Oxtails once came from oxen, but today, the term refers to the tail cut of beef or veal of either sex. The tail is skinned and cut into cross-sections that come out as rounds of meat with a section of bone at the center.
Back in the day, nose-to-tail eating was a given, and people discovered that oxen were milder in temperament and tastier than bulls. They developed recipes to utilize oxtail, generally in long-cooked dishes that broke down the tail's connective tissue to produce a rich broth.
Oxtail has an intensely meaty flavor and can be compared to short rib, but more tender. Because the bone is cut crosswise, each section contains a hearty knob of fat-rich marrow that melts when cooked, bathing each piece of meat and lending its buttery, nutty taste to the dish as a whole.
Jamaican oxtail stew is a popular oxtail dish enjoyed all over the Caribbean and often features soft butter beans and spicy Scotch bonnet peppers. Romans like to make coda alla vaccinara — a braised oxtail dish with tomatoes, celery, and warming spices — while Eastern Europeans enjoy oxtail in barley soup with rye bread.
Oxtail is also a good protein source, is rich in collagen, and contains about 14 grams of fat and 260 calories per 100-gram serving. More than a third of oxtail's fat is saturated, and recent research suggests that saturated fat can support liver health and balance hormones.