Meat Master Can Tell Cow's Age, Gender, and Breed After One Bite


[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Lauren Vernet of the University of Bristol is known for having a "perfect palate for tasting meat." In this feature at The Independent, Kate Hilpern does a steak tasting with Vernet to learn about their different flavors (mushroom, malt, sour milk, and more) while getting Vernet's insight on how maturation period, breed, sex, and feed affect the flavor of beef.


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What's the best kind of beef? Vernet says it's based on individual preference: "Provided it's good-quality well-reared beef, you can't (as some butchers and chefs do) say one type is categorically better than another." He does say that a good steak should give three to four chews per mouthful: "You chew beef at the back of your mouth and if it's too tough, you get beyond about four chews and automatically bring it forward. That's when you know you have a problem."