A Cow by Any Other Name

Tired of pretending you know what to call your steak? Or what that name means? There are four main breeds of quality cattle in the United States: Angus, Hereford, Shorthorn and, most recently, Wagyu. Certified Angus is America’s best-known beef: hearty enough to withstand inclement weather but also high enough in fat to yield a flavorful steak. Hereford and Shorthorn both originated in England and produce notably tender beef though they’re lower in fat (a.k.a. flavor) than Angus. Wagyu is a Japanese breed that was originally raised in the Kobe tradition. Kobe is simply a region that became synonymous with the strict diet of grain and beer, massage and the limited exercise enlisted to produce a steak super high in fat. It is, however, also the moniker for an expensive, status-oriented trend that’s been gaining ground in America for several years. Call it the Prada of beef. These days, Wagyu are also bred in the U.S., though they’re often allowed more movement and a diet richer in corn than alcohol. (What steer wants to stand still for a year and a half anyway?) The meat is slightly less marbled than its Japanese counterpart, but maintains the breed’s exceptional tenderness.