Catering Scotland

Red Meat: Request the Best

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Red Meat: Request the Best

October 21
20:07 2013
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 Compared to most other livestock-producing countries, the Scottish red meat industry is relatively small, with a total annual production of around 250,000 tonnes. Against the USA’s 11m tonnes, Brazil’s 7m tonnes and Argentina and Australia’s 2m tonnes apiece, it’s evident that we should concentrate more on producing quality beef, lamb and pork. However, the very nature of our production system, particularly as far as beef is concerned, means that there are many potential factors that can influence the way it tastes. Initial breed selection and feeding can have a positive impact on the meat we eat but considerate chilling, aitch bone-hanging and minimising pre-slaughter stress have also been proven to improve the eating quality of beef.

Using the skills of The Balmoral’s chef, Scott McRae, QMS is currently establishing a programme of quarterly consumer testing panels to provide feedback on actual eating quality of Scotch beef. The objective of the first phase is to compare the overall acceptability of, and preference between, selected steak products from a variety of outlets including farm shops and multiple retailers. All the products were either supplied direct from the processor or purchased over the counter, and key factors such as appearance, taste and texture were analysed by the panel of over100 specially selected meat-eating consumers. The retailer sample’s high score on appearance is a classic example of knowing your customer and supplying exactly what they want. The majority of supermarket food purchases are made on visual appeal, with the average decision taking only six seconds. Although meat selection in retail does generally take slightly longer (around 20 seconds), restaurant diners prefer to peruse the menu and take time to make their selections. The more appealing the menu description, the more chance a specific dish will be chosen. Even in the simplest of restaurants, wine is no longer described merely as red or white, and the same rule should apply to beef and steak. Consumers are more discerning, demanding and knowledgeable nowadays, and this knowledge brings with it a certain degree of confidence, as well as a willingness to pay more for something with recognisable qualities. There are two principal advantages to providing a precise specification for suppliers: 1. There is less risk in being disappointed on delivery when certain aspects do not meet the expectation 2. The more information you have about the production and handling, the more you can feature it on the menu Because of the complexities of meat and the many factors which can influence eating quality, QMS is currently working on several projects to improve consistency. Some of these begin on the farm, as you would expect, but there are also some exciting developments such as using infra-red technology to gauge the resistance level of muscles immediately after slaughter, therefore providing an indication of eventual tenderness. Moreover, many slaughterhouses also follow blueprint procedures, and this where small is necessarily better. Communication in Scotland is quick and relatively easy, and new methods can be implemented at relatively short notice, with the higher quality product arriving at the table more rapidly. For the longer term, to ensure a profitable future, the emphasis must be on quality rather than quantity.

This article has been edited from its original version. For the complete feature, please see Catering in Scotland magazine November/December 2008.

www.qmscotland.co.uk

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Margaret Stewart outlines a Quality Meat Scotland initiative aimed at enhancing the end product for consumers…

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