by Kate Springer for USA TODAY 10Best

Why Korean Hanwoo beef might be the best meat on earth

You’ve probably heard of wagyu, Kobe and Black Angus – all types of premium beef that demand big price tags for just a few bites. But when’s the last time you sat down in front of a slab of Hanwoo?

Raised free-range in the South Korean countryside, Hanwoo cattle are known for their high marbling, beefy flavor and slightly sweet taste – a result of an organic mixed grain and grass diet.

In South Korea, locally bred Hanwoo is the meat of choice – and it's priced accordingly. It’s more expensive than wagyu of comparable quality, but not as expensive as Kobe, and it’s double the price of a comparable cut of US or Australian beef.

Sporting a golden brown coat, Hanwoo is among the oldest indigenous cattle breeds in the world. These cows have roamed South Korea for more than two millennia and were used for rice farming until the 1960s, when South Koreans began to consume more red meat.

On looks alone, it’s very hard to distinguish a premium wagyu from Hanwoo because they’re both highly marbled meats. But by taste? It comes down to its fat-to-protein ratio, which affects the flavor and tenderness of the steak.

Hanwoo has all the beefy flavor of a USDA Prime without being overpowered by the oily marbling associated with Kobe and wagyu. The secret to its perfect balance lies in how the animals are raised and fed.

Similar to highly pampered wagyu and Kobe cattle, some Hanwoo herds are known to guzzle beer, enjoy massages, roam freely and listen to classical music. The Hanwoo diet tends toward corn, while wagyu usually relies on oats.

Hanwoo might be popular on its home turf, but it doesn’t have international name recognition because, beginning in 2000, a series of cases of foot and mouth disease (FMD) were reported in South Korea, barring it from exportation to other countries.

Even after the ban was lifted in 2014, exports didn’t pick up much. Depleted herds, combined with high demand from South Koreans, caused a shortage of Hanwoo beef at home. Only a few countries, including Hong Kong and China, have imported Hanwoo beef so far.

So, the best place to try it would be in South Korea. Whether you’re dining in a local barbecue joint or in a five-star hotel, chef Sandy Keung offers some simple life advice: "If you see a premium Hanwoo on a menu, order it."

Read more at USA TODAY 10Best

Read the article
Read the article