WAGYU BEEF: Fact vs Fiction

wagyu_beef_fact_vs_fiction

 

In Alberta, we often take our high quality beef for granted– or we may even be so proud that we would not dare to try anything from outside our borders. In reality, we have so much in common with places like the U.S.A., Argentina and Japan because our industries, cultures and environments help promote ethical farmers to raise happy, healthy cows. For more information, read on for D’Arcy’s Meat Market’s guide to Wagyu beef fact versus Wagyu beef fiction.

 

FICTION: “Wagyu beef is outside of Japan.”

FACT: Wagyu beef cattle may not be exported outside of Japan, but both their meat and DNA are widely distributed. Many markets breed Wagyu-certified DNA into their cattle to improve the quality, as well as the marketability. Cuts of Wagyu beef are specially shipped to high-end customers including Michelin-star restaurants, luxury hotels and private chefs.

FICTION: “Kobe beef and Wagyu beef are the same thing.”

FACT: Kobe and Wagyu standards have different specifications, many of which control what can and cannot be called officially certified Kobe beef or Wagyu beef. North American Kobe is common and still a high quality cut of beef, but true Kobe and Wagyu products come only from Japan. As mentioned above, there are also many North American breeds crossed with Japanese cow DNA in an effort to improve its quality and marketability.

FICTION: “All beef labeled ‘wagyu’ is of the same quality.”

FACT: Translated from Japanese, “wagyu” means “Japanese cow”– unless properly certified, this may be normal-grade beef from Japan. Always check the source of any food you buy, as it is the only way to be sure you are getting the product for which you paid. Specialty food like Wagyu beef is particularly important to verify, as unethical vendors will charge you a premium no matter what.

FICTION: Wagyu beef cows are massaged and force-fed sake (Japanese rice wine).

FACT: These are common rumours, but they are misconceptions popularized outside of Japan. While it is true that certified Wagyu farmers keep many close secrets developed over centuries of expertise, the effects of the rumoured treatments would have little effect on the beef’s quality– it could even reduce the quality! Much like Alberta beef and other major cattle production areas, the Wagyu industry self-regulates and is overseen by government agencies.

The above myths are only a sampling of the many assumptions people make about Wagyu beef an other international delicacies. For a comprehensive understanding of Wagyu beef, its production and its features, bring your questions and concerns to D’Arcy’s today!

CAN I DRY-AGE BEEF AT HOME?

dry-aged-beef-at-homeWhether you have seen it on a restaurant’s menu, a cooking show or in your favourite barbecue bible– dry-aged beef is becoming more popular and widely understood. Here in the heartland of Alberta, many of us have easy access to fresh, top-quality beef that is a prime candidate for dry-aging. Once you taste the difference, it can be difficult to imagine eating a cut of beef that has not been dry-aged. If it sounds too good to be true, never fear: dry-aging has been practiced for as long as humans have prepared meat and modern science has proved its methods. You only need your taste buds to be convinced by the results! Read on for a quick introduction to dry-aged beef, brought to you by D’Arcy’s Meat Market.

What is “dry-aging?”

Beef that has been “dry-aged” was hung in large pieces– up to many months in temperature- and humidity-controlled conditions– prior to trimming and portioning the cuts. On the microscopic level, certain enzymes and good bacteria cause the flesh to tenderize and concentrate the meat’s natural taste. This saturation happens because the cut of beef loses moisture and size, while retaining its inherent flavour.

Is dry-aging safe to do at home?

Once upon a time, a home refrigerator would never be capable of dry-aging a cut of beef within food safety standards. Technological innovations mean your fridge likely keeps temperature and humidity levels more stable than older models, but unless equipped with an accurate thermometer and barometer– you may be taking an unnecessary risk by attempting the dry-age process at home. If you are equipped the appropriate tools and knowledge, you may be a good candidate to try dry-aging beef at home.

What are the benefits of home dry-aging?

