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South Korea's luxury cattle a source of national pride

By Paula Hancocks, CNN
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Is the beef better in Korea?
  • CNN reported on South Korea's high-end beef market
  • Called Hanwoo beef, the cattle are fed beer-enriched feed three times a day
  • Hanwoo beef costs three times as much as U.S. beef imports

(CNN) -- As a butcher's daughter, I grew up eating the best meat.

I guess you could say I have become a meat snob so I was excited to have the chance to taste the beef that South Koreans are so proud of... Hanwoo beef.

I have tasted Japan's Wagyu beef and I've seen how the cattle are treated like humans. At a small farm two hours from Seoul, there are no cows being massaged or classical music playing to relax the animals, but there is a definite whiff of beer in the air.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner these cows enjoy alcohol fermented feed and it seems to agree with them. They have shining coats and clean living quarters; it's not your typical farm and the aroma of beer masks anything less pleasant.

I have a wife and kids, but these cows are almost the same to me.
--Park Young Kil, farmer

"I have a wife and kids, but these cows are almost the same to me," says farmer Park Young Kil. "The alcohol brings out the high quality of the meat, which leads to financial profits."

The size of cattle market in South Korea is not large, so most of the produce doesn't leave its shores. Also the beef from Park's cattle is not cheap. In South Korea, local beef is around three times the price of U.S. beef imports. But many believe the taste is worth the expense.

Before he lets us leave, the farmer insists on an impromptu barbeque so we can taste the meat. It was cooked until it was golden brown -- not a moment longer - and served with some oil and salt on the side. I can confirm that the CNN crew all approved.

In a country that had huge public protests against the lifting of a ban on U.S. beef imports in 2008 it's clear that Hanwoo beef is more than just meat, it's a matter of national pride.