Beef Spices Up Classroom Curriculum

CTE Teachers Beef Presentation
teachers mix unique spice blend for beef

After learning about beef’s role in taste and flavor, attendees put their knowledge into action by creating their own Berbere spice blend to take home.

As families sit around the dinner table, children, and parents alike, often don’t know how their food gets to their plates. In an age when there is a disconnect between consumers and farmers and ranchers, it is vitally important to educate today’s youth about beef’s nutrition and sustainability. One way the Arizona Beef Council is engaging with students is by educating teachers first.

In July, the Arizona Beef Council (ABC) hosted a session during the Arizona Career and Technical Education Summer Conference in Tucson to teach the teachers about beef. The session entitled “Unique Spice Blends & Beef” helped educators explore exotic flavors by mixing their own spice blends and learning how herbs and spices enhance beef’s great flavor.   

“We have participated in this conference for nearly a decade, and teachers look forward to signing up for our interactive session year after year,” said Tiffany Selchow, director of social marketing and consumer outreach with the Arizona Beef Council. “Returning attendees often recommend our session to their friends because it is so engaging.”    

Steve Wald, executive director of culinary innovation and partnerships at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, joined the session virtually to provide an overview of current flavor trends as well as information about beef that teachers can use in the classroom.   

During the session, Wald explained the difference between taste and flavor. While receptors on different parts of the tongue allow people to taste sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami, flavor combines taste plus aroma, texture, mouthfeel and color. Umami is described as meaty and savory, and beef contains all three of the naturally occurring compounds which make up the umami taste. Attendees were also especially intrigued with Wald’s explanation of how beef’s rich flavor moves from front to back with cuts from the Chuck and Rib having the deepest flavor and those from the Round having a milder flavor.   

After learning about beef’s role in taste and flavor, attendees put their knowledge into action by creating their own Berbere spice blend to take home. Berbere is a traditional blend of spices that is the backbone of Ethiopian cuisine, and while its ten ingredients are sourced from the around the world, they are readily available at local grocery stores. Simple recipes using common ingredients make it easy for teachers to incorporate what they learned into classroom lessons.   

In addition to the educational session and hands-on activity, ABC provided teachers with a complete lesson plan and resource guide that they could immediately implement in the classroom. The more than 30 teachers who attended the session can reach nearly 5,000 students each year.   

With the aroma of spices lingering in the air, participants departed with resources to promote beef to the next generation of consumers, and the memorable session left educators excited to share what they learned with their students.   

“I love the support of the Arizona Beef Council, and the information on beef cuts was valuable,” said Patti Pastor, career exploration coordinator and instructor with the Flagstaff Unified School District. “The spice session was awesome and gave me ideas on how to incorporate information within my lesson, which I hope helps transport students to other countries from their own classroom.”