Beef is meat obtained from a bull, steer (castrated bull), or cow. Beef is one of the more common meats used in European and North American cuisine. Beef is an important part of Tex-Mex cuisine. Beef is also important in Argentina.
There are two different beef production methods. In some parts of the world (eg. Australia and South America), the beef cattle self-feed on grass and weeds while roaming around. This produces beef with the fat deposits on the outsides of the beef cuts where they can be removed before cooking for healthful eating.
In the USA and some other countries, ‘feedlot’ beef is much more common. These animals are confined to a small stockyard and fed primarily on grain. Feedlot animals produce beef which is tender, mild flavored, and marbled with large amounts of fat. The USDA beef rating system encourages beef with high ammounts of intramuscular fat by giving high scores to beef that is highly marbled. From least marbled to most marbled, the grades are: standard, select, choice, and prime. For example, the lean part of a 3 oz roasted eye of round with 1/4 inch trim will have 3 g of fat if it is USDA Select, but 5 g of fat if it is USDA Choice. Subdivisions have recently been added; a “-” indicates a a cut with less marbleing while a “+” indicates a more marbling. The letter grades refer to age of the animal, with “A” being for the youngest animals.
There is a special kind of beef produced in Japan called Kobe beef, which goes a step beyond feedlot production. Beef cattle of the Wagyu breed are hand-raised, fed on a diet of beer and the “highest” quality grain, and given regular massages. This produces super-tender beef. Kobe beef sells at a premium price because of the higher costs of feed and production. The meat has lots of fat, containing more unsaturated fat than most beef.
Beef is carved into several sections, called cuts, which can be further divided into steaks, pot roasts, short ribs, and ground into hamburger. The heart is somewhat springy. Other beef variety meats include the tongue, tripe from the stomach, various glands—particularly the pancreas and thyroid—referred to as sweetbreads, the brain, the liver, the kidneys, and the tender testicles of the bull commonly known as “calf fries”, “prairie oysters”, or “Rocky Mountain oysters.”
Several Asian and European nationalities include the blood in their cuisine — the British use it to make blood pudding, and Filipinos use it to make a stew called dinuguan. Other beef foods include the tongue, which is usually sliced for sandwiches; tripe from the stomach; the thymus glands of calves known as sweetbread; the tender testicles of the bull, commonly known as beef balls or sweetmeat; the brain, used in the fried brain sandwich; the liver, used in liver and onions; and so on.