Eating Beef and Umami

by Amy on September 21, 2009

I love talking about beef. I love getting people thinking about eating beef and informing others about beef and its counterparts. My favorite way to do this is by writing about it in a way that makes people salivate so badly that they’re hungry for a succulent sirloin, juicy mushroom-swiss or bacon cheeseburger, pronto.
Crafting ways to tell people about the beef industry (or ag in general) in a fun, readable way that’s informative at the same time is an enjoyable challenge for me. The story that comes out this week is called “oo-MOM-ee” and was formulated from a recent presentation I put on at my P.E.O. meeting about beef. Hold yer wagon now, I’ll get to explainin’ it in a sec.
I haven’t given a public presentation to adults in eons, but took advantage of an opportunity to promote an industry I believe in and support by volunteering to give a presentation. I educated scholars and colleagues on something they’d never heard of; umami, which has a lot to do with beef.
As ranchers, it’s important that WE tell our story or someone else will and many activist groups are already trying as I learned from a Women In Ag conference I attended a couple of years ago.
So, with my trusty cue cards in hand (I haven’t moved up with the times to do PowerPoint presentations yet), I spoke to a dozen-plus women of varied ages about umami, which is the 5th taste receptor in addition to the other four; sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Umami is now being recognized as a taste receptor in the U.S. It’s been overlooked in the past because of its subtle taste and the typical American diets (high in fats and extras) but eastern cultures have been aware of umami for generations. Umami has caught the attention of the beef industry because it’s essentially the taste of protein and the cause of cravings for comfort foods we love like savory, fork-tender pot roasts, juicy grilled steaks and protein-rich foods.
When I attended the Women In Ag conference last year, I was excited to learn first-hand what our Beef Checkoff dollars were doing for us. A lot of research has gone into understanding umami and using it in product development. A Beef Checkoff guest speaker talked about how understanding umami better can enhance one’s dining experience with beef. She shared the role that aroma has on umami, how to pair other umami-rich foods with beef to magnify its flavor, and the importance of using proper cooking techniques with different cuts of beef. The conference attendants also received an informative brochure called Creating Crave—The Beef Factor put out by the Cattleman’s Beef Board about umami findings from studies, the different beef cuts, other umami-rich foods to pair with beef and cooking methods.
As the “executive chef” in my house, the knowledge I gained was like a new kitchen tool to punch up my family meals and was information I could easily share with others. It also inspired me to enhance my cooking and wow supper guests with fabulous beef dishes that they’d go home and tell their friends about.
My umami story will be posted next week but until then, I dare ya to Google umami and to visit the www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com website. Check out the information in the Creating Crave brochure.
I enjoy talking about eating beef but get even greater satisfaction out of being the first person to introduce new knowledge to people that they didn’t know before. It makes me feel like a smarty pants that’s got something over on those who consider themselves “articulate.”

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