where does beef originate from

The wild ancestor of modern cattle, evidence points to the domestication of the aurochs in the Near East and the Indian subcontinent between 10,000 and 8,000 years ago.

The tradition of eating beef has passed down generations to become an integral part for many of our regular diets. By providing precious protein, packed with fatty calories beef has come be regarded as an important ingredient for human survival. Here, we look at the ever-changing role of beef and it’s interesting history.

Beef has been a staple meat eaten around the world for millennia, dating back as far as prehistory. Cattle originated in the Old World, having been domesticated around 8000 BC when the material gains from the livestock became apparent. It is difficult to estimate the precise point where beef became a cooked delicacy, although it probably shortly followed the domestication of cattle. Following this, people were able to identify specific breeds suited to being used for their meat or dairy produce such as milk and cheese.

Cooking methods

These methods are applicable to all types of meat and some other foodstuffs.

Method Description
Grilling Cooking the beef over or under a high radiant heat source, generally in excess of 340 °C (650 °F). This leads to searing of the surface of the beef, which creates a flavorsome crust. In Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, the UK, Germany and The Netherlands, grilling, particularly over charcoal, is sometimes known as barbecuing, often shortened to “BBQ”. When cooked over charcoal, this method can also be called charbroiling.
Smoking A technique of cooking that involves cooking meat for long periods of time at low temperatures with smoke from a wood fire.
Broiling A term used in North America. It is similar to grilling, but with the heat source always above the meat. Elsewhere this is considered a way of grilling.
Griddle Meat may be cooked on a hot metal griddle. A little oil or fat may be added to inhibit sticking; the dividing line when the method becomes shallow frying is not well-defined.
Roasting A way of cooking meat in a hot oven, producing roast beef. Liquid is not usually added; the beef may be basted by fat on the top, or by spooning hot fat from the oven pan over the top. A gravy may be made from the cooking juices, after skimming off excess fat. Roasting is suitable for thicker pieces of meat; the other methods listed are usually for steaks and similar cuts.

Beef can be cooked to various degrees, from very rare to well done. The degree of cooking corresponds to the temperature in the approximate center of the meat, which can be measured with a meat thermometer. Beef can be cooked using the sous-vide method, which cooks the entire steak to the same temperature, but when cooked using a method such as broiling or roasting it is typically cooked such that it has a “bulls eye” of doneness, with the least done (coolest) at the center and the most done (warmest) at the outside.

Meat can be cooked in boiling oil, typically by shallow frying, although deep frying may be used, often for meat enrobed with breadcrumbs as in milanesas or finger steaks. Larger pieces such as steaks may be cooked this way, or meat may be cut smaller as in stir frying, typically an Asian way of cooking: cooking oil with flavorings such as garlic, ginger and onions is put in a very hot wok. Then small pieces of meat are added, followed by ingredients which cook more quickly, such as mixed vegetables. The dish is ready when the ingredients are just cooked.

Moist heat cooking methods include braising, pot roasting, stewing and sous-vide. These techniques are often used for cuts of beef that are tougher, as these longer, lower-temperature cooking methods have time to dissolve connecting tissue which otherwise makes meat remain tough after cooking.

Meat has usually been cooked in water which is just simmering, such as in stewing; higher temperatures make meat tougher by causing the proteins to contract. Since thermostatic temperature control became available, cooking at temperatures well below boiling, 52 °C (126 °F) (sous-vide) to 90 °C (194 °F) (slow cooking), for prolonged periods has become possible; this is just hot enough to convert the tough collagen in connective tissue into gelatin through hydrolysis, with minimal toughening.

With the adequate combination of temperature and cooking time, pathogens, such as bacteria will be killed, and pasteurization can be achieved. Because browning (Maillard reactions) can only occur at higher temperatures (above the boiling point of water), these moist techniques do not develop the flavors associated with browning. Meat will often undergo searing in a very hot pan, grilling or browning with a torch before moist cooking (though sometimes after).

