Fresh Beef and Veal
Fresh meat is no longer considered to be as important in our diets as we used to believe. Modern science tells us that fresh vegetables, legumes (beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, and peanuts), fresh fruit, nuts, and seeds are the healthiest and least fattening foods to eat. We are advised to eat less meat and dairy products.
Michael Moss, in his book Salt Sugar fat, op. cit., reports that Professor Walter Willett, M.D., Dr. P.H., who leads the nutrition program at Harvard's T.C. Chan School of Public Health "is blunt in urging people to cut back on cheese and red meat. Red meat, he says, should be slashed from the current average of one serving a day to no more than two servings a week. Moreover, red meat that has been processed into bacon, bologna, hot dogs, sandwich meats, and other products with added salt is best avoided altogether."
Aug. 12, 2016: "News from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health - Study shows risks of processed and red meats, benefits of plant proteins. New research finds that a higher intake of red meat, especially processed versions, was linked to a higher risk of death, while a higher protein intake from plant foods carried a lower risk."
Contrary to popular belief, meat from corn-fed cattle is NOT as good as meat from grass-fed cattle. The reason cattle are fed corn is to make them fatter, quicker---hence more profitable. But cattle are grass eaters and corn is NOT a natural food for them. Sometimes a steady corn diet makes cattle sick. These cattle are called "downers" when they are unable to stand up.
Grass-fed cattle have only about 1/3 the fat of corn-fed cattle. But, it is uneconomical to let cattle graze because it takes twice as long for grass-fed steers to reach marketable weight as it is for corn-fed, penned- up steers. So, ranchers sometimes let their cattle roam and eat grass for a while---then put them in close-quarter pens for corn feeding (called "finishing") and quicker weight gain.
All authorities agree that beef from cattle that are "free-range" and eat grass is healthier and better tasting than beef from cattle raised in close-quarter feeding pens, fed grain, and injected with hormones.
The USDA tells us in raising cattle "Hormones may be used to promote efficient growth. Estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone (natural hormones), and zeranol and trenbolone acetate (synthetic hormones) may be used as an implant on the animal's ear." Also, some prepackaged meat is injected with potassium lactate, sodium phosphate, and sodium diacetate to give the meat a longer "shelf life." We don't know what these chemicals give the consumer.
Time magazine (Sept. 28, 2015) reports "Fast food farms often give animals antibiotics to prevent disease and help them grow faster, but scientists worry overuse could make bacteria more resistant to antibiotics, especially for humans who eat the meat. A new report, backed by Consumers Union, grades how well major U.S. fast-food chains police this practice."
This report notes the few fast-food chains acting in the public interest are Panera and Chipotle because they ban "routine use of antibiotics" in the meat they serve their customers.
Also, Cameron Harsh, Research & Programs Manager, Center for Food Safety (Sept., 2015 Newsletter), reports that two food chains---Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill---received the top grade among the leading 25 U.S. restaurant chains in protecting consumers' health by NOT using beef from animals that had been given antibiotics.
The beef you see in your store's meat case was first graded as "sides" (one-half a steer) of beef hanging in refrigerated warehouses, by USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) inspectors.
Inspectors generally grade the hanging sides of beef into eight grades: prime, choice, select, standard, commercial, utility, cutter, and canner. The grade is then stamped from top to bottom on the hanging side of bee
Only the top three grades (Prime, Choice, and Select) are
then shipped to meat whole-
salers where each side of beef is cut into several primary cuts
(chuck, rib, short loin, loin end,
rump, round, flank, plate, brisket and fore shank).
These primary cuts are further cut into those items we see displayed in our store's meat case such as the various roasts or steaks, sirloin tip, round, and short ribs to name some of the cuts, or made into cube steaks, ground beef, or beef stew.
The best grade (USDA Prime, the top 2-3 % of all graded beef) is served in the most expensive restaurants and steak houses, and sold in
carriage-trade meat departments.
You would not believe how expensive some varieties of Prime beef are. There are several kinds of "Prime" beef, depending on the breed of cattle, what the cattle were fed, age of the steer before being slaughtered, how long the hanging side of beef is aged (usually 21-28 days), how it is aged (mostly dry aged), and where the steer was raised. "Beef" is a complex subject.
