There’s been something of a revolution in the food world lately, and it’s been a very good thing for people who demand quality and freshness. We’re talking about the desire to know where the food came from – to know, in other words, the “source” of the food. If we rewind the clock twenty or thirty years, very few cafés and restaurants were focused on offering ‘local’ food. Today, the concept is everywhere. When food is ‘locally sourced,’ it supports communities and offers a higher degree of freshness and quality – at least that’s the way it’s supposed to work. This is a good thing because it puts more focus on the way food is grown, and the standards of quality that go into it.

Knowing the source is especially important when you’re talking about steak. Depending on the animals and the various practices used in raising and processing them, the quality of the steak itself will vary tremendously. There are sources of steak out there that are highly reputable, and known for the superior grade of beef they produce. Other sources are owned by large corporations, or smaller unscrupulous companies who do not necessarily use the best practices for quality.

When you taste that first succulent bite of steak at a high-level steakhouse, you’re tasting the standards of quality used not only in preparing the steak, but in raising the animal. Local conditions also play a big role in how a specific cut of beef turns out on the plate. Just as with wine, seasonal vegetables and other goods, beef is a product of its environment. A nice piece of Kobe beef imported from Japan, for example, will have a different flavor and texture profile than a USDA Prime cut of beef raised on a cattle ranch in Montana. Knowing where the beef comes from actually enhances the steakhouse experience, and makes it more interactive.

There are a lot of people who prefer to simply take the chef’s word for it, and that’s fine too. When you know a great steakhouse and you trust the people in the kitchen, you can ask if there’s anything really good and fresh. The waiter should have no problem recommending specific steaks to you, and discussing the source and other details. This is a great way to get acquainted with cuts of beef from various sources that you might know have previously known about, and it gives you an opportunity to compare and contrast your steakhouse experiences with more information about the steak itself.

Where’s the beef?

When you want a seriously high quality cut of beef, straight from a highly reputable source, you could head for the butcher. This is a great way to learn more about steaks and where they come from. You might also learn about specific local suppliers, their practices, and the quality of their product. But if you just want an excellent steak served hot with your favorite sides, a celebrated local steakhouse is your best bet. If the source of the various steaks doesn’t appear on the menu, be sure to ask. You might be surprised by what you hear, and how your steakhouse experience is enhanced.