Beef is meat obtained from a bovine, usually a steer rather than a cow. Cattle raised for beef are often allowed to roam free on grasslands. Beef is one of the more common meats used in European and North American cuisine. Beef is an important part of Tex-Mex cuisine. Beef production is also important in Argentina. Beef can be made into steak and ground into hamburger.

Beef is taboo in a number of religions, most notably Hinduism. Also, consumption of beef while not strictly taboo is also frowned upon by many Buddhists in East Asia.

Roast Beef

In Europe, the English are particularly associated with beef-eating, which is why the French call them les rosbifs (roast beefs).

In fact, according to research carried out by the Museum of London amongst Roman rubbish dumps in London, it seems that the English acquired their first taste of roast beef from the Roman military as the city expanded under their occupation. Despite this, it seems not to have become popular amongst the population in general until the Middle Ages or later, and only became a 'national caricature' in the 18th century. (Observer Aug 6, 2000). Despite this image, England today has more vegetarians and semi-vegetarians, in percentage terms, than any other Western country.

There is also a (much parodied) song called The Roast Beef of Old England.

"Mad Cow Disease"

Embarrassingly, the over-intensive farming of beef resulted in the world's first recognised outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or, colloquially, "mad cow disease") in the United Kingdom in 1986. Eating beef from cattle with BSE is thought to have caused the new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD) in about 131 cases (2003 June data) in the United Kingdom and some few in France. The perception of beef as potentially lethal caused significant damage to the UK beef industry. The sometimes over-zealous attempts to wipe out BSE in the UK by a kill-and-burn campaign, although ultimately successful, did further damage from which the beef industry is only recently recovering.

Since then, a number of other countries have had outbreaks of BSE.

See also: