This gives a whole new meaning to having red wine with your steak. In an effort to enhance the flavor of their beef, Western Canadian beef producers are feeding their Angus cattle in British Columbia’s Okanagan wine and cattle region red wine with their grain. Chefs in the region claim it makes for a unique beef taste, but Canadian food inspectors appear to have doubts. The idea came from Janice Ravndahl of Kelowna, British Columbia’s Sezmu Meats. Ravndahl said the beef produced has an enhanced flavor, the marbling is finer and the fat tastes like candy. But giving wine to cows apparently sent up a red flag with the Canadian government food inspectors. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency called Ravndahl and questioned her about sediment in the wine, but they didn’t order her to stop. Canadian Food Inspection Agency spokesman Tim O’Connor said they investigated the case and concluded there is no risk to human safety. He said concerns were about animals being fed winery waste byproducts, such as dead yeast or residual yeast as a feed supplement. Ravndahl got the idea for giving wine to cattle late last year while watching a TV food program that featured beer-drinking pigs. As the Okanagan is one of Canada’s premier wine regions, getting local beef on the bottle seemed like a good plan. Ravndahl said she started with one young cow who took to the bottle immediately, quickly earning the nickname Wino. “It definitely changes their personalities. They moo a lot more with each other. They get really chatty,” she said. Trying to find the optimal time to serve the cows their wine course was the key to getting the best beef. The final analysis: sixty days produces a great taste in the beef. Ninety days might be better but the wine bill adds up fast. The first bovine wine tasting was in April 2OO9 with the 21-day dry-aged beef first hitting the market in February of this year. The cattle get a liter-blend of red wines daily but their preference is for sweeter vintages, she said. Ravndahl said the wine appears to make the steers more docile, which enhances the texture of the meat. “Cattle that are relaxed taste better,” she said. “You don’t want tense beef.”
Cattle experts seem to be on board with the concept. John Church, a cattle researcher at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, said the wine does not appear to have any negative effects on the health of the cows. University of Missouri cattle nutrition professor Justin Sextena agreed. He said the long-standing use of brewing industry byproducts containing residual alcohol does not appear to have harmed cattle. Peter Van Soest, a Cornell University emeritus professor of animal science, said he thinks a little wine could be beneficial to the cattle. The alcohol is easily metabolized by cows’ livers, he said noting that while a liter of wine would make a man tipsy, it would have little effect for a 5OO-pound cow. The concept has received rave reviews from Canadian chefs. Chef Roger Sleiman of Quail’s Gate Winery in Kelowna, British Columbia, uses the beef in a tenderloin carpaccio served with a touch of truffle, arugula and Reggiano cheese. “We’ve had great reviews from our customers. At first I thought it was a gimmick,” he said. “It costs a bit more but we think it’s worth it.” And what does he recommend for a wine pairing? A nice Pinot Noir, of course!