The Seesaw of Fat
So… First, the government was pro-fat (to protect consumers against the scourge of lean beef) and then it was anti-fat (to protect consumers against capitalists responding to the earlier regulations) and now the pendulum is swinging to the fat end again (to protect the consumers against last decade's government)…
The decline started back in 1926 when the U.S. Department of Agriculture began grading beef. Like the rest of the country, steak had undergone a big change in the preceding decades. It was being churned out of factories like the famous Chicago and Kansas City stockyards and being distributed throughout the country. Hotels, restaurants and butcher shops were buying beef sight unseen. Some was good, and some wasn't. So the government stepped in to make things right. It introduced its famous quality grades: Prime, Choice and Good.
How did the USDA separate the good beef from the bad? There was one thing everyone from ranchers and cowboys to butchers and USDA graders could agree on: fatter cattle tasted better than lean ones, so long as they weren't too old. So that's what they looked for: plump, well-fed cattle. They looked for fat on the ribs called feathering, and fat on the flank called frosting. If there was a great deal of that fat, the beef achieved the highest grade, Prime.
By the way, is it my imagination or does each regulation match what richer people are doing? At one time only the rich could afford high-fat (especially high-saturated-fat) foods. The regulations reflected that. Then when McDonald's made saturated fat affordable and Haagen-Dasz made desert look like a luxury item, carbohydrates turned good. Now that the expensive desert craze seems to have run its course, we see an anti-carbohydrate movement.