Sunday, August 10, 2008

Aged Beef

Vegetarians need read no further. Having lived in America for years I was uncertain how to come to terms with British beef. A good Texas or Idaho steak takes some beating - taste, texture, color, etc. Expensive? Yes, but not when compared to the British offerings in the local supermarket.

A chance conversation with a local farmer who raises fatstock (now called primestock as fat is "out") explained to me that most British supermarket beef is aged a maximum of four days but usually gets to the cutting room after only two days. Time is money to the big supermarkets.

Just how long should a good cut of beef be aged? Well, the experts at the University of Minnesota suggest seven days but explain that 21 days aging will provide a superior steak or joint as the connective tissue will be broken down. But there can be significant shrinkage, particularly using the dry aging process. So aged beef will inevitably cost more. Aging also has to be done at near freezing temperatures, so there is a cooling cost as well.

The result is, of course, a simply better steak. And while it is more expensive, I would suggest that smaller portions (four to five ounces) are quite enough for the average steak aficionado.

We obtain excellent beef (and most everything else we eat!) from our local farm shop at Rumwell, near Taunton. Their policy is to hang meat for 21 days. It is so good I have stopped thinking about American beef!

Trivial Information: The local farmer also mentioned that the abattoir gives him a £5 bonus for each carcass that ends up with MacDonalds! I am not not sure what that says about the supermarket chains. . . . .