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Beef: meat from the bull, bullock or cow.

There is much evidence to suggest that the Roman legions marched on beef. Traditional Roman cooking relied heavily on sauces, developed over time to disguise off-flavours caused by their South European climate. All would have been prepared on tripods, which supported pans over charcoal fires. Animals in those far-off days would have been much scrawnier than those of our times, and would have to double-up as working animals - pulling carts and ploughs.

Right up until the end of mediaeval times all animals were expected to forage for themselves under the guidance of a neatherd, shepherd, swineherd or goatherd. Keeping them through the winter was also an expensive business, during these bleak months, although horses might receive oats, cattle had to make do with hay or straw sometimes supplemented by pease. Fodder was costly, and out of the question for all but the wealthiest landowners.

Before 1900, cattle were generally matured for five or six years before being marketed, and still were rarely fed much besides grass. After 1900, land in the Western world became too expensive to keep steer even three or four years, much less five or six.

Today, only breeding stock live for more than two years.

An Australian company, Genetic Solutions, has isolated what it calls 'the tenderness gene', and it looks certain that in the near future animals containing this will be used for breeding. For more information contact See 'Meat; Hanging and Aging'

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