This is part of a series exploring the cultural, technological and social trends that are informing the way we dine and select what we eat. Read the rest in the series here.
Each primal cut of beef that chef Danny McCallum receives at Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse in Toronto is tagged with a unique number that gives him access to a whole host of information about the animal.
He plans to make this information available to customers with a new app he’s developing with VG Meats of Simcoe, Ont. It's all part of a growing trend to know more about the provenance of our food.
Scan your steak
Customers will scan a QR code on the menu with their phones and get all the information available on their steak, including a picture of the animal. This particular steer was calved on March 6 and was slaughtered nearly two years later on Feb. 20, making it 773 days old. The dressed weight (the final weight of the carcass after the head and internal organs are removed), about 60 per cent of the animal’s live weight, was 788 kilograms.
Parentage: The animal’s parents were a Simmental bull, a fast-growing Swiss breed, and an Angus cow, perhaps North America’s most renowned beef cattle.
The animal’s “phenotypic appearance” reveals that its hide was black and its “structure” was typically Angus in appearance. The animal was raised humanely, primarily on pasture (weather permitting) and was otherwise fed a diet of corn, soymeal, halage, corn silage and barley without the use of growth-promoting steroids.
Did you know?
A cow’s nose print is as distinctive as a human fingerprint and this stamp will be included in McCallum’s app. Wagyu producers in Japan have long used this method of certifying the authenticity of their product and those animals are sometimes traced back 10 generations. Such detail isn’t required in Canada yet, but McCallum hopes that his project might be the start of that.
Grade AAA beef
The grade of beef across North America is determined by cutting between the 12th and 13th ribs. In larger commercial operations a camera takes picture of that area and the grade is determined by that. In smaller operations, a “sensory description panel” of five to 10 people take the steak from that same area and taste it. In this case the animal is described as having a “strong beefy flavour and tenderness.” One final test, the “shear force procedure” determines how many kilograms of pressure are required to cut through the meat, our steak registered, 2.57 kg. , placing it squarely in the “tender” range.
It’s all in the details
Once the meat arrives at Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse, McCallum tags the meat again, labelling the cut with its the breed, its grade, where it was raised, as well as the date he received it and when it’s ready for serving.