Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Question: Which Breed Tastes Best?

TODAY'S STEAKPERFECTION QUESTION

"what is the best type of cow for Ribeye steaks,
Simmental or Angus?"

SUMMARY

There are no scientifically valid studies that rank the taste of high-quality steak from Simmental, Angus or other breeds.  Much more research is required on the relationship between taste scores and cattle breeds. 

However, a few studies by some researchers tends to show that abundantly marbled steak from the following eight beef cattle breeds would rank for taste in the following order:

  • Brahman
  • Gelbvieh
  • Limousin
  • Charolais
  • Hereford
  • Simmental
  • Angus
  • Red Angus

Until further research is conducted, the accuracy of this and other rankings cannot be verified.

ASSUMPTIONS

SteakPerfection strives for precise accuracy.  Because the question above contains several ambiguities, we assume, for purposes of this answer, that the question is directed to the following ribeye steak:
  • Steer not a cow (the highest quality steaks come from steers, which are male cattle that are castrated when young, and not from cows, which are female cattle that have given birth at least once);
  • Purebred (which means that the cattle are not hybrid);
  • Well-raised (which means that the cattle are raised in a healthy, low-stress environment);
  • Best quality (which means here that the steak is either graded as USDA Prime Grade or is its equivalent in terms of the cattle's age and its marbling quality, and that it is dry-aged for a substantial period of time);  and
  • Equivalently and properly cooked (which means that the steak from each breed is cooked in exactly the same manner and is cooked properly).

THE STUDIES

There are a very few scientifically reliable studies which compare cattle breed with taste.  We rely on the following three studies:
  • J.D. Tatum et al.  2008.  Producing Flavorful Beef.  Online (last retrieved on 3/30/11).
  • Wheeler, T. L., L. V. Cundiff, S. D. Shackelford, and M. Koohmaraie.  2001.  Characterization of biological types of cattle (Cycle V):  carcass traits and longissimus palatability.  J. Anim. Sci. 79:1209-1222.
  • Wheeler, T. L., L.V. Cundiff, S. D. Shackelford, and M. Koohmaraie.  2005. Characterization of biological types of cattle (Cycle VII):  Carcass, yield, and longissimus palatability traits.  J. Anim. Sci. 83:196-207.

APPARENT RANKINGS

As shown in Tatum's study in Figure 6 at Page 18, the relationship between marbling scores and taste scores for eight beef cattle breeds is shown.

Caution: before analyzing the following taste scores,
note that the ranking below is unreliable,
for the reasons discussed in the next section.

Figure 6 shows that the following beef cattle breeds, marbling scores and taste scores, ranked by thier taste scores, from highests to lowest:
  • Red Angus (590, 4.94)
  • Angus (585, 4.93)
  • Hereford (529, 4.90)
  • Gelbvieh (506, 4.87)
  • Charolais (518, 4.86)
  • Simmental (529, 4.84)
  • Limousin (504, 4.83)
  • Brahman (473, 4.82)

As cautioned above, the foregoing ranking is very misleading.  The taste scores were awarded for steak from different breeds that were not controlled for their marbling scores.  In other words, the study compared the taste of steaks which had different marbling scores, which is like comparing apples with oranges.  For example, the steak from the Brahman had a marbling score of only 470, but it achieved a taste score that was almost as high as the steak from the Limousin, which had a much higher marbling score (504).

Thus, we adjusted the rankings in order to account for the differences in marbling.

ADJUSTED RANKINGS

For the reasons explained above, the Apparent Rankings in Figure 6 were adjusted to account for the differences in marbling.  In order to make this adjustment, we applied a linear regressional analysis.  We calculated the expected flavor score for each breed, based upon a marbling score of 900.

A marbling score of 900 equates to
an abundant marbling score of AB-00 and
to an intramuscular fat percentage (IMF%) of 11%.

The adjusted rankings for each breed are set forth below, ranked in order of their adjusted taste scores, from highests to lowest, and with their assumed marbling scores and adjusted taste scores:

  • Brahman (900, 9.17)
  • Gelbvieh (900, 8.66)
  • Limousin (900, 8.63)
  • Charolais (900, 8.44)
  • Hereford (900, 8.34)
  • Simmental (900, 8.23)
  • Angus (900, 7.58)
  • Red Angus (900, 7.54)

We ascribe little confidence to this ranking and are aware that a 900 marbling score for a Brahman steer is extremely rare.  However, these Adjusted Rankings tend to suggest that a steak from a Brahman steer with a 900 marbling score may achieve a significantly higher taste score than a similar steak from a Red Angus steer. 

Actual taste tests and research are necessary to verify these Adjusted Rankings.

ADDITIONAL RESEARCH

Based upon the foregoing, we cannot and do not conclude that these Adjusted Rankings are accurate.  Instead, we conclude only that the Apparent Rankings are inaccurate.  Moreover, we conclude that additional research is required to measure the taste scores of steak from different breeds but with the same, high marbling scores.

CONCLUSION

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1 comment:

  1. At least we are all aware now that the quest for a perfect steak begins in reality and ends well inside the realm of fiction and without any respect to economical factors. I would love to have a Ferrari that cost as much as a Ford Focus, ran on free electricity and towed as much as a Peterbuilt. That would be cool too, but then we all have to live in the real world dont we? I feel like a more informed consumer already.

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