Thermostatically controlled methods, such as sous-vide, can also prevent overcooking by bringing the meat to the exact degree of doneness desired, and holding it at that temperature indefinitely. The combination of precise temperature control and long cooking duration makes it possible to be assured that pasteurization has been achieved, both on the surface and the interior of even very thick cuts of meat, which can not be assured with most other cooking techniques. (Although extremely long-duration cooking can break down the texture of the meat to an undesirable degree.)

Beef can be cooked quickly at the table through several techniques. In hot pot cooking, such as shabu-shabu, very thinly sliced meat is cooked by the diners at the table by immersing it in a heated pot of water or stock with vegetables. In fondue bourguignonne, diners dip small pieces of beef into a pot of hot oil at the table. Both techniques typically feature accompanying flavorful sauces to complement the meat.

Steak tartare is a French dish made from finely chopped or ground (minced) raw meat (often beef). More accurately, it is scraped so as not to let even the slightest of the sinew fat get into the scraped meat. It is often served with onions, capers, seasonings such as fresh ground pepper and Worcestershire sauce, and sometimes raw egg yolk.

The Belgian or Dutch dish filet américain is also made of finely chopped ground beef, though it is seasoned differently, and either eaten as a main dish or can be used as a dressing for a sandwich. Kibbeh nayyeh is a similar Lebanese and Syrian dish. And in Ethiopia, a ground raw meat dish called tire siga or kitfo is eaten (upon availability).

Carpaccio of beef is a thin slice of raw beef dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning. Often, the beef is partially frozen before slicing to allow very thin slices to be cut.

Yukhoe is a variety of hoe, raw dishes in Korean cuisine which is usually made from raw ground beef seasoned with various spices or sauces. The beef part used for yukhoe is tender rump steak. For the seasoning, soy sauce, sugar, salt, sesame oil, green onion, and ground garlic, sesame seed, black pepper and juice of bae (Korean pear) are used. The beef is mostly topped with the yolk of a raw egg.

Bresaola is an air-dried, salted beef that has been aged about two to three months until it becomes hard and a dark red, almost purple, colour. It is lean, has a sweet, musty smell and is tender. It originated in Valtellina, a valley in the Alps of northern Italys Lombardy region. Bündnerfleisch is a similar product from neighbouring Switzerland. Chipped beef is an American industrially produced air-dried beef product, described by one of its manufacturers as being “similar to bresaola, but not as tasty.”[65]

Beef jerky is dried, salted, smoked beef popular in the United States.

Biltong is a cured, salted, air dried beef popular in South Africa.

Pastrami is often made from beef; raw beef is salted, then partly dried and seasoned with various herbs and spices, and smoked.

Corned beef is a cut of beef cured or pickled in a seasoned brine. The corn in corned beef refers to the grains of coarse salts (known as corns) used to cure it. The term corned beef can denote different styles of brine-cured beef, depending on the region. Some, like American-style corned beef, are highly seasoned and often considered delicatessen fare.

Spiced beef is a cured and salted joint of round, topside, or silverside, traditionally served at Christmas in Ireland. It is a form of salt beef, cured with spices and saltpetre, intended to be boiled or broiled in Guinness or a similar stout, and then optionally roasted for a period after.[66] There are various other recipes for pickled beef. Sauerbraten is a German variant.

Beef is the third most widely consumed meat in the world, accounting for about 25% of meat production worldwide, after pork and poultry at 38% and 30% respectively.[67]

Cowboys and Cattle Drives

The Cowboy is one of the most potent and widely-recognised symbols of Americana, bearing several similarities to Gauchos despite different aesthetic iconography. Cowboys arose to cultural prevalence in the 19th Century, known mainly for the vast cattle drives from Texas, the country’s main source of cattle to Chicago, the heart of the meat-packing industry and a hub for beef demand. This process emerged in the mid-19th Century. It is believed that a single herd of cattle numbered around 3,000 cows. As the population of the country grew and demand became more evenly spread across the country, the age of cattle drives and the cowboy by extension came to an end. Despite this, the cowboy remains permanently ingrained as a symbol of American popular culture, romanticised in the same way as the Gauchos in Latin America.