A dry-aged cut of beef from a butcher or a steakhouse has gone through rigorous observation and quality assurance. Dry-aging at home means you can reproduce some of this environment, but it also means you can experiment to find what works best for your tastes. While your conditions may not be food-safe enough to age the beef as long as the professionals, short-term aging has shown to improve browning in steaks. Unfortunately, industrial equipment and culinary knowledge is required to achieve the deep, concentrated flavour of beef aged long-term (while avoiding any staleness or transfer of taste from the contents of a consumer-grade fridge).

Does D’Arcy’s carry dry-aged meat?

Desperate for that dry-aged taste, but let down by your do-it-yourself options? D’Arcy’s Meat Market not only carries a wide-range of dry-aged beef products cut-to-order, but our experts can help explain the dry-aging process and guide you to the right choice for you. We can offer advice on home dry-aging, but we can also produce custom orders by special request.

Questions about dry-aged beef? Curious about trying to dry-age beef at home? Contact or visit D’Arcy’s today!

LOCAL LUXURY: What Makes Alberta Beef Unique?

what makes alberta beef unique

 

Lifelong Albertans may take it for granted, but the beef produced in this province is recognized around the world for its rich taste and consistent quality. Of course, beef does not start at the butcher’s counter– all meat begins as an animal raised with care by a rancher on Mother Nature’s land. There is more to Alberta beef than just taste and quality, keep reading to find out more!

 

WHERE, WHY & COW

As with most of the world, cows are not native to North America– they were spread by European settlers as they colonized the West. To encourage settlement in Alberta and elsewhere, large parcels of land were given to ranchers and cattle was allowed to be imported without taxation. Innovations in irrigation and animal welfare were all fully developing as many Albertan cattle ranchers were established. By standing on the shoulders of those before them, the Alberta beef industry made the most out of an already advantageous climate and geographic location.

RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

Many rural regions could support a large agricultural industry like Alberta’s, but it would take a lot to match the province’s commitment to developing its own strengths. The oil industry is the main source of this advantage, because there is little financial pressure on agriculture to be our main export. Reinvestment in the farming world exists as subsidization, research and education, so Alberta also enjoys the benefits of being a leader in technological innovation in this discipline.

FEED & FINISH

So now that we understand how Alberta came to be a powerhouse in cattle production, how does our product differ from other types of beef? Alberta’s beef products boast rich taste, even fat distribution and consistent quality– but it’s no secret: the answer lies in the diet of our cows. Major cattle producing areas (like Ontario or the US) often rely on corn for feed, but Alberta is too far north to grow enough to support our herds. Instead, ranches in our part of the world usually feed and “finish” cattle with resilient grains like barley and rye. Combined with Alberta’s other advantages, this unique diet is just the final touch our high quality product needs to help it stand out from the herd.

**NOTE: “Finishing” is the process of changing a cow’s feed as they transition to slaughtering age and size. Outside of Alberta, cattle is typically raised on corn and grass or grain is only introduced in the finishing stage.

D’Arcy’s Meat Market is proud to carry top grade, local beef because we understand that quality food starts with quality producers. From fresh ground chuck to a dry aged porterhouse; from sustainably grass-fed to traditionally grain-fed– D’Arcy’s has everything you need and can always provide custom orders with enough notice. Contact or visit us today!

BEEF BRISKET: A Cut Above

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WHAT IS BRISKET?

Between the rising popularity of BBQ restaurants, cooking shows on TV and gourmet food at home– beef brisket has become more commonplace these days. The term “brisket” can actually represent a few distinct food items, all of which are made out of beef cut from the cow’s chest. Tougher than most cuts, brisket is generally available in two different boneless cuts or brined in salt and sold as corned beef:

  • Flat half (aka thin cut, flat cut, first cut or centre cut): Leaner, more expensive cut of brisket.
  • Point half (aka front cut, point cut, thick cut or nose cut): Fattier, less expensive cut. Often the more flavourful of the two cuts.
  • Corned beef brisket: 
    Cured or injected with salt brine. Popular as deli or sandwich meat.

HOW DO I SERVE BEEF BRISKET?

