Although cattle are not indigenous to the Americas, the population now relish the taste and willingly pay the high price, which is manipulated by a few huge agribusiness conglomerates.
Cattle were domesticated in Europe and Asia since the Stone Age. Christopher Columbus brought a few specimens to the Americas in 1493. Later, Hernan Cortez took their off springs to Mexico, and some arrived in what is now the U S A.
There are many cattle species and more are being cross-bread constantly for better tasting meat, or other characteristics favourable to different climates, and resistance to disease.
The species range from Texas Longhorn, to English shorthorn, Angus Aberdeen, Hereford, Charolais, Limousin, Chianina, Maine-Anjou, Belted Galloway, Jersey, Guernsey, Wagyu, juts t name a few.
On well-managed farms, cattle can be raised in agriculturally poor regions. Each cattle requires three to four hectares (eight to ten acres) of land.
USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) awards grades according to the marbling of the meat i.e US prime, choice, select, commercial and utility.
Only three per cent of all carcasses are graded as prime.
Cattle can be grass finished, grain finished, naturally raised (no antibiotics must be used, and only grass fed and/or gain finished cattle qualifies), or certified humane.
The aging technique and its length change flavour and tenderness. Wet aging refers to a cut being packaged in cryovac, stored in refrigerator for one, two or three weeks.
Dry aging requires that the cut be hung in a well ventilated (5 – 6 C at 50 – 60 per cent humidity room) for three to four weeks. During dry aging the meat shrinks by a minimum of ten and up to 25 per cent.
Steaks of dry aged beef taste more intense and buttery.
Wagyu cattle were first raised in Japan and require a lot of attention daily. It is extremely well marbled, very tender, flavourful and also very expensive.
American and Canadian cattle ranches use Wagyu techniques to produce high quality beef. High-end steak houses are their best customers.
American and Canadian-style beef should not be confused with Japanese wagyu, more famously known as Kobe beef.
You can roast, broil, grill, stew, braise or BBQ beef, and when minces, can be sued for meatballs, meat loaves, sauces, even pates.
Sirloin, and tenderloin are the tenderest parts of the carcass. Sirloin has a deep and satisfying flavour, whereas filet a more soft and tender texture, and much less marbling. Both are fine for grilling pan-frying or BBQ.
Ribs (cut as chops) can be grilled or BBQed. Seven bone ribs are best for roasting.
Flank steaks or hanger or skirt steaks are tough, and chewy. They benefit from a long marinade before cooking.
Shoulder meat is tough and best for stewing or braising.
U S A and Canada raise millions of cattle because of huge and relatively inexpensive land available.
Steakhouses in both countries abound and do a roaring trade.
Price is not always an indicator of quality, but can be used as guide.
Marbled beef tastes much better than lean.
Medical researchers recommend lean meat because it contains less fat.
Steak house chains like Chris Ruth’s Steak House, Mortons, Fleming`s, Tom Jones, Barberian`s (both in Toronto), Smith and Wolensky are only a few that come to mind
In my opinion small, family-operated steak houses offer high quality at reasonable cost, and possibly better service with an acceptable choice of fine red wines.
Small steak houses select their meat more carefully, age longer, and employ very skilled cooks in an attempt to deliver quality an unforgettable experience.