Mark Schatzker is on a mission to learn about the mysteries of beef.

The award-winning Canadian food and travel writer, radio columnist and journalist has written two New York Times best sellers, The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth about Food and Flavour and Steak: One Man's Search for the World's Tastiest Piece of Beef.

Schatzker is in New Zealand to attend the First Light AGM in Hawke's Bay. He spoke to The Country's Jamie Mackay about his quest.

"I travelled the world looking for the greatest steak and what I discovered is that there are many great steaks ... it happens very rarely but when it does happen it's life-changing."

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One of the main qualities missing from steak is flavour says Schatzker, which lead him to travel the world searching for "the missing flavour of beef."

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There is currently a "pervasive fear of red meat," says Schatzker which he believes is unfounded and supported by "observational research," which can be misleading.

"When you look at the science on red meat consumption and health outcomes it really isn't very convincing ... So what I always tell people is, 'don't be afraid of red meat.'"

Schatzker's steak odyssey lead him to look for flavour in other foods, which he found to be lacking. This resulted in his book The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth about Food and Flavour.

"So much of the food that we grow is getting blander ... we place a premium on producing a lot of food at a low price ... the problem is when we ... select crops to grow we select on productivity and we don't select on quality."

One example is tomatoes which Schatzker says taste like "cold Styrofoam," because "we have literally bred the flavour out of tomatoes," and chicken which has "more of an absence of flavour than an actual flavour."