WHY IT IS USEFUL TO KNOW YOUR BEEF CATTLES?
The secrets to a great steak begins with the source of the meat which is the cattle itself. The breed of the cattle, how it was raised and what it was fed with are factors that greatly influence the final quality of the beef.
The beef we buy are commonly identified by the country of origin. Very often we would see labels on supermarket shelves like ‘New Zealand Sirloin’, ‘Australian Topside’, ‘U.S. Tenderloin’ or ‘South American Ribeye’. It is such a norm to see the country of origin that many consumers have fallen into the wrong misconception that the quality of beef is exclusively related to the country of its origin.
|Herd of Black Angus cattle|
In actual fact, the breed of the cattle and how it was raised is the major influence on the quality of the beef. This explains why sometimes a piece of steak from a South American ‘Black Angus’ may turn out more tender than another from an Australian ordinary cattle. Therefore, it helps to know the source and breed of the cattle.
But before you proceed to hassle your beef supplier on the breed of your beef, you also need to know that most of the beef we buy does not specify the breed of cattle on its label. Therefore, most butchers and suppliers will not be able to tell you the breed of the cattle. Only selected reputable breeds such as Black Angus and Wagyu are sometimes specified on the labels.
Although the country of origin is not the major factor influencing the quality of beef, it is nevertheless the only indicator most consumers rely on. However, it is often not very reliable.
Breeds of Cattle
There are a great variety of cattle raised for meat production. Some of the common Beef breeds include Angus, Hereford, Shorthorn, Texas Longhorn, Charolais, Limousin, Simmental, Murray Grey, Brahman, Nelore and also Wagyu.
|Herefords are very popular due to its low maintenance||Shorthorns are able to thrive in harsh climates||Charolais known for its large size|
|Texas Longhorn very hardy and able to survive in hot arid plains||Limousins are known to produce leaner cuts of beef||Brahman very suitable in warmer tropical climate|
Some countries tend to favour certain breeds and are more commonly bred due to suitability to the climate or may have greater resistance to illness. Some breeds like Indian Brahman prefers the hotter climate, while a Charolais thrives in the colder climates and a Texas Longhorn is able to survive in hot arid plains.
Certain breeds such as Herefords and Shorthorns are very hardy and can thrive in harsh climates. As a result, its population has spread to nearly every continent and is commonly reared for beef production.
|Black Angus - well known for producing quality beef|
Certain breeds tend to produce better quality meat and are often more sought after. One of such breeds is the Angus variety. It is a breed of hornless cattle which is normally completely black in colour, hence it is often referred to as Black Angus. Its ancestory can be traced back to Scotland where it was originally referred to as Aberdeen Angus.
Black Angus is reputed for yielding top quality beef and as a result has been widely used in crossbreeding to produce newer breeds in the quest for superior beef.
Wagyu, which literally translates to Japanese cattle. ‘Wa’ is a traditional word refering to Japan and ‘gyu’ means cattle. Wagyu cattle basically encompasses five major breeds; Japanese Black (Tajima), Japanese Brown (Tottori), Japanese Polled (Shimane), Japanese Shorthorn (Kochi) and Kumamoto Reds (Kumamoto).
|U.S. Wagyu Cattle originates from a cross bred variety of the Black Angus cattle|
Among the five breeds, the Japanese black (Tajima) variety is the most popular and accounts for more than 80% of Wagyu beef that are bred commercially. Japanese Black Wagyu are well known for its abilility to produce beef with a high degree of fat marbling.
Most of the Wagyu beef we consume nowadays are bred and raised outside Japan in Australia, New Zealand and United States. These countries has abundant resources and space ideally suited for large scale cattle farming.
Majority of the Wagyu cattle in United States originates from a cross bred variety of the Angus cattle. This cross bred variety produces a darker red meat which has a stronger flavour that is more appealing to American consumers. United States Wagyu are also sometimes referred to as Kobe-styled beef.
Kobe Beef, Matsusaka Beef and Omi Beef
|Kobe Beef (Striploin) intensely marbled with specks ot intramuscular fat|
Highly prized beef like Kobe beef, Matsusaka beef, Yonezawa beef and Omi beef are meat from Japanese Wagyu that were traditionally rear in their respective region under specially monitored environment. These specially selected Wagyus are specially raised to produce superior quality beef. These luxury beef are often heavily ‘marbled’ with specks of intramuscular fat and is extremely tender.
Only Japanese Black Wagyu are rear for the production of Kobe beef. Young and healthy calfs with great potential are specially selected from quality Black Wagyu herds. They are then separated from the rest of the herd and raised in luxurious and comfortable environment. They are fed with rich food. Beer and Sake are occasionally added to their feed to improve their appetite. They are even occasionally massaged to loosen and relaxes its muscle fibres.
|Tajima Wagyu known for producing famous beef like Kobe Beef and Matsuzaka beef|
Most of the Kobe Beef we get today are bred and raised in United States and Australia where the farms are bigger and overheads are cheaper. They are contracted by Kobe beef producers to raise the cattle according to their special requirements. When they grow to their optimum size, these specially raised Wagyu are then send to Kobe to undergo final feeding specifications before being eventually slaughtered in Kobe.
Matsusaka beef is also another highly prized premium beef noted for its intense fat marbling. Matsusaka beef are produced from virgin Japanese Wagyu from Hyogo Prefecture. Only female Wagyu cattle are raised in the Matsusaka region. They are raised in a similar fashion to Kobe beef to achieve those heavily marbled beef. Soothing music are even played to the cattle to keep them as calm and relaxed as possible.