WHAT DISTINGUISHES GOOD MEAT
FROM OUR POINT OF VIEW?
For most consumers, meat is a product that is not very transparent and not self-explanatory. As a layperson, you can't tell from just the look of the meat whether it is good or not, and whether the animal it came from had a good life or not. Is it a cow, heifer an ox or even a steer? None of that matters, you think, but it does and these factors make all the difference. Our experience has shown that even specialist staff in selected butcher's shops are often not sufficiently informed when it comes to detailed questions about breed, sex, aging, feeding etc. How are you as a consumer supposed to know this?
For this reason, we have compiled some criteria for you to recognise good meat.
For us, the following 7 main criteria in a nutshell make the difference between any quality meat and excellent meat.
There are cattle breeds that have been specially bred over centuries to become what they are today - top quality cattle. These breeds primarily include Angus, Hereford and Wagyu cattle. In addition, there are regional breeds such as Charolais, Limousin, Salers, Chianina, Fassona, Simmentaler, Pinzgauer, Galloway, Dexter, Aubrac, English Longhorn, Barrosa, Cachena, etc. that make a fantastic product.
When buying your meat, make sure it comes from either oxen or heifers. Meat from old cows can also be excellent, especially the Spanish like to work with meat from old cows because it has a lot of character. Meat from young steers rarely convinces us, if at all.
The more naturally the animals grow up, the better. Animals that can stay in their natural environment all year round are certainly at their best - and this is naturally reflected in the quality of the meat. Extensive farming certainly plays a major role here. Too many animals in too limited a space will never be a top product. In addition to these factors, sufficient water plays an important role and also the factor of heat, such as sometimes in Australia, plays a decisive role for the well-being of the animals and thus the quality of the meat.
4. AGE OF SLAUGHTER
When buying your meat, ask at what age the animals were slaughtered. We consider an age at slaughter between 18 - 24 months to be ideal. Again, it is similar to wine, the meat needs time to develop and build character. Old cows can live up to 12-15 years before they are slaughtered. Young steers are often slaughtered at the age of 8-15 months. The meat of these animals often tastes petty and rarely has any flavour of its own.
There are different ways to feed the animals. In England, Ireland and New Zealand, for example, the animals ideally graze on lush green pastures all year round. This means that the animals feed on natural grass and wild herbs. This diet (grass fed or pasture reared) is preferred by many meat lovers.
In North- and South America and Australia, for example, cattle are sometimes corn fed for an average of 150 days before slaughter. This is referred to as corn feeding or corn finished. This type of supplementary feeding gives the meat excellent marbling and a certain sweetness that is much appreciated by many customers. In both cases you get excellent meat, Which variant you choose is a personal preference. Try both and make a judgement. It is like wine from Bordeaux or Burgundy. The style of both wine regions is wonderful but different in character. One like the one or the other and with the years the preference might also change...
Shortly before or during slaughter, all the efforts and endeavours made in the context of respectful rearing of cattle can be undone within minutes. We believe that death in the form of slaughter is also part of the life cycle of livestock. For this reason, we also believe that this process must be carried out in a most professional and stress-free manner. We know of farms where the cattle are slaughtered on the farm early in the morning in their familiar surroundings. That is certainly the ideal state. Stress during transport or an unprofessional slaughter can lead to a considerable loss of quality of the meat.
In the area of aging, too, there are various ways of refining the meat and achieving the optimum quality of the meat.
The choice ranges from dry-, wet-, cocoon- to ash- or even wine or soda aging. However, the two most common aging methods are dry and wet aging.
In wet aging, the meat is vacuum-sealed and aged in a vacuum bag. In dry aging, on the other hand, the meat is dried naturally in the air in cuts of different sizes, taking into account various parameters such as humidity and temperature. To achieve perfect results, there are also special dry-aging cabinets / chambers that allow the meat to age in an automatically controlled process.
21 days is a very common duration for the dry aging of different cuts. For a filet tenderloin cut 10 days are enough to receice a perfect result. However, meat can also be dry-aged for up to 60 days or even up to 150 days. During the process of dry aging, the meat loses weight but gains flavour every day.
All other aging methods will be explained in detail in our upcoming meat gazette. So watch this space.