Anyone interested in "exotic beef" may want to do some computer research on the ancient Japanese strain of "Wagyu" cattle and the high-priced "Kobe" beef from those steers. Cost of Kobe steaks is between $50.00 and $90.00 lb.
The second-best grade (USDA Choice) of US beef is generally found in most good meat counters.The third-best grade (USDA Select) is found in some meat departments.
Only USDA Prime, USDA Choice, and USDA Select grades of beef can be sold in US meat departments as fresh beef.
When you purchase USDA Prime, USDA Choice, or USDA Select beef those designations must appear on the label. You may see some packages of beef labeled "USDA Inspected," but
without the "Prime," "Choice," or "Select" grade on the label. In that case the package of meat is probably "Select," the third grade of beef. Select grade beef has the least amount of fat and is, therefore, the least flavorful of the three grades of beef sold in U.S. meat departments.
In addition to the USDA grade of beef, the package of meat should also include: weight of meat in package (not including weight of the packaging material), price per pound of the meat, expiration date of the item, and total cost.
Also, now (2015) we are frequently noting on packages of beef if the package contains "grass-fed" beef, which is tastier, and healthier, than "corn-fed" beef. The only question is: "Was the grass-fed beef from cattle that ate all grass, or from cattle that ate some grass, and were then confined to pens and "finished" with a diet containing corn to fatten them up quicker, and possibly, chemical additives?
New federal regulations now require labels on fresh beef to also state where cattle were raised and slaughtered so consumers can become more knowledgeable about their meat purchases. (This reporter had no idea some beef sold in US meat departments came from cattle raised in Mexico---until he noticed this information on packages of meat in 2014.)
Dec. 15, 2013 - Dr. Joseph Mercola, op. cit., reported that several US meat packers were opposed to this new labeling because "it will shrink demand for imported meat." It may---
but this reporter has no desire to purchase meat from Somalia.
Portrait of a Porterhouse steak. It is
interesting to note that when the section of meat between the parsley and the T-bone (called the fillet mignon or tenderloin) is cut away, what's left is a T-bone steak. When the T-bone is cut out you have a strip steak. If only part of the T-bone is cut out you have a semi-boneless strip steak. When all
of the T-bone is cut out you have a
boneless strip steak.
About steaks - Not every piece of beef labeled "steak" can be broiled, grilled, or pan-fried and turn out delicious---just "real" steaks which are: club steak, rib steak (rib-eye), Delmonico steak, porterhouse steak, T-bone steak, strip steak (New York strip), filet mignon steak (Chateaubriand, tenderloin), and top (not bottom) sirloin steak.
Other cuts of beef are frequently labeled "steak"---such as chuck steak, flank steak, flap steak, round steak, Texas steak, ranch steak, flat iron steak, tri-tip steak, skirt steak, and rump steak. These are certainly good cuts of beef and can be prepared other ways and made into delicious meals---they just do not turn out well if they are broiled, grilled or pan-fried like "real" steaks. The right marinades can do wonders for less expensive cuts of beef.
The second best grade of beef, USDA Choice, has less fat than USDA Prime.
The third best grade of beef is USDA Select, which has less fat than USDA Choice. USDA Select beef is very lean.
The lower the grade of beef, the less marbling (fat) it has.
Until recently it was erroneously thought that fatty beef was not as healthful as lean beef. Now (2016), however, modern science tells us the right kind of fat is actually healthful. The only fat we must totally avoid is labeled "trans-fat," which is sometimes labeled "hydrogenated-oil".
Shoppers do not find the lowest five grades of beef (standard, commercial, utility, cutter, and canner) in meat departments. These lower grades may be used in some processed meat products such as hot dogs, cold cuts, or canned items such as soup, sausage, beef stew, or potted meat. The lowest grades of beef are used in pet foods.
Now, there are some really good cooks "out there" who know how to prepare excellent dishes using less expensive cuts of beef such as top or bottom round (also called "London broil"), bottom sirloin, sirloin tip, chuck (English cut), and fresh (not corned beef) brisket.
