No Beef with Spanish Beef in Spain & Portugal: Dining Posted November 14, 2011 big bump here as I realize this topic has been sleepy for a bit...I'm trying to find out a little more about old beefs...specifically, how common it is to see 5-15 year old + cows/oxen on menus. I'm seeing, from this thread and from what I've read, that it's not a too rare thing in Galicia and have seen (in my limited research) that Magnus Nilsson has served beef from a 7 yr old dairy cow but, based on my own experience, have not seen it anywhere else. I know this is a Spain board and this may be off-topic here, but there seem to be a few of you who know quite a bit. Plus, I can't find the damn Men's Vogue article anywhere online anymore. I figure it had/has a lot of good info.Anyway, I'm super curious about this both as a person who's had experience raising steers and who loves meat (I'm in the USA).Thanks all.Disclaimer: I was involved in the original Spanish beef odyssey with Jeffrey Steingarten and came to the same conclusion about the superior quality of the superaged beef from older cattle at El Capricho in my article for TIME. The beef quest continues, and my recent trip to Pastorale in Reet, Belgium to taste 2 steaks from a 5-year-old dairy cow (breed unknown but originating in Holland) confirms some of the things I learned on the Spanish trip. First, breed does not matter as much as the individual genetic characteristics for particular protein structures within the muscles and connective tissues. Until the animal is killed or its muscle tissue sampled in a lab, it is impossible to tell which of an identical herd from the same farm will produce that great steak. Secondly, older animals have superior complexities of flavor if they are properly tender to begin with thanks to genetic blessings and then properly aged. The Dutch slaughterhouse processes old dairy cows normally sent for dog food, etc. The supplier for Pastorale is a local butcher who has taken to examining the meat from the carcasses before processing and selects maybe 1% for potential aging for high-end restaurants, based on the individual genetic characteristics I mentioned. One steak was dry-aged 15 days, the other 50. The superiority of the 50-day steak was obvious unless you ate it with the overly strong sauce served by the restaurant. I think my favorite steaks have still originated from Galicia or Portugal, but this was very, very close.I understand that it would be possible to breed for the desirable characteristics of protein/acid structure, but it would take about 30 years to identify the correct genes and breed them into the herd. So far, the beef industry has bred for other characteristics besides tenderness, juiciness and flavor--which, incidentally, have little to do with marbling or other visible fat.As for the dairy cow/oxen debate, I think it is really about the individual animal and the preferences of the diner. Oxen, particularly the older ones, have a very distinctive flavor which can be spectacular or a bit of an acquired taste. The Marmite factor can come into play.