Global statistics

In 2018, the United States, Brazil, and China produced the most beef with 12.22 million tons, 9.9 million tons, and 6.46 million tons respectively.[48] The top 3 beef exporting countries in 2019 were Australia (14.8% of total exports), the United States (13.4% of total exports), and Brazil (12.6% of total exports).[49] Beef production is also important to the economies of Japan, Argentina, Uruguay, Canada, Paraguay, Mexico, Belarus and Nicaragua.

As per 2020, Brazil was the largest beef exporter in the world followed by Australia, United States, India (Includes Carabeef only) and Argentina.[50] Brazil, Australia, the United States and India accounted for roughly 61% of the worlds beef exports.[51]

Beef exports, including buffalo meat, in metric tons[52]

Rank Country 2020 % of the World[53] Country 2016 % of the World
1 Brazil 2,539,000 23.50% Brazil 1,850,000 19.60%
2 Australia 1,476,000 13.66% India 1,850,000 19.60%
3 United States 1,341,000 12.41% Australia 1,385,000 14.67%
4 India 1,284,000 11.88% United States 1,120,000 11.87%
5 Argentina 819,000 7.58% New Zealand 580,000 6.14%

The world produced 60.57 million metric tons of beef in 2020, down 950K metric tons from the prior year. Major decline for production of beef was from India up to 510k and Australia down to 309K metric tons from the prior year.[54]

Beef production (1000 Metric Tons CWE)[55]

Rank Country 2009 2010 % Chg Country 2019 2020 Change %Chg
1 United States 11,889 11,789 −0.8% United States 12,384 12,379 -5,000 -0.04%
2 Brazil 8,935 9,300 4% Brazil 10,200 10,100 -100,000 -1%
3 EU-27 7,970 7,920 −0.6% EU- 27 7,878 7,810 -68,000 -0.9%
4 China 5,764 5,550 −4% China 6,670 6,720 50,000 0.8%
5 Argentina 3,400 2,800 −18% India 4,270 3,760 -510,000 -12%
6 India 2,610 2,760 6% Argentina 3,125 3,230 105,000 3%
7 Australia 2,100 2,075 −1% Australia 2,432 2,123 -309,000 -12%
8 Mexico 1,700 1,735 2% Mexico 2,027 2,079 52,000 3%
9 Russia 1,285 1,260 −2% Pakistan 1,820 1,820 NIL NIL
10 Pakistan 1,226 1,250 2% Russia 1,374 1,378 4,000 0.3%
Rank Country 2009 2010 % Chg
1 India 57,960 58,300 0.6%
2 Brazil 49,150 49,400 0.5%
3 China 42,572 41,000 −4%
4 United States 35,819 35,300 −1.4%
5 EU 30,400 30,150 −0.8%
6 Argentina 12,300 13,200 7%
7 Australia 9,213 10,158 10%
8 Russia 7,010 6,970 −0.6%
9 Mexico 6,775 6,797 0.3%
10 Colombia 5,675 5,675 0.0%

The wild ancestor of modern cattle, evidence points to the domestication of the aurochs in the Near East and the Indian subcontinent between 10,000 and 8,000 years ago.

FAQ

What country is beef native to?

Cattle are descended from a wild ancestor called the aurochs. The aurochs were huge animals which originated on the subcontinent of India and then spread into China, the Middle East, and eventually northern Africa and Europe. Aurochs are one of the animals painted on the famous cave walls near Lascaux, France.

Where does most of the beef come from?

Country
Metric Tons of Beef
% of World Production
1. United States
12,379,000
20.44%
2. Brazil
10,100,000
16.67%
3. European Union
7,810,000
12.89%
4. China
6,720,000
11.09%

Where did cows originally come from?

Cattle were independently domesticated from the aurochs, a wild bovine species, in the vicinity of the current countries of Turkey and Pakistan ∼10,000 y ago. Cattle have since spread with humans across the world, including to regions where these two distinct lineages have hybridized.

What is the source of beef?

Beef is the meat of cattle (Bos taurus). It is categorized as red meat — a term used for the meat of mammals, which contains higher amounts of iron than chicken or fish. Usually eaten as roasts, ribs, or steaks, beef is also commonly ground or minced.

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