VEGA News Item

Cheap Cuts for Catering Meats - 17/03/2008
Beef from dairy cows, especially the forequarters, was traditionally regarded as fit only for manufacturing purposes and lower-quality mince-meat...

1. Beef from dairy cows, especially the forequarters, was traditionally regarded as fit only for manufacturing purposes and lower-quality mince-meat. Several issues since the peak of the BSE epidemic have given more importance to poor cuts from steers (castrated male animals) and to the prices of beef imported from South America from steers. Hindquarter meat from these sources can be used economically for manufacturing purposes in Europe; and some meat, such as corned beef, comes already processed from South America where animals can be reared on the range or, increasingly, corralled in feedlots, North American-style. Dissatisfaction within the EU over perceived uncertainties of control on foot-and-mouth disease in the Brazilian meat chain have recently and temporarily throttled supplies from South America, but importation is beginning to pick up and trouble users of home-supplies in Europe. Some beef also comes from the Irish Republic to the UK.

2. Opportunities for full carcase utilization for both buyers and sellers have therefore engaged the attention of Tony Goodger, trade sector manager for the Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC). Canny applications for marketing and value-adding are needed and throw light on some of the tricks in procurements for institutions such as hospitals, schools, and prisons. “The whole of the edible parts of the carcase have a value, but often that value is not fully achieved and its worth recovered”, says Tony Goodger, before putting forward suggestions on how this could be done. He asked butchers to look to see if they had surpluses of forequarter meat simply stored in the chiller or freezer. If so, he said they could find a market for this cut in the public sector (Meat Trades Journal, 14 March 2008).

3. “Are you selling minced beef, for example, at the price a chef has dictated to you just so you can keep his steak business, or could you get its true value by selling it into another market such as a hospital or school”, says Tony Goodger, adding: “Think, for example, about the belly of pork. Until recently, a base ingredient for sausages, it has now moved from cheap to chic as chefs have embraced its flavor and versatility into a new generation of restaurant and pub dishes”. He proposed that butchers trading with the public sector ensure that the benefits of the meat they are selling are communicated effectively to procurement catering manufacturers to justify the price they are charging. He gave an example of a London borough selling sausages, which failed to tell anyone that these were from organic pigs raised in Hampshire.

4. Tony Goodger also acknowledged “the common objections of catering managers, over moving from hindquarter roasting joints for roasting to the forequarter, that “the meat is too fatty’ and the customer expects topside’” He added that the BPEX and EBLEX certifications for pig- and sheep-meat are intended to change the perceptions of procurement and catering managers with the launch of their new Forequarter Opportunities DVD at the end of this month.

5. Mike Duckett, catering service manager at the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust, has called “for a greater degree of common sense when it came to public procurement”. He described the despair at the idea of suppliers having to fill out 50 pages on a tendering document. “This is what we need to help people get better. People in care homes have nowhere to go, and their meals are often all they have to look forward too. If we’re making it so difficult to get it on the plate, that’s not sensible”. He admits that the award-winning food he provides “comes to a cost”. He said he spends about £3.50 a day per head on food, “compared with some hospitals, which have only 50p to £1.50. We note that institutional catering has also to serve staff, such as doctors and nurses, as well as visitors. Recent publicity on the TV and elsewhere has demonstrated the revulsion over the pathetic £2 oven-ready broiler and the output from the lower ends of the 5th-quarter products of the dairy and poultry markets (e.g. as veal-calves, cast cows, and spent hens), as well as animals from breeding herds and flocks (e.g. tups and ewes and spent sows), and the disgust of the many consumers eating, many inadvertently, meat they should boycott and seek to replace, even at greater cost but still affordably, with nutritious food nearer to cruelty-free standards.  


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