Choosing and Buying Beef

When choosing beef, there are a number of things to consider, including the colour of the meat and fat, along with the type of animal that provided the meat.

Meat Colour

When choosing beef, it is important to look at its colour. Lean beef can vary from coral pink to a deep burgundy-red, depending on the age, sex and breed of the animal. However, freshly cut surfaces of any piece of beef will be bright red, deepening to a brownish-red on exposure to air. Minced beef should look red; if it is pink, the proportion of fat will be too high, whereas if it looks brown, it may be slightly old.

Fat

The colour of fat in beef will vary - barley-fed beef has whitish fat, whereas the fat of grass-fed beef tends to be more yellow. Look for marbling in lean joints of beef; these flecks and streaks of fat melt during cooking, basting the roast from within making the meat juicier and more tender.

Aging

A beef carcass can be aged by being hung to improve its flavour and tenderness. Beef should be hung for at least a week; hanging for 3-4 weeks is even more desirable. The aging process results in considerable weight loss, which is reflected in the price; you should expect aged beef to be more expensive than standard beef.

Origin and Type of Animal

Bullocks (young castrated males) and heifers (cows that have not calved) produce the most succulent meat, whilst bulls and cows produce meat that is less good for eating. Scotch beef (born, reared, killed and processed in Scotland) is said to be the best beef, with meat from the Aberdeen Angus breed the most highly prized of all. Do bear in mind however, that the majority of Aberdeen Angus beef offered for sale in the UK comes either from Australia or Argentina - check carefully if you want to make sure that you're buying Scottish or British.

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