Drunk cows, better beef?

Watch out Kobe beef. Canadian chefs are going wild for a new type of beef from cows that enjoy a liter of wine a day

Do cows fed wine make tastier beef?
(Image credit: Corbis)

Grass-fed. Dry-aged. "Kobe-style." One-hundred-percent Wagyu beef. Steakhouse menus are awash in fancy descriptions of their meat. The latest rage may soon be "wine-fed." Ranchers in British Columbia are raising a new kind of gourmet beef that comes from cows that spend their final days guzzling a liter of red wine daily. Does this really make for a better steak, or is it just a pretentious foodie gimmick?

How is the beef raised?

It comes from a family business called Sezmu Meats, run by ranchers and siblings Darrel Timm and Janice Ravndahl. Their Angus cows are free-range, hormone-free, and non-medicated. During their last three to four months, the cows drink a liter of homemade local wine each day.

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Can you really taste the difference?

Local chefs think so. Matthew Batey, the chef at Mission Hill Winery's restaurant, an acclaimed local eatery, says he notices a subtle difference. "It's beautiful beef to begin with. It's just adding one more dimension," he says. "It already comes pre-marinated." Michael Allemeier, who preceeded Batey at Mission Hill and now works as a culinary arts instructor in Calgary, is also impressed. "Red wine and beef are natural pairing partners to begin with," he says. "I found the meat to have a wonderful texture — one of the benefits of dry-aging — but the aroma and flavor are what truly impressed me."

Is it a lot more expensive than regular beef?

Ravndahl says the wine-fed beef costs about 15 percent more than non-boozy free-range, antibiotic- and hormone-free beef.

How did they get the idea?

Ravndahl saw celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay give beer to pigs on a TV cooking show, and thought, "Why not cows?" After talking with her brother, she feared beer's carbonation would bloat the animals, so they decided to try wine instead.

Don't Kobe beef cows drink beer?

Supposedly, says Mark Schatzker at Slate. "According to legend, they feed cows a secret ancient recipe that includes beer and keep their muscles tender by massaging them with sake."

Is anyone else working with wine-fed cattle?

Yes, researchers at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia are looking at other effects of wine on cows. In one study, they're examining whether a wine diet might lessen a cow's methane production. They're also studying possible health benefits — the resveratrol in red wine might help with heart health.

Where can I get this new beef?

It's currently only available in British Columbia, but Sezmu Meats say it will be expanding to other markets soon.

Best sources: Vancouver Sun, Slash Food, Slate, Sezmu Meats

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