Can anyone out there tell me why beef comes in different colours?
To start with, anyone with any interest should check out Steingarten's wonderful piece on dry-aged beef in _It Must've Been Something I Ate,_ "High Steaks," if they haven't already.
Anyway, when the myoglobin in blood is exposed to oxygen, it turns bright red. In the absence of air, it is a dark, purple-ish colour. This is why the blood in your veins appears blue while that in your arteries red. You will likely never really see blue blood: as soon as you cut yourself and it is exposed it saturates with oxygen.
Some purveyors of meat (Safeway) will wrap their product in permeable film because consumers seem to acquaint bright-red meat with freshness. This is somewhat true: old blood/meat doesn't go red as readily. Thus, after some time exposed to air in this manner, beef (esp. ground beef) will turn greyish-brown. This is a bad thing, esp. if everything below the surface doesn't regain it's flush in the open air.
At the same time, a nice, aged piece of beef will also be somewhat brown, but a darked, mahogany colour, a burnished reddish-brown, more on the outside of a primal cut than in a single steak itself. So, just look out for the slimy, truly brown-grey ones. Those are probably rotten. : ) Also, if it smells bad, it is. You will know.
Buy your meat from a reputable source and you will not have to worry about all this. You are never going to know by looking at a wrapped up cut how long it's been aged, the method of aging, freshness, the quality of the source product, etc., and that's what's important!
Also, you could search on Google for "aged steak color" (sic.) which will deliver unto you a wide variety of pages saying somewhat what I said above.
For what it's worth, buy no meat whatsoever at Safeway (incl. poultry and esp. not seafood!). They are known to repackage it when it gets old, and I am convinced sometimes it is aged not at all it is so tough and tasteless. Plus I have never seen a nicely marbled cut.
If you're in Calgary, the best steak I've had in my life was from a place called Andy's in Avenida. I cooked it myself, and did a somewhat worse job than usual, and it was still better than any steak at any of the steak houses, which are usually absolutely wonderful at any rate. I have friends who like Co-Op as well, and their meat frequently has that appealing, kinda-dead-red look, instead of looking like it's been dyed, so that might be a good choice too (though, their customers also seem to like meat with no marbling!).
You will pay more for good beef, but IMO anything less isn't worth eating, and the price difference isn't that great. Otherwise, tofu is tastier, tenderer, healthier, cheaper, and doesn't rape the earth/starve the hungry. The rest of you Albertans can boo all you want, it's a dirty industry as far as I'm concerned.
As far as branding, I too have been disappointed in Angus and Sterling Silver. I've tried Galloway a few times, which is from Galloway cattle raised locally, and it's been usually flavourful but not so tender. Also pricey. You can purchase a number of organic/local options at Community Natural Foods I believe. Also Fleur de Sel on 4th Street offers a Galloway ribeye.
I think if you want the best beef you have to avoid the typical retail channels, as was mentioned, and try to get something from local ranchers, or a local butcher who has done that for you. Try farmers' markets, too. This will be organic, tastily-fed, long hung, dry-aged beef, although I don't think anyone goes over about 28 days, which is disappointing.
Edited by dillybravo, 05 March 2004 - 10:28 AM.