Beef is popular for its flexibility in cooking and flavor, as well as its food value.

Beef comes usually from 4-5 years old steers or un-calved heifers. Before modern storage methods, local beef would have been more plentiful in the autumn.

All beef should be hung - for the butcher or wholesaler - for a few days to tenderize, but this process is often cut short. That's why "aged" beef, which has been hung for the allotted time, is more tender and flavorful.

Beef - what to look for

Only fresh cut meat is a bright red color. Exposure to air turns it brown, but it doesn't diminish its eating quality at all if the meat is fresh. The color of fat will range from creamy white to pale yellow, depending on the food the animal ate.

Lean meat is muscle. Texture varies with the age of the animal and the cut. Muscles used more often - neck, legs - are more coarsely grained and show more connective tissue. This meat will need slow, long cooking to make it tender. Cuts with little connective tissue - like fillet - are fine grained; they are used for grilling and roasting. Marbling refers to little fatty specks seen between the muscle fibers; well marbled beef is more flavorful.

Cheap cuts of beef are often made into ground meat. Ground meat spoils fast either use it quickly or buy the meat in a piece and chop it at home.