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. In the Middle East, lamb is usually preferred
over beef. Beef is not normally eaten by the Hindu population in India as
it is not allowed for religious reasons. It is also discouraged among some
Beef muscle meat can be cut into steaks, pot roasts or short ribs, or
it can be ground/minced. The blood is used in some varieties of blood
sausage. Other parts which are eaten include the meaty tail, tongue, tripe
from the stomach, various 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, the tender testicles of the bull (known in the US as "calf
fries", "prairie oysters", or "Rocky Mountain
oysters"), intestines, and the udder. Beef bones are used for making
The better cuts are usually obtained from the steer; the heifer tends
to be kept for breeding. 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 grain.
The United States, Brazil, Japan and the People's Republic of China are
the world's four largest consumers of beef. The world's largest exporters
of beef are Australia, Brazil, Argentina and Canada. Beef production is
also important to the economies of Uruguay, Nicaragua, Russia and Mexico.
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.
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.
Brisket - often associated with barbecue beef brisket.
Shank - used primarily for stews and soups, but is not usually
served another way, due to it being the toughest of the cuts.
Plate - produces types of steak such as the skirt steak [fajitas]
and hanger steak. It is typically a cheap, tough, and fatty meat.
Flank - Long and flat, the flank steak's best known application is
London broil. 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.
USDA Beef Grades
In the United States, the USDA operates a voluntary beef grading
program. The meat processor pays for a trained USDA 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.
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
age of the animal prior to slaughter. Some meat scientists object to the
current scheme of USDA grading since it does not take tenderness into
account. Most other countries' beef grading systems mirror the US model.
Most beef offered for sale in supermarkets is graded choice or select.
Prime beef is sold to hotels and upscale restaurants. Beef that would rate
as Standard or leaner is almost never offered for grading.
U.S. Prime - Highest in quality and intramuscular fat, limited
supply. Currently, only two percent of cuts sold are USDA certified
U.S. Choice - High quality, widely available in foodservice industry
and retail markets.
U.S. Select (formerly "Good") - Leanest grade commonly
sold, acceptable quality but less juicy and tender.
U.S. Standard - Lower quality yet economical, lacking marbling.
U.S. Commercial - Low quality, lacking tenderness, produced from
Utility, Cutter, and Canner grade are rarely used in foodservice
operations and primarily obtained by processors and canners.
Traditionally, beef sold in steakhouses and supermarkets has been
advertised by its USDA grading; 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.