The domestication of cattle for food dates to about 6500 B.C. in the Middle East. Cattle were not native to America, but brought to the New World on ships by European colonists. Americans weren’t big eaters of fresh beef until about 1870, due to the enormous growth of the cattle industry in the West. The introduction of cattle cars and refrigerated cars on the railroad facilitated distribution of the beef.
Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially domestic cattle. Beef is one of the principal meats used in the cuisine of the Americas.
Beef can be cut into steaks, pot roasts or short ribs, or it can be ground. Other beef varieties include the tongue, which is usually sliced for sandwiches in Western cooking; tripe from the stomach; the heart, the liver, the kidneys. Beef bones are essential for making certain varieties of soup stock.
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 ground beef in the major production corporations (i.e. supermarkets) of beef. Cattle raised for beef may be allowed to roam free on grasslands, as our producers practice, or may be confined in pens as part of a large feeding operation called a feedlot, where they are fed high amounts of grain, growth hormones and such.
“Beef” is meat from full-grown cattle about 2 years old. A live steer weighs about 1,000 pounds and yields about 450 pounds of edible meat. There are at least 50 breeds of beef cattle, but fewer than 10 make up most cattle produced. Some major breeds are Angus, Hereford, Charolais, and Brahman.
“Baby beef” and “calf” are 2 interchangeable terms used to describe young cattle weighing about 700 pounds that have been raised mainly on milk and grass. The meat cuts from baby beef are smaller; the meat is light red and contains less fat than beef. The fat may have a yellow tint due to the vitamin A in grass.
“Veal” is meat from a calf which weighs about 150 pounds. Those that are mainly milk-fed usually are less than 3 months old. The difference between “veal” and “calf” is based on the color of their meat, which is determined almost entirely by diet. Veal is pale pink and contains more cholesterol than beef.