Korean Cuisine

Korean food – How much Can a cow be worth?

• Korean cuisine – Korean Beef •

When it comes to Korean food, what comes to mind immediately must be barbecue, right? In Korea, roast pork belly is the most common dish, but the Korean preference is actually roast beef, especially roast Korean beef. Korean beef plays an important role in Korean food culture. Korean beef is not only a top ingredient in holiday dishes, but also a premium gift for relatives and friends.

“What is a Korean ox?”

Korean cattle is a hybrid of European cattle and Korean cattle. Its maternal line is European cattle. The beef is most popular in South Korea, where people prefer it to cheaper American beef, despite its very high price. Because the former is of better quality, it is more suitable for Korean barbecue. The issue has also caused tension between the United States and South Korea on several occasions. Korean beef plays an important role in Korean food culture and is usually eaten during festivals. Korean beef is also a gift given to relatives and friends during holidays in South Korea. Hoengseong County, Gangwon Province, is the largest producer of Korean cattle.

‘Prices that are so high they are suffocating’

Korean people often say that eating beef is not necessarily expensive, but eating Korean beef is really expensive. An online search for Korean beef shows that a 750g gift box of first-class Korean beef costs 800 yuan (about $1.95) with 43 percent OFF, and a half jin of ordinary packaged Korean beef costs at least 140 yuan (about $1.95).

Many South Koreans chose not to go home during the Spring Festival this year amid the global coronavirus pandemic. In the Year of the Ox and to make up for feelings of guilt towards their loved ones back home, they send high-end gifts, with Korean cattle being the most popular among Korean consumers. Most of these gifts are sold in the form of exquisite gift boxes. One kilogram of fine Korean cattle is equivalent to more than one thousand yuan.

So why is the price of Korean cattle so high?

An article on the Korean website NAVER summarizes the reasons for the high price of Korean cattle.

First, more and more consumers prefer to buy first-class Korean cattle. Korean beef is divided into five grades according to the intramuscular fat content (pattern) of the tenderloin: 1++ grade, 1+ grade, 1 grade, 2 grade and 3 grade. The closer you get to the 1++ rating, the higher the fat content, the better the taste, the softer the texture, but the more expensive it is. On the other hand, the closer to grade 3, the lower the fat content. Due to the development of Korean barbecue culture, more and more people are more inclined to choose grade 1 or above grade 1 Korean cattle, which makes the average price of Korean cattle in the market continue to rise.

Second, people’s preference for Korean beef parts has led to an imbalance between demand and supply. In a typical Korean cow, the amount of meat available for eating, excluding bones and entrails, only accounts for about 40 percent of the total body weight of the cow. Tenderloin – part of about 40kg, special part of beef upper waist -) -10kg, beef hind waist, thick diaphragm – only 1~5kg. In addition, there are about 100 kilograms of beef rump, beef rain, etc. Korean favorites are tenderloin and sirloin, which can be used for direct grilling, and ribs, which take up only a small portion compared to what can be used for soups and other dishes, so the amount available is fixed. So demand often exceeds supply.

Third, the production cost of Korean cattle is high. It takes about two to two years and four months to raise a Korean cow. For such a long time, farmers need to take good care of Korean cattle. It is becoming more and more difficult to operate a farm because of the rising price of feed. More and more farms are struggling to make ends meet, and many large farms are closing. It is difficult to maintain a low price because the cost of raising Korean cattle includes more than two years of feed and labor costs.

“Cattle in Korean Culture”

In fact, not only the Korean cow, but also the cow has a high status in Korean culture. Cows have long been regarded as family members by Koreans because of their diligence in helping them do farm work. In Korean folklore, the first “ugly day” of the first lunar month is called “cow Day”. On this day, people do not let cows work, but also add beans and other “ingredients” that are not normally available to improve the food. Cattle are not only precious livestock, but also important wealth. South Koreans used to call universities “towers of cow bones” because so many parents sold cows to pay for their children’s education. There is also a popular saying in Korea that cows are sold to raise their children, which shows the value of cows and can be used to raise large amounts of money at critical times. In addition, the cow symbolizes abundance and harvest. Around the start of spring, cow-like dolls made of clay or wood are placed in front of the village to pray for a good harvest. There are still many people who like to hang a “bull nose ring” on the door of a new store when it opens or when they move to a new home, hoping that their wealth will be “locked”, symbolizing prosperity.

In tribute to the cow’s dedication, the word “cow” can be found in many Korean place names. According to the latest statistics from the National Geographic Information Service, there are 731 names related to cattle across Korea. Legend has it that a brave cow in Uhye Village, Gyeongnam Province, saved a child by fighting with a wild animal. Guchou Village in Naju, South Jeolla Province, gets its name from a local legend that nine cows helped the village grow. In Ulsan, there is a village called Niu Jia Village. Legend has it that a cow fell ill when a family visited the village and lived there. People who believe in feng shui believe that a cow lying down symbolizes ease and comfort, so they look for land shaped like a “lying cow” or “cow belly”.

To South Koreans, 2021 is the Year of the White Ox. “Xin” corresponds to white, and “ugly” corresponds to cow. In South Korea, the Year of the White Ox is filled with hope and auspice, a sign of good things to come. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, the whole world has been suffering from the epidemic. I hope that in the Year of the White Ox full of peace, we can usher in a healthy and peaceful life. With the mentality of “the ox walks a thousand miles”, everyone will come true in the Year of the Ox.

 

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