About Beef (1)

Beef is the meat of cattle,
such as this Glan Cattle cow
Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially domestic cattle (cows). Beef is one of the principal meats used in the cuisine of Australia, Europe and the Americas, and is also important in Africa, East Asia, and Southeast Asia. Beef is a taboo food in some cultures. Its consumption is forbidden by Hinduism, as bovines are revered. It is also discouraged among some Buddhists.

Beef muscle meat can be cut into steaks, roasts or specialty cuts, such as short ribs. Some cuts are processed (corned beef brisket 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 which are eaten include the meaty tail (oxtail), tongue, tripe from the reticulum or sometimes the rumen, glands—particularly the pancreas and thymus—referred to as sweetbreads, the heart, the brain (although forbidden where there is a danger of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE), the liver, the kidneys, and the tender testicles of the bull (known in the US as "calf fries", "prairie oysters", or "Rocky Mountain oysters"). Some intestines are eaten as-is, but are used more often as natural sausage casings. The lungs and the udder are considered unfit for human consumption in the US. Beef bones are used for making beef stock.

An uncooked rib roas

Beef from steers and heifers are equivalent, except for steers having slightly less fat and more muscle, all treatments being equal. Depending on economics, the number of heifers kept for breeding varies. Older animals are used for beef when they are past their reproductive prime. The meat from older cows and bulls is usually tougher, so it is frequently used for mince (UK)/ground beef (US). 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, where they are usually fed a ration of grain, protein, roughage and a vitamin/mineral preblend.

The United States, Brazil, Japan and the People’s Republic of China are the world’s four largest consumers of beef.[1] The world’s largest exporters of beef are Australia, Brazil, Argentina and Canada.[2] Beef production is also important to the economies of Uruguay, Nicaragua, Russia and Mexico.


The flesh of bovines has been eaten by hunters from prehistoric times; some of the earliest known cave paintings such as those of Lascaux show aurochs in hunting scenes. Domestication of cattle occurred around 8000 BC,providing ready access to beef, milk and leather.[3] Most cattle originated in the Old World with the exception of bison hybrids. Examples include the Wagyu from Japan, Ankole-Watusi from Egypt, and longhorn Zebu from the Indian subcontinent.[4] Cattle were widely used across the Old World for draft animals (oxen), milk production, or specifically for meat production, depending on local needs and resources. With mechanization of farming, some breeds were specifically bred to increase meat yield, like Chianina and Charolais or improve texture like the Murray Grey, Angus or Wagyu. Some breeds (dual-purpose) have been selected for meat and milk production, like Brown Swiss (Braunvieh).


The word "beef" is from Old French, in contrast to "cow", which is Germanic. After the Norman Conquest, the nobles who ruled England naturally used French words to refer to the meats they were served, while the Germanic words were retained to refer to the live animals.

Thus the animal was called cu (cow) by the Anglo-Saxon peasants but the meat was called boef (ox) (Modern French boeuf) by the French nobles—who did not often deal with the live animal—when it was served to them for dinner.

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 swine/pork, sheep/mutton, and chicken/poultry.[5]

Cuts of beef

Beef is first divided into primal cuts. These are basic sections from which steaks and other subdivisions are cut. 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 have different cuts and names.

See the external links section below for links to more beef cut charts and diagrams.

American primal cuts

The following is a list of the American primal cuts, ordered front to back, then top to bottom. The short loin and the sirloin are sometimes considered as one section (loin).

Upper half
  • Chuck — one of the most common sources for roasts and hamburgers
  • Rib — short ribs, rib eye steak and prime rib
  • Loin - subprimals are: Short loin — from which strip steaks are cut, Sirloin — less tender than short loin, but more flavorful, further divided into Top sirloin and Bottom sirloin, and Tenderloin — the most tender, from which filet mignon is served, can be removed separately, or left in for Tbone and Porterhouse steaks
  • American cuts of beef
  • Round — lean cut, moderately tough, lower fat marbling, requires moist cooking or lesser degrees of doneness 

