbers of animals are kept in stables and fed with special fodder mixtures containing silage, compound feed pellets, vitamins and minerals. The mixtures are formulated according to the specific requirements of the cattle breed and age of the animals. Their target is a fast weight gain until the animals reach the optimal weight for slaughtering. Depending on the breed cattle achieves its slaughtering weight of 430 to 600 kg after only 10.5 to 12.5 months. Meat from animals raised in factory farming contains less fat. Especially meat from castrated males is tender, juicy and fine-fibred. The French Charolais breed is one example of cattle bred especially for factory farming.
Cattle that are raised free-range spend almost their entire life on paddocks outside. This method of cattle husbandry is for example practised in Argentina, where the animals graze on huge grazing lands in the pampas. Each animal has about one hectare of grassland to graze. Free-range cattle raising without further feeding is also practised in Scotland, Great Britain, Botswana and Zimbabwe. The quality of the meat of free-range animals is exceptionally high. It is slightly marbled but has a relatively small fat content. Breeds that are well suited for free-range raising are Hereford and Angus.
Free-range husbandry with supplementary feeding
During free-range husbandry in combination with supplementary feeding cattle live on grazing lands for the first 12 to 14 months of their life. Only after this time are they kept in so-called foodlots for the last 100 days of their life until they reach the optimal slaughtering weight. Foodlots are small fenced-off areas for a certain amount of animals. The meat of animals raised with this method is heavily marbled and has a stronger taste. It is suited excellently for grilling on charcoal.
Kobe beef is raised after a special and rare method of cattle husbandry. It was invented in Japan, in the region of the city Kobe. Cattle, mostly the special tajima-ushi breed of Wagyu cattle are fed with a natural fodder mix made of cereals, fodder beets and potatoes. They furthermore receive a daily ration of beer - which heightens the animal's appetite. The cattle are massaged by hand every day. As a result the fat on the muscles is very thin and the meat has a fine and even marbling. The laborious raising of Kobe beef makes it the most expensive beef meat on sale.
Beef parts and cuts:
- leg of beef
- sliced leg of beef
- shoulder clod
- chuck tenderloin
- shin of beef
- fore rib
- shoulder blade
- top round
- top sirloin
- thick rib
- beef brisket
- beef fillet
- neck of beef
- round of beef
- thick flank
- roast beef
- eye of round
- rump steak
- minced meat
- thin rib
- beef shank