Depending on how familiar you are with the cut, preparing a brisket can seem like an intimidating process. Luckily, there are two simple keywords that will always save the day: low and slow. Brisket is best when cooked over a low heat over a long period of time, most of which can be unattended. Try the following preparations next time you tackle a brisket:

  • Slow cooker or crockpot: The old stand-by… Slow cookers keep food at a very accurate, low heat and can be left alone for hours at a time. The combined effect produces an incredibly tender and flavourful result– even better: it’s almost impossible to overcook!
  • In the oven: Another simple option that can be customized to any taste. Combine your favourite chopped vegetables, two or three complimentary spices and enough liquid to cover the brisket in a deep pan. Roast for a few hours until tender and serve sliced to rave reviews.
  • Stovetop: Best done over an even heat in a deep, heavy pan (such as a Dutch oven). First, sear or brown the beef; then, add and caramelize vegetables; top with wine, broth, water– almost any liquid– and bring to a boil; finally: reduce heat, cover and simmer for a few hours. Serve as above and retain liquid to reduce into a sauce.
  • Smoked: For the truly ambitious! If you own a smoker, you may already know the process– but not all of us have a dedicated smoker. Alternatively, place a tray of wood chips over one element in your BBQ or oven. Dry rub your brisket with spices and place it off of the heat, allowing it to cook in the smoke and low heat for many hours. Do your research! There’s a reason BBQ pitmasters spend lifetimes perfecting the art of smoking a brisket.
  • Corned: Corned beef is widely available prepackaged or premade, but you can also brine your own brisket. A longer process that preserves the meat with salt, corning produces a flavourful and long-lasting brisket that is used in many traditional recipes.

Let your brisket stand after cooking to desired tenderness. Use your sharpest knife and slice against the grain, producing thin and even portions. Leftover brisket is perfect for sandwiches and keeps well in the freezer.

Ready to braise a brisket like a boss? Come on into D’Arcy’s where we provide only the highest quality and freshest beef, cut to your specifications. We can offer guidance, recipes— even our favorite BBQ sauce— to help you master the perfect beef brisket.

Ways To Cook Beef This Winter

man slicing beef

 

The snow is falling and you’re cozied up under a blanket inside… and then your stomach growls with hunger. If you’re bored of your same old beef recipes, read on for some cooking methods and recipes that will leave you with the hearty, full-flavored recipes that are perfect for these cold winter months.

 

Marinade It

Using a beef marinade is a great way to add flavor and increase tenderness. Marinades contain acids which break down the proteins in the outer layer of the meat, making the meat soft and flavorful.

A few marinading tips:

  • don’t overdo it! Smaller cuts of meat only need a few hours; larger cuts can be left overnight. Marinading for too long can ultimately make the meat spongy (ew).
  • marinade first in the fridge and then let the meat and marinade sit at room temperature about 30 minutes before you start cooking. This will ensure the marinade is properly absorbed without giving bacteria a chance to grow.

Looking for a new winter marinade? Try adding a dry red wine to your next marinade. You can even save some of the marinade and boil it down to a syrup for dipping!

Try A Dry Rub

If you have the courage to step outside to the BBQ this winter, grilling steaks with a dry rub on them will create a crisp crust that is full of flavor. Lightly scoring the beef will allow the rub a chance to penetrate the meat. How long you let the rub sit on the meat before cooking will depend on the thickness of the meat and the strength of the rub.

For a dry rub that will leave you feeling warm inside, try a mixture of thyme, basil, cumin and curry powder.

Braising

There’s nothing better than coming home at the end of the day to the smell of a beef pot roast that has been simmering in a slow cooker all day. Braising is a method cooking that involves searing the meat, and then cooking it in liquid low and slow. Tougher cuts of beef are best for braising, as the high collagen content will break down and tenderize the meat.

Looking for a switch to the traditional pot roast recipe? Try a combination of cocoa, cloves, cinnamon and stone fruits. Not only does it taste great – but your house will smell amazing!

Buy Local, Alberta Beef

Get the best beef available from the best local farmers at D’Arcy’s Meat Market. Give us a call or stop by our shop to pick up some beef for your next meal.