In the sphere of Italian agriculture, bovine meats have a role of primary importance.
It is a quality meat coming from five breeds of cattle, which are, more precisely: the Chianina, the Marchigiana, the Romagnola, the Maremmana and the Podolica.
The classification of the animals can be synthesised into five types.
Veal (white meat): male or female butchered at five-six months before having been weaned. This is white-pink meat which tends to be lean since the animals’ alimentation is based exclusively on milk or milk substitutes; the fat is white.
Young beef – bullock- (red meat): male (both castrated and not) butchered at sixteen-twenty months. This is rosy-red meat which is slightly more fatty (the fat is white and forms a veining effect) and is the most-eaten type on our tables. Its meat is succulent, strengthening and nutritious. The best pieces are bright red in colour with a firm and elastic, dense and compact flesh; small veins of fat (white or whitish) run through the parts of muscle and the outside layer of fat which is white or light yellow in colour and which covers the surface of the back and the loin. The quality of the young beef derives both from the breed of the animal butchered and from the alimentation the animal was given during the fattening period. The female (also known as ‘scottona’ in Italian), never having been mated, is preferred by many for its good muscle development and superior tenderness.
Beef (red meat): male or female (not having been mated, or within six months of being in calf), butchered between the twentieth month and up to four years of age. Up until a few decades ago, the males were castrated in order to increase their muscular growth but this also increased the presence of fat which modern dietetical cuisine tends to reject. It has firm, fragrant red meat with a, a rough consistency and fat which tends to be a yellowish colour.
Bull (red meat): fertile male, recognised as being suitable for breeding and, today, unlikely to be butchered. Its younger meat resembles that of the cow; the older meat, of a brownish colour, is of an inferior quality. The fat tends towards being yellow in colour.
Cow (red meat): female which has already given birth or is about to give birth for the first time (heifer). This meat is similar to that of the other adult cattle, with a finer consistency than that of the bullock and is less bright in colour. Destined above all for transformation into fresh products (minced meat) and cured products.
The Marchigiana breed originates in the Marches region, but is fruit of numerous cross-breeds between local Podolica cows and Chianina bulls. It soon spread to the centre and the south of Italy (Campania, Lucania, Puglia and Sicily). It is amongst the best breeds for yielding meat, with a low content of fats and cholesterol: the meat is of an excellent quality, with a rosy colouring and fine consistency. The calf gives meat of an excellent and flavoursome quality, similar to that of the Chianina breed.