VEGA News Item

Everything But The Squeal... - 05/02/2008
But Who’s for Some of the Nasties in the Rasher?
But Who’s for Some of the Nasties in the Rasher?

The meat trade often teases veggies with the taste and smell emanating from the fleshpots that fail to disgust the meat-frees long after their conversion. A glimpse of the confirmed meat-eater’s revulsions emerges in a question DA of Bristol poses to Fred A’Court in the Fred’ll Fix It page in the Meat Trades Journal Extra (Feb 2008). Fred was editor of the Meat Trades Journal for more than 15 years. He offers “the opportunity for butchers and retail operators to get practical answers to the kind of issues they are facing every day”.

DA’s Question to Fred is this: I used to love bacon but no longer buy it because it is consistently disgusting. Whether from Denmark, the UK, the Netherlands, or with a “dry cure”. I must preheat the rashers to press out all the water and the slimy snot-like substance. Even then the meat smells of raw sty. I don’t remember bacon like this in the 1950s. What has changed?

To which the undaunted Fred responds: It really comes down to the fact that modern technology is not always better. The “snot” as you so eloquently describe it, is known in the trade as “exudate”. This is natural protein that coagulates like the protein of egg that turns from clear to white during cooking. It does not result from the presence of any additives in the curing solution, but it tends to occur more frequently in bacon produced by modern curing methods. It is almost certainly due to a combination of factors associated with modern bacon processing, for example, brine injection; freezing; high-speed slicing, and pre-packing.

The Danish bacon industry still supplies a range of more traditionally cured and dry-cured products as, indeed, do other producers. These are less likely to exhibit the symptoms of a bad cold. In short, you need to shop around for a traditional cure produced old-fashioned way, preferably not pre-packed. In other words, find a traditional butcher.

The pigmeat industry is an example where animal welfare has counted as a marketing factor. British and Continental farmers vie with one another to prove that their practices over farrowing conditions, housing, castration, tail-clipping, and methods of slaughter are the best. However, the industry is now tottering in the face of a global market in feedstuffs, which is accompanied by rising prices unwillingly met by customers and still resisted by the paymasters who administer grants and subsidies. In pigmeat production, as with poultry, feedstuffs account for 55% to 60% of the costs, and the booming demand in China for pigmeat is driving prices up still more. Snotty-like exudates when the rashers hit the pan will do little to attract consumers. Not only that, boar-taint, a sex pheromone exuded from mature male “entires”, is another off-putting factor. It has a striking revulsion in some women.

As with poultry, outdoor and free range systems have caught on, but they are now at risk of viral and bacterial zoonoses and thus at further risk of confinement and heavy culling. Similar dangers may also result from mingling with wild boar – and offer another target for shooters and game.  

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