Archive for August 5th, 2011

August 5, 2011

Handicap Principle


The handicap principle is a hypothesis originally proposed in 1975 by biologist Amotz Zahavi to explain how evolution may lead to ‘honest’ or reliable signaling between animals who have an obvious motivation to bluff or deceive each other. The handicap principle suggests that reliable signals must be costly to the signaler, costing the signaler something that could not be afforded by an individual with less of a particular trait.

For example, in the case of sexual selection, the theory suggests that animals of greater biological fitness signal this status through handicapping behavior or morphology that effectively lowers this quality. The central idea is that sexually selected traits function like conspicuous consumption, signalling the ability to afford to squander a resource simply by squandering it. Receivers know that the signal indicates quality because inferior quality signalers cannot afford to produce such wastefully extravagant signals.

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August 5, 2011

Beef Aging

peter luger

Beef aging is the process of preparing beef for consumption, mainly by breaking down the connective tissue. Dry-aged beef has been hung to dry for several weeks. After the animal is slaughtered and cleaned, either an entire half will be hung, or prime cuts will be placed in a cooler, also known as a ‘hot box.’ This process involves considerable expense, as the beef must be stored near freezing temperatures. Also, only the higher grades of meat can be dry aged, as the process requires evenly distributed fat. For these reasons one seldom sees dry-aged beef outside of steak restaurants and upscale butcher shops. The process changes beef by two means. First, moisture is evaporated from the muscle, concentrating flavor. Second, the beef’s natural enzymes break down the connective tissue in the muscle, which leads to more tender beef.

Dry-aging can promote the growth of certain mold species on the external surface of the meat. This doesn’t cause spoilage, but actually forms an external ‘crust,’ which is trimmed off when the meat is prepared for cooking. These fungal species complement the natural enzymes in the beef by helping to tenderize and increase the flavor of the meat. The genus Thamnidia, in particular, is known to produce collagenolytic enzymes which greatly contribute to the tenderness and flavor of dry-aged meat. Wet-aged beef is beef that has typically been aged in a vacuum-sealed bag to retain its moisture. This is the dominant mode of aging beef in the United States today. Wet-aging is popular because it takes less time (typically only a few days) and none of the weight is lost in the process. In contrast, dry-aging can take 15–28 days, and will see up to a third or more of the weight lost as moisture.