Lower half
  • Brisket — often associated with barbecue beef brisket.
  • Shank — used primarily for stews and soups; it is not usually served any other way due to it being the toughest of the cuts.
  • Plate — produces short ribs for pot roasting and types of steak such as the outside skirt steak for, say, fajitas and hanger steak. It is typically a cheap, tough, and fatty meat.
  • Flank — used mostly for grinding, except for the long and flat flank steak, best known for use in London broil. Once one of the most affordable steaks on the market, it is substantially tougher than the loin and rib steaks, therefore many flank recipes use marinades or moist cooking methods such as braising. Popularity and leanness have resulted in increased price.
British primal cuts
  • Neck & clod
  • Chuck & blade
  • Rib
  • British cuts of beef
  • Silver loin
  • Rump
  • Silverside
  • Topside
  • Thick rib
  • Thin rib
  • Brisket
  • Shin
  • Flank
  • Thick flank
  • Leg
Special beef designations
  • Certified Angus Beef Certified Angus Beef (CAB) is a specification-based, brandedbeef 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 foodservice industry. The brand or name Certified Angus Beef can’t be legally used by an establishment that is not licensed to do so. However Black Simmental beef may also be included in the certified angus beef program.
  • Beef rump steak on grill pan, cooked to medium rare
  • Certified Hereford Beef is beef certified to have come from Hereford cattle.
  • Grass fed beef has been raised primarily on forage rather than in a feedlot.
  • Kobe beef : Cattle of the Wagyu breed raised and fattened in the hills above Kobe, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. During the fattening period, the cattle are hand-fed (using high-energy feed, including beer and beer mash) and hand-massaged for tenderness and high fat content.
  • Halal beef (and other food) has been certified to have been processed in a prescribed manner in accordance with Muslim dietary laws.
  • Kosher beef (and other food) 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 something "organic" vary widely.
  • The European Union recognises the following Protected Designation of Origin beef brands[6]
  • 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 
  • 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 

USDA beef grades

In the United States, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) operates a voluntary beef grading program. The meat processor pays for a trained AMS meat grader to grade whole carcasses at the abattoir. Users are required to comply with Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) grade labeling procedures. The official USDA grade designation can appear in one or any combination of the following ways: container markings, individual bags, legible roller brand appearing on the meat itself, or by a USDA shield stamp that incorporates the quality and/or yield grade.

Inspected carcasses tagged by the USDA

There are eight beef quality grades. The grades are based on two main criteria: the degree of marbling (intramuscular fat) in the beef, and the maturity (estimated age of the animal at slaughter). Some meat scientists object to the current scheme of USDA grading since it is not based on direct measurement of tenderness, although marbling and maturity are indicators of tenderness. Most other countries’ beef grading systems mirror the US model. Most beef offered for sale in supermarkets is graded US Choice or Select. US Prime beef is sold to hotels and upscale restaurants. Beef that would rate as US Standard or less is almost never offered for grading.
  • U.S. Prime - Highest in quality and intramuscular fat, limited supply. Currently, only two percent of arcasses grade as Prime.
  • U.S. Choice - High quality, widely available in foodservice industry and retail markets.
  • U.S. Select (formerly "Good") - lowest grade commonly sold at retail, acceptable quality but less juicy and tender due to leanness.• U.S. Standard - Lower quality yet economical, lacking marbling.
  • U.S. Commercial - Low quality, lacking tenderness, produced from older animals. 
  • U.S. Utility
  • U.S. Cutter
  • U.S. Canner
Utility, Cutter, and Canner grade are rarely used in foodservice operations and primarily used by processors and canners. There are five beef yield grades - 1 to 5, which estimate the yield of saleable product, with YG 1 having the highest and YG 5 the lowest. Although consumers rarely see or aware of it, yield grade was an important marketing tool for packers and retailers. The conversion from carcass and bone-in primals to boneless, trimmed cuts has reduced the importance.

Traditionally, beef sold in steakhouses and supermarkets has been advertised by its USDA grade; however, many restaurants and retailers have recently begun advertising beef on the strength of brand names and the reputation of a specific breed of cattle, such as black Angus.[7][8]

Aging and Tenderization

To improve tenderness of beef, it often is "aged" - 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. The majority of the tenderizing effect occurs in the first 10 days, although two to three days allow significant effects. 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.


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