Beef is the culinary name for meat from bovines, especially domestic cattle. Beef can be harvested from cows, bulls, heifers or steers. It is one of the principal meats used in the cuisine of the Middle East (including Pakistan and Afghanistan), Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Europe and the United States, and is also important in Africa, parts of East Asia, and Southeast Asia. Beef is considered a taboo food in some cultures, especially in Indian culture, and thence is eschewed by Hindus and Jains; it is also discouraged among some Buddhists.
Beef muscle meat can be cut into steak, roasts or short ribs. Some cuts are processed (corned beef or beef jerky), and trimmings, usually mixed with meat from older, leaner cattle, are ground, minced or used in sausages. The blood is used in some varieties of blood sausage. Other parts that are eaten include the oxtail, tongue, tripe from the reticulum or rumen, glands (particularly the pancreas and thymus, referred to as sweetbread), the heart, the brain (although forbidden where there is a danger of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE), the liver, the kidneys, and the tender testicles of the bull (known in the US as calf fries, prairie oysters, or Rocky Mountain oysters). Some intestines are cooked and eaten as-is, but are more often cleaned and used as natural sausage casings. The lungs and the udder are considered unfit for human consumption in the US. The bones are used for making beef stock.
Beef from steers and heifers is equivalent, except for steers having slightly less fat and more muscle, all treatments being equal. Depending on economics, the number of heifers kept for breeding varies. Older animals are used for beef when they are past their reproductive prime. The meat from older cows and bulls is usually tougher, so it is frequently used for mince (UK)/ground beef (US). Cattle raised for beef may be allowed to roam free on grasslands, or may be confined at some stage in pens as part of a large feeding operation called a feedlot (or concentrated animal feeding operation), where they are usually fed a ration of grain, protein, roughage and a vitamin/mineral preblend.
Beef is the third most widely consumed meat in the world, accounting for about 25% of meat production worldwide, after pork and poultry at 38% and 30% respectively. In absolute numbers, the United States, Brazil, and the People's Republic of China are the world's three largest consumers of beef. On a per capita basis in 2009, Argentines ate the most beef at 64.6 kg per person; people in the US ate 40.2 kg, while those in the EU ate 16.9 kg.
The world's largest exporters of beef are Brazil, Australia, and the United States. Beef production is also important to the economies of Argentina, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Russia, and Uruguay.