These talented cooks know what marinades to use, how long to marinade, how and when to "sear" some cuts of beef before cooking, how long to cook various cuts of beef depending on thickness, how long to simmer in various liquids at low temperatures, and use of a "Dutch oven." In short, how to prepare less expensive cuts of beef so as to turn out gourmet
meals that have their dinner guests asking for encores! Cooking is both an art and a science, and it takes years of cooking and experimenting to become a good cook.
For example, take an inexpensive roast (a chuck roast is good to prepare) and use a pointed carving fork to poke holes in both sides of the meat (use a cutting board so you don't poke holes in your counter-top). You can skip this step if you wish. If it is a large roast cut it in half and freeze half for later use.
Then, place beef roast in a pyrex dish. Don't use an aluminum
pan because the chemicals in the marinade will react with aluminum. Cover roast in a marinade of Coca-Cola or Italian dressing; Coca-cola is less "greasy" than Italian dressing. Cover roasting pan with foil, and let it sit overnight in refrigerator.
Next day, dump out marinade and pour a can of mushroom or onion soup on bottom of pyrex roasting pan. Pyrex pans or cast-iron, porcelain-coated cooking pots are better than aluminum, non-stick, or stainless steel cookware because they do not react adversely with the food in the roasting pan. Do not add water to can of soup. (After roast is cooked you can use soup in which it was cooked for gravy.) If you don't want to cook your roast in mushroom or onion soup, just put water in bottom of pan.
Then, season beef roast with any herbs or spices you wish---or don't season before roasting and let each person at the dinner table add salt/pepper to suit his or her taste.
Now, cook your roast in a pyrex or cast-iron, porcelain-lined
Dutch-oven in which you have added a can of mushroom or onion soup. Cover roast with foil. Cook roast at low temperature (275 C.).
Keep checking your roast by inserting a meat thermometer
into center of roast. Pull roast from oven when internal temperature reaches between 140 - 145 C. Let roast "sit" for between 10 to 20 minutes, depending on size of roast, before carving. This is because, as with cooking a turkey, the juices inside the roast must settle and don't "run all over the place" when you start carving. A very small roast, that is only about two inches thick, can be sliced after it sits only about 5 minutes.
Do NOT overcook beef roast; there should be some "red"---
or at least "pink"---in the center of each slice when you carve. An overcooked
roast, like an overcooked
steak, is a waste of money. Serve with dry red wine.
The guests at your table will think you went to culinary school!
In addition to roasting, you can use that same beef roast---cut into 1/2 or 3/4 inch cubes---to prepare beef stew, Hungarian goulash, pepper pot, or beef cubes over rice.
You would be amazed at how many gourmet-quality dishes you
can prepare with inexpensive cuts of beef---which are some-
times less expensive than ground beef.
The last word on beef is this: All authorities agree the safest beef to purchase (from a good-health standpoint) is from cattle that were free range, 100% grass-fed, and not been given antibiotics.
Veal - is meat from very young cattle (calves)---some
younger than 20 weeks old
(called "bob veal")---and is a
controversial subject. Many people advocate boycotting veal because they consider veal production to be a cruel method of raising animals for food.
In many states, and countries, young calves are raised in filthy conditions, and penned-up in small cages called "veal crates." You never want to see a photo of a small calf standing alone in a veal crate, unable to feel the warmth's of its mother's body; no sunlight; no room to move about; its large eyes staring at you.
Because these calves have no room to move they quickly gain weight. They are then sold to so-called "gourmets" who prize the light pink meat ("veal") of very young cattle weighing about 150 pounds. Those that are mainly milk-fed are about 3-months old when slaughtered.
California voters passed a law (Proposition 2) which went into effect Jan. 1, 2015, prohibiting veal ranchers from raising
calves in confining veal crates. Proposition 2 also extended to providing pigs and chickens with more space while they were being raised.
Thank you, Californians, for understanding and stopping the cruelty of raising baby cattle the way they once were.
NOW, what about the dozens of other states, and countries, where calves are still being ill-treated while being raised to
satisfy gourmets' palates? Do people who abuse small animals have the effrontery to go to church on Sunday?
The next section is about
Fresh Pork, Mutton, and Lamb