It has been said that seven days without beef makes one weak. Well, I spent nearly two weeks in Europe and didn’t get an ounce of USDA graded beef, but thankfully I survived to tell the tale.
I traveled to Europe for a tour of dairies in eastern Germany and a bit of vacation. During my travels I experienced the culture, history and sights of five major cities in five countries. With each destination there was also time to taste the beef on a continent where no U.S. beef has been served since 1989. The ban has primarily stemmed from hormone implant use that European Union countries do not approve.
My first stop was in London. While in the United Kingdom I dined on a burger at a pub just below the hostel I was staying at. The meat was fine and probably on par with many burgers I’ve had in bars across the U.S.
That same day I met a Beefeater – the ceremonial guards for the Tower of London – who are said to be able to eat as much beef as they please from the King’s table. Sounds like my kind of job!
Managed to get a picture with a Beefeater. Forgot to tell him I'm a big fan of beef, too.
Later I ventured to a grocery store on the south side of London where I took some photos to note price differences. Observing my super market paparazzi skills was a security guard who questioned why I was taking the pictures. I explained to him that I was an agricultural journalist from America who was interested in price differences and fortunately he let me continue snapping JPEGs.
The next beef adventure took me to Paris. Along the way I saw a number of beef cattle herds in the French countryside. Many of the cattle looked to have Charolais genetics which made sense because that is where they trace their heritage.
In Paris, I walked into a McDonald’s to take a look at the menu and see if a "Royale with Cheese" really existed. In the fast-food restaurant I was rudely asked to leave and delete the one smartphone photo that I had taken. A McDonald’s employee told me I could not take any photos in the restaurant and it should be no different in the U.S. I’ve never had a bit of trouble taking photos in a restaurant stateside, especially McDonald’s and I’ve even snapped quite a few in Australia when I was on a study abroad tour.
At another restaurant specializing in kebab I asked for beef kebab instead of chicken, but my request was turned down so I was stuck eating filler meat.
Moving on I went to the Netherlands. Just outside Amsterdam I saw various cattle grazing around the many channels surround the area.
I've seen plenty of cattle with windmills, but not these kind of windmills.
In Amsterdam, steak tartare could be found at several dining establishments. I didn’t want to take a chance of getting food poisoning from the raw beef concoction so I stuck to cooked meats. While leaving the train station I had a fast-food burger that was probably one of the lower quality beef patties I’ve ever had.
Heading back south I went to Brussels. In the beef industry Belgium is known for their heavily muscled Belgian Blue cattle, but there were none to be seen on my train ride. However, I did I have a unique experience speaking with one of my hostel roommates who hailed from Pamplona, Spain – a city famous for the Running of the Bulls.
Speaking with the Spaniard I found out she preferred eating horse over beef. I deciphered from the conversation beef in Spain was not as flavorful compared to horse meat. She said much like there are different breeds of beef and dairy cattle there are also different types of horses bred specifically for horse meat. Nevertheless, it had me wondering if a juicy corn fed ribeye steak would change her opinion of beef compared to horse.
Finally, I made it to Germany for my tour of the dairy industry. On the first night I had an okay sirloin steak. The U.S. version of medium rare is more like medium well in Germany. At the same restaurant there was beef from Australia and Argentina on the menu.
The one steak I ate at a restaurant was not quite cooked to order and lacked the marbling we're accustomed to in the U.S.
I did have an excellent steak sandwich at lunch on the dairy farm tour made from the equivalent of a ribeye. They also served sausage ground with Charloais beef raised at the farm. While at the farm I spoke with the farm manager’s son who noted calf prices for week old Holstein bull calves ran from 30-40 Euros (approximately $45 on the top end).
When making it to Frankfurt to fly back to the U.S. I took a walking tour that led me through a fresh food market. On sale were plenty of cuts of beef by many different butchers who were also selling a variety of sausage. At one butcher I saw more offal cuts than I’ve seen at any supermarket in the U.S. There were tongues, kidneys, hearts, livers, tripe, oxtail, and even legs cut from the knee to the hoof.
Some of the beef you could find at the Frankfurt indoor market.
To end my tour through the market I ate an all-beef bratwurst, which might have been the best beef I had along with the steak sandwich.
Europe while a nice place to visit is someplace I don’t think I could call home, particularly because they’re lacking in the beef department.