Spanish Cuts of Beef | Gastronomiaycia
It has been ages since I did a post for my grocery shopping series. But don't worry, I am still taking photos and risking have another run-in with security. In organizing my pictures, I came across this old one that I snapped because I found the wording and information interesting.
In the United States, I don't believe I have ever seen such an informative food label on a piece of meat. First, the piece of meat is labeled as "Roti de Ternera, Calidad y Origen." I believe a "roti" is somewhat like a roast. (I hope someone will correct me on this if I am wrong.) What I first noticed though was the listing "edad de sacrificio de 8 a 12 meses" (slaughtered age between 8 and 12 months). I really appreciate that the Spanish word for "slaughter" when related to meat is "sacrificio." I believe there is a stronger connection here between the fact that an animal has been sacrificed to provide a human with food. I doubt there are children here that think meat is made at the grocery store! The label also tells us that the animal was born in Spain ("nacido en Espana"). We also know the animal was raised in Spain ("engordado en Espana"), slaughtered and butchered in Spain ("sacrificado" y "depiece en Espana").
In Spain, buying beef can be a little tricky. Much of the beef you see in the supermarket, butcher or restaurants is labeled as "ternera." A quick look in your tourist dictionary may lead you to believe that"ternera" is veal. And out the window flies your idea of ordering albondigas or bistec at the charming tapas restaurant. Chat among Spain expat bloggers, language and recipe forums about "ternera" can also lead to confusion, with many insisting that "ternera" is veal.
Now, I am not a beef expert (although, being married to a man from Argentina has got to give me some points!). And I am sure that beef terms and labels are a bit different in my part of Catalunya than other parts of Spain. Definitely different than other Spanish-speaking countries. When we first moved here, my carnivore Argentine husband translated "ternera" as veal. Based on the amount of "ternera" labels I saw while grocery shopping, I was shocked by how much veal Catalans ate. And then I had my doubts. Could they really be eating this much veal - a meat that conventional wisdom says is expensive and controversial?
My desire to prove my husband wrong led me to conduct some informal research at local butchers and supermarkets. "Ternera" is not veal as we know it in the USA. In the United States, a calf slaughted between 16 and 18 weeks is considered veal (about 4 to 4.5 months old). The meat in my picture, labelled "ternera," was much older - 8 to 12 months (32 to 48 weeks old). According to the butchers I spoke with, "ternera," refers to young beef, but not totally veal. For what we, in the USA, consider veal, the beef would be labeled as "ternera lechal" (milk beef) or perhaps "ternera blanca."
The beef from the above photo is labeled as "ternera blanca," and was slaughtered before it was 8 months old. Possibly veal in USA terms, but also possibly a wee bit older than the USA requirement for veal. I haven't quite figured out the USA equivalent to "babilla." And this young calf got around in his short life. He was born in Germany, raised and slaughtered in The Netherlands, back to Germany for butchering and now being sold in plastic wrap in Spain.
You many also see some beef in Spain labeled as "añojo," which refers to beef that is between 18 and 24 months old. This beef was born, raised in Germany and traveled to The Netherlands for butchering before being sold in Spain.
Isn't it interesting that there are so many terms to classify beef in Spain? And wouldn't you like to know where you beef has been before it is on your plate?
I tend to buy my beef at a local butcher where they know me and love to answer all my beefy questions. Often times, when in doubt, I bring in a picture of the meat cut I want so they can show me the equivalent. I promise to take some pictures at the butcher. I absolutely love going to the butcher. I swear, I am tempted to ask them if they will hire me for a week, so that I can learn the proper way to cut meat. Maybe one of these days I will gather the courage to ask.