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Reprinted from Epicurion Magazine
Originally posted: 7/23/08
Ethan Book on 07/23/08 at 09:30 AM
On June 20th The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, Humane Farm Animal Care, Slow Foods USA, and Ayrshire Farm hosted a beef taste test. Except this wasn't just a run of the mill taste test. The ten breeds of cattle involved in this test included eight heritage breeds that are either listed as "critical", "threatened", "watch", or "recovering" by the ALBC. There were around 70 food professionals, chefs, food writers, and food connoisseurs (are those foodies?) on hand to taste the 10 different samples of roasted chuck. Below you can find the interesting results, my thoughts, and even what some others think of this "taste test".
The top three in the blind taste test were the Randall Lineback, the Galloway, and the Dexter (check out this link for the complete results and more information). All three of those breeds are listed on the ALBC list as critical, watch, and recovering (respectively) and beat out the conventional favorites of Angus and beef variety of the Shorthorn.
Of course as a Dexter breeder, I am glad to see my breed towards the top of the heap at another taste test. (Dexters are usually ranked high when given a chance.) But I am especially glad to see the ALBC, along with these much needed heritage breeds, getting some publicity from the food crowd. It is important to realize that just because beef comes from a black steer that is Certified Angus doesn't mean it is always going to be the best for all people.
Not everyone was pleased with the results of this taste test, however, and if you want to see what some people think of it you can check out the discussion on the Cattle Today Forums. Needless to say, these folks aren't all fans of the heritage breeds and didn't believe there was much "scientific" creditability to the test. While I agree that it wasn't an overly scientific taste test (is that possible), I think they were missing the point.
Check out what the press release says from the ALBC,
This event was the largest comparison of beef breeds in North America to date and it successfully demonstrated that each of these breeds is valuable for the unique culinary experience it offers.
The event wasn't about which breed was the best so they could begin the next marketing campaign, but rather it was about the importance of saving the diversity of our country's cattle herd. Many of these heritage breeds were the foundation of the breeds that are produced on large ranches and feedlots today, and if we were to lose them we would lose some important genetic links.
Have you ever had a chance to eat some heritage beef?
K. Giller A , I. D. M. Gangnat A , P. Silacci B , J. Messadene-Chelali B , M. Kreuzer A and J. Berard A C+ Author Affiliations
Animal Production Science 59(5) 986-992 https://doi.org/10.1071/AN17888
Submitted: 13 June 2017 Accepted: 6 April 2018 Published: 5 June 2018
Tenderness, flavour and colour are the most important quality traits of beef that are influenced by breed and age. Suckler calves (SC) produce very tender, high-quality meat. Extensively growing, small-framed breeds are known for high-quality beef, but information about the particularly small Dexter cattle (D) is yet unavailable. Eight D and seven Charolais-crossbreed SC were kept for 11 weeks on alpine pastures to be able to compare their meat quality. The SC were kept with their dams. The animals of the two breeds were slaughtered at different ages (D: 15 months and SC: 7 months) consistent with their respective production system conventions. Although this meant that age and breed effects were confounded, slaughter took place at the same carcass fatness score, thereby avoiding a confounding effect on meat quality. Quality of the carcass and of two muscles (M. biceps femoris, M. longissimus thoracis) was analysed. Despite being older, D had lower body and carcass weights, dressing percentage and bodyweight gains than SC. Dexter meat was darker than SC meat. Shear force did not differ between D and SC in the M. longissimus thoracis but was higher in the M. biceps femoris from D than from SC. Sensory analysis by a trained panel demonstrated an overall preference for D meat, associated with more favourable flavour and juiciness. Tenderness was not rated differently. Despite the unfavourable darker colour of D compared with SC meat, its characteristic flavour might attract consumers in a high-price niche market. For a more comprehensive characterisation, sensory evaluation of additional muscles is required. Additional measurements on a larger number of animals and muscles are required.