Beef is a common food item and is used to refer to meat that comes from bovines such as domestic cattle, water buffalo and antelopes. The main source of beef is, however, from domestic cattle (cows and bulls).
Beef can be used for a wide variety of foods and can be cut into steaks, ribs, roasts or may be ground and sold as mince. Beef is graded for quality depending on where on the bovine’s body it originates. Firstly, beef is divided into primal cuts and the closer to the middle back, the tenderer that meat would be. Meat that is on the neck and legs generally produces the toughest cuts.
If you were to divide a bovine’s body into regions, you would get chuck, ribs, short loins, sirloin and round steak from the upper half. The lower half would produce cuts such as brisket, shank, plate and flank.
Looking at the upper half in more detail, chuck would be a rectangular cut steak that is about one inch thick. Ribs, short and long, would be taken from ribs 6-12 of the animal. Short lion, which comes from the back center of the bovine would be used for porterhouse and fillet mignon steaks and is the tenderest cut. Sirloin has more flavor than lion but is less tender and is cut from the lower portion of the ribs. Round steak is cut from the very back of the cow and is a lean cut that has flavour, yet it is somewhat tough. Rump and hind shank also come from this portion of the bovine.
Looking at the lower half in more detail, brisket falls on the breast portion of the animal and it is a popular cut for corned beef. Shank meat comes from the shank portion of the bovine and is usually very lean. The plate cut is also known as the short plate and comes from the belly of the cow, directly below the rib cut. This type of meat produces a tough, fatty meat that is usually sold quite cheaply in supermarkets and butcheries. Flank is the beefsteak that comes from the belly muscles of the cow and is usually used for stir-fried beef dishes.
Other beef variety meats include the tongue, which is usually sliced for sandwiches in Western cooking; tripe from the stomach; various glands — particularly the pancreas and thymus — referred to as sweetbreads; the heart, the brain, the liver, the kidneys; and the tender testicles of the bull popularly known as “calf fries”, “prairie oysters”, or “Rocky Mountain oysters.” Beef bones are essential for making certain varieties of soup stock.
Beef has various nutrition values depending on the cut and how it is cooked. A serving of whole, cooked brisket contains 206 calories, 25 grams of protein, zero carbs, and 11 grams of fat. It also contains 79mg cholesterol, 60mg sodium, 6mg zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, selenium, phosphorus, niacin, iron and riboflavin. One serving of braised top, round steak would give you 174 calories, 31 grams of protein, zero carbs, and 5 grams of fat. It would also contain 77mg cholesterol, 38mg sodium, 4mg zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, selenium, phosphorus, niacin, iron and riboflavin.