Improve Your Beef IQ

When it comes to beef, knowledge is delicious. So get ready for your masters in meat.

Beef IQEverything you need to know about beef to ensure every meal is awesome 

You may be the exception, but the truth is meat is a mystery to many people. They simply don’t know the different cuts, grades and aging processes. Which is unfortunate, because when it comes to beef, the more you know the better it tastes. In a survey we recently completed, over 70% of people want to know more about beef, so we are going to enlighten you

The key is choosing the right beef for the meal. Bar-b-que? Kofta? Asada? Bourguignon? Bulgogi? There is a perfect beef for every dish, and we have it. That means knowing the grades, the cuts and the various aging methods.

Step 1 - Only Alberta Beef

The world-renowned flavour of Alberta raised beef is the result of four things:

The Land – We have the good fortune to live in the midst of the finest beef lands on earth. Alberta’s cooler climate and rich grasslands are the ideal combination for raising beef cattle.

The Cattle – Since the first cattle arrive in Alberta in 1873, Alberta ranchers have carefully cultivated breeds ideal for beef, including Angus, Hereford, Simmental, Limousin and Charolais.

The Feed – Alberta’s abundance of grain means cattle enjoy a unique diet heavy in barley and wheat, ideal for the well-marbled, tender beef Alberta is world famous for.

The Ranchers – Alberta ranchers care for their cattle ethically and humanely following The Beef Code of Conduct.
The other reason sourcing all our beef from Alberta is important is our commitment to local. Alberta is our home and we believe in supporting our neighbours. Plus, sourcing locally means reduced environmental impact.

Co-op makes Alberta beef even better 

So now that you understand the unique differences that makes Alberta beef revered worldwide, you need to know how Co-op makes Alberta beef even better.

Step 2 - Boost your grades

Age 14 daysAll beef is evaluated by an expert for key factors that impact flavour, including maturity, colour, muscling, texture and marbling. The expert then grades the beef Canada A, Canada AA, Canada AAA or Canada Prime.

Prime – Exception marbling and even distribution of fat. Only 2% of beef achieves this grade.

Very high quality. Visible marbling provides juicy, tender beef that ideal for a variety of dishes.

Less marbling than AAA-graded beef, but still perfect for a wide variety of dishes.

The lowest quality grade. Co-op does not offer A grade meat.

All Co-op beef is selected from Canada AA and the top of Canada AAA.

Step 3 - Aging works magic

Aging improves two things we all love about beef – taste and tenderness. Aging allows enzymes present in the beef to naturally improve texture and flavour by breaking down the muscle tissue.

There are two kinds of natural aging we do at Co-op:

Wet aging – When the beef is vacuum packed in its own liquids, or “wet”. This is the most common method.

Dry aging – Beef is stored at precise temperature and humidity levels in a controlled environment. The combination of bacteria, enzyme breakdown and oxidation boosts flavour and tenderness.

The difference between the two is key. Wet aging makes beef tenderer, while dry aging improves both tenderness and taste.

While we use both wet and dry aging, there is one aging technique that we will never use at Co-op. It’s called needling. Needles are poked into the meat to break down the muscle tissue. The problem is you have to cook needled meat to a higher temperature in order to kill any e-coli bacteria that may have been pushed inside by the needles. Better to stick to natural wet or dry aging.

What is the ideal age for beef?
Beef is aged to improve taste and tenderness, so let’s look at how aging impacts them both.

Tenderness - Regardless of whether the beef is wet aged or dry aged, the sweet spot for tenderness occurs between 14 and 28 days.

Taste – Remember, only dry aging impacts taste so we’ll focus on that. The sweet spot for dry aging is between 21 and 40 days. Any longer and you are into some pretty intense flavours and the experience becomes very subjective. Kind of like how some people love really stinky cheese and other people don’t.

Can you tell the difference?
Absolutely. When you have the right top-grade, well-aged beef in a dish that is properly cooked, the experience is extraordinary. The taste, the texture and the tenderness make every bite a delight. Cooking a meal is a lot of work. Starting out with an excellent piece of beef is the surest way to make that meal a hit.

Step 4 – Just Go To Co-op

For many this is the only step required. At Co-op we have made our meat department a key pillar of how we serve members. With our focus on quality, expertise and local, we offer an unmatched experience for our members. Whatever you are cooking we have the right beef to make it perfect.