What is Piedmontese beef? "The Italian Wagyu"

What is Piedmontese beef? "The Italian Wagyu"

You probably know a lot less about Piedmontese beef than the widely famous Wagyu. They have a lot more in common than many breeds and rearing style, but are very different too. Both have special genetic elements and diets that help make them what they are.

Looking for a lean and incredibly tender beef? Try Piedmontese

You may not have heard about the Piedmontese breed, but it's is well worth trying. It will surprise you at the first bite. Piedmontese beef is high in protein and has a very "beefy" flavor, making it a health-conscious approach to steak night.

Both Piedmontese and Wagyu come from breeds of cattle with unique genetics that affect their beef. Piedmontese benefits from a genetic composition that makes for beef that is incredibly lean while simultaneously tender and flavorful. Wagyu beef comes from Kuroge-washu cattle, with its own genetic make-up that results in more intramuscular fat and extremely marbled meat.

Piedmontese cattle originate from Northwestern Italy in the Piedmont region, but have been raised in North America since the 1970s. The inactive myostatin gene, a unique genetic strain in Piedmontese cattle, allows for the breed's renowned "double muscling." This feature increases tenderness without producing excess marbling, which results in a higher lean-to-fat ratio and lower cholesterol.

In blind taste tests, Piedmontese often beats 100% purebred and Japanese Wagyu steaks. While Piedmontese is completely different from Wagyu, it often comes out on top during taste tests and at dinner parties where beef tasting is on the agenda.

Is Piedmontese Cattle a breed?

The Piedmontese (Italian: Piemontese or razza bovina Piemontese) is a breed of domestic cattle that originated in the region of Piedmont, in north-west Italy.  

Piedmontese cattle carry a unique gene mutation identified as an inactive myostatin allele that causes hypertrophic muscle growth, or double muscling

This breed is nowhere seen in the commodity feedlot market because their myostatin gene makes them difficult to raise and unlikely to marble at the rates necessary for the USDA grading scheme

Translation: even though the beef is incredibly tender and flavorful, because of its lean red looks, the commodity grading system doesn't give it the credit it deserves. So the producers — very few as they may be — avoid the commodity system, and it remains a niche beef that is extremely hard to find.

How do you cook Piedmontese?

When cooking roasts it is best to sear the beef first. This can be done either on the stove top in a hot pan with a little oil (we like grape seed oil for it's high smoke point) until brown, then place in a preheated 225 degree oven until desired temperature is achieved. Don't overcook.

What about Piedmontese Ground Beef?

Not only does Piedmontese beef make the best tasting and juiciest burger you can eat, but it's also the healthiest! It is good to know that Piedmontese beef is the preferred beef of many health conscious people, especially as it's naturally lower in cholesterol, fat, and calories, and this holds true even when compared to skinless chicken.

Piedmontese vs Wagyu

Piedmontese beef is healthier than commercial alternatives. Piedmontese beef is higher in protein and Omega-3 fatty acids, while being consistently tender with fewer calories. The meat is lean without losing the rich, beefy flavor.

Is Piedmontese beef good?

Step into any Michael Mina restaurant and you will see Piedmontese beef prominently featured. The W Hotel in San Francisco serves up this beef variety to its customers. Wine Spectator gave its Award of Excellence the Lambs Club to executive chef, Galen Zamarra, who previously owned two restaurants in the city, the now-closed Mas (Farmhouse) and Mas (La Grillade), delighting patrons with his Piedmontese steak tartare. Chef Gaines Dobbins San Francisco Chenery Park and Eureka regularly uses Piedmontese.

Why is it called the "Next Wagyu"

Wagyu is famous as a breed and for the way the cows are raised; fed diets of beer, sung to by samurai warriors, and massaged day and night to make the beef extra fatty. This is a delicacy that makes the beef stand apart from traditional marbled steaks. Piedmontese are a breed with special genetic gifts too; they're fed special diets, and are equally tender, but not because they're full of fat. That makes these in many ways similar, but also the opposite to wagyu. Given how rare Piedmontese cattle are, they're something to be celebrated when available.

Does Italy have Wagyu?

Yes. Italy does have Wagyu. Ferdinand Borletti (1888-1977)  bought the estate Ca'Negra from a noble Venetian family - Baron Franchetti. His grandson, Stephen Borletti, brought Wagyu to this farm near Venice.  

In addition, Italians have a twist on kobe. They use piedmontese cows and feed them exclusively hazelnuts. These are called Vicciola. Compared to other animal meats, Vicciola meat boasts lower levels of cholesterol than wild sea bass (48 mg/100g) and cod fish (50mg/100g). The Vicciola, since the beginning of its fattening, grows about three to five hectograms per day while cattle traditionally fed grow from one kilo to one and a half kilo per day.

What are North American Piedmontese

Piedmontese cattle are distinguished by a unique, naturally occurring gene identified as the myostatin allele mutation, or inactive myostatin gene. Myostatin prohibits muscle growth whereas an inactive gene has the opposite effect. Purebred Piedmontese are homozygous, which means they have two identical alleles present for this unique gene.  

Like the original Italian Piedmontese, North American Piedmontese cattle are distinguished genetically by the presence of the myostatin allele mutation which causes the breed's hypertrophic muscle growth, or "double muscling". 

Research indicates that there is less connective tissue within the muscle of "double-muscled" cattle; this would imply less background toughness and therefore more tender meat.

There are 30 million head of cattle in USA; 70% of which are angus beef. There are less than 3,000 Piedmontese in USA.

What do Piedmontese cattle look like?

The color of fullblood Piedmontese males is gray-white with a considerable amount of black hairs on the head, most notable around the eyes, neck, shoulders, and on the distal regions of the legs. They occasionally have dark stains or spots on their hind legs or lateral faces of the trunk. The cows are primarily white with varying shades of gray or light red. Calves are born a pale fawn color which changes to gray-white as they mature. Fullbloods are naturally horned, and have black pigmentation on the muzzle, eyelids, ears, tongue, tassel of the tail, anal opening, and on the outer skin of the sexual organs

 

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