Shirley Harring

ussinfay with shifafa on the side

Beef – What are you Buying?

August 21, 2014

I have a bit of a beef to share with you.

It’s good beef.

Good, Australian beef.

I know, because I researched it.

It’s a fact that we live in a society where, for the most part, people are content to swoop into the supermarket, pick up sanitary, plastic-wrapped slabs of meat and swoop back out again.  Many of the plastic wrapped slabs come marinated, dry rubbed, or minced and diced before being partnered with chopped vegetables, ready to be ‘stir fried for a healthy meal’.

In  swoop style shopping, there’s little thought from the consumer regarding to the breeding or background of the animal, the farm, or the conditions in which the animal lived before it became dinner fodder.  Personally, I don’t find this approach well… palatable. Whilst I do stop short of suggesting we ask for parentage and pedigree of every plate of protein, I do suggest we all should know from where, exactly, our food comes from before parting with hard earned dollars in exchange for nutrition and sustenance.

Today, I bought a cow. Well, half a cow.  Grass fed, and raised in Kyogle NSW and butchered to our specs. I’m grateful for the butchering, because although it’s a skill I’d LOVE to explore, I think starting with something somewhat smaller than a cow would be more suitable. 

My cow was a happy cow, raised on farmland, with room to roam. It was a relaxed cow, a grass munching, bird watching, free-wheeling bovine. As an omnivorous humanitarian, I respect the beast by choosing that my food has had a life consuming the nutrients that eventually, will feed me.

Happy cows make good eating

How much do you know about the meat you consume? Do you venture past the topside roast and fillet steaks in the swoop-ermarket? And if you were to consider buying a cow, do you know which cuts are what?


The quickie catalogue of cow cuts.


The prime cuts are the ones best used for roasting. These are the ones you usually find at eye level in the supermarkets. Rib eye, scotch filet, sirloin, rump. They are the most tender cuts because they are from the less used muscles along the back of the animal. The more active muscles, such as the shoulder, flank, and leg will produce beef that is a little less tender, but very flavourful because they have more marbling. Marbling means fat and fat means flavour and flavour means good.

Guide to beef cuts in AustraliaThe cuts from the front of the animal – chuck and round and shin – are from body parts that are heavily exercised and do more work. This means they are less tender, and wonderful for slow cooking. Good slow cooked beef gives that incredible mouth feel of soft, almost gelatinous moistness that comes down to one thing: sinew. Sinew breaks down and softens with slow cooking and as the proteins change the result is wonderfully soft meat that pulls apart with your fork.

Since the most tender cuts are the prime cuts and make up only a small proportion of a carcass, they are most commonly sought and usually command a higher price than other cuts. The price usually drops as you move down the animal, with chuck, short ribs, shin, oxtail, cheeks, neck at the bottom of the scale in their sinewy deliciousness.

So, tell me.

Would you be prepared to buy a cow – or consider bulk meat purchases?

Do you only buy prime cuts?

And if you were to buy in bulk, what would you do with all the scraggy bits?  Or would you prefer not to even think about it and stick to swooping plastic?


**If you live in Brisbane and would like to be part of the Kyogle cow culture, please contact me. I am happy to discuss how you, too, can access this wonderful product at a fraction of what you will pay in the swoop-ermarket. I encourage you to defy the odds,  venture out, purchase a chest freezer, and begin to look at ways of purchasing local, organic, or farmer raised meats. 


  1. I grew up on a cattle property, and therefore we would get the whole beast in the freezer come kill time. I still occasionally get an esky from my sister’s (thanks Bush Babe) and one time I got something labelled “Corned Beef” but upon thawing was discovered to be “Tongue”.

  2. I don’t mind the bits you have to slow cook like the tail and shins and cheeks but I’ll admit I have a really tough time eating the guts. Tripe? Can’t get it down without gagging. I know it’s emotional but throwing up trying to eat something makes no sense to me. I find the cheaper cuts to be full of flavour and if they’re carefully (and slowly) cooked, they are so much better than the fancy cuts.

    That said, I’m not averse to a slow roasted fillet of beef cooked to rare/medium rare.

    Congratulations on the new acquisition. Now, you still have part of a dairy cow and you have chickens?

  3. I barter with a hunter friend, in exchange for some of the meat, I will process his deer (he has to field dress it, as I do Not deal with guts or heads). The best cut for a roast is the tenderloin, the rest is chopped into carne picada or blended with beef fat and ground into hamburger. Anything but the tenderloin is too tough for a roast.

  4. I’ve started experimenting just recently with different cuts and last night made a curry in the pressure cooker using ‘gravy beef’. Just wondered if you know where on the animal this is from?

  5. Arhhhh…yes. It was terrific. Really happy with the flavour and oh so tender.

  6. We do 1/2 a beef and a deer or two. We don’t eat tongue. We eat the liver and the heart. Can’t the tripe be used to make cheeses?

  7. Hello Rhubarb! It’s been a while since I’ve ventured past your blog! Am so glad to read your posts about vintage cookbooks. I love cookbooks. My newest one (altho I haven’t ventured to cook from it yet) is “Jerusalem” at this link:

    We have purchased 1/2 a cow for years. We’ve never been asked whether we’d like the tongue or the heart & I tend to take the liver and give it away to others. More recently, we’ve been purchasing 1/2 a bison which, in my view, tastes very similar to beef but eats more natural foods, is less vaccinated, and the meat is significantly less fatty than beef. A 3 lb roast bison cooks in almost 1/2 the time of a roast beef.

    Hope all is well with you!

    • It’s so lovely to see you again! I’ve missed you. Can you please send me your email address, I would love to be in touch again, and lost my contacts list a few months back (which has caused no end of angst!)

  8. A cow? Surely it was a steer rather than a cow?

  9. Fabulous, informative post Shirley! I usually buy the cheaper cuts and slow cook them. I love the tastiness!

  10. Loved the post, Shirley! Swoop-ermarket cracked me up.

  11. I’m so glad you’ve found such a fantastic source for good meat. :-) Right now we raise our own ducks, geese, chickens, and goats for butchering, and hope to add pigs in the future. But I’d dearly love to find a good place for getting beef. Hopefully soon. :-)

  12. I have a freezer but I’ve never bought meat in bulk like this before. Perhaps I should consider it. I like knowing where my meat and veg come from.

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