Meat quality in restaurants constantly improving

The quality of domestic red meat supply both to the retail and catering trade has improved out of sight in the last 20 years because of stricter food regulations and the introduction of the Quality Mark. It has moved up another notch over the last five years or so, particularly since the global financial crisis.


Back in the 1980s and early 90s the term ‘export quality’ was supposed to provide a guarantee of excellence as distinct from meat destined only for the domestic market which was considered to be of inferior quality. That has all changed because today almost all meat plants are export licensed regardless of whether they mainly supply the export or domestic market. Food safety regulations are much stricter than they used to be and all meat processors must comply with stringent hygiene and health requirements, audited by vets employed by the Ministry for Primary Industries.


The Quality Mark, introduced by Beef + Lamb NZ in partnership with retailers in the early 1990s, has underpinned an enormous improvement in the taste, tenderness and texture of all beef and lamb sold in supermarkets, butchers and restaurants. Consumer research has shown an ever rising upward trend in levels of approval for product quality, particularly taste and tenderness.


Annual competitions, Steak of Origin and the Glammies, and the Beef and Lamb Excellence Awards have contributed to a lift in the quality of the raw material and a focus on preparing the best beef and lamb cuisine in restaurants.


More recently there has been an increase in the variety of meat breeds and product forms available to chefs. There are several reasons for this trend: for a start, farmer dissatisfaction with lack of reward for what they see as a premium product; then the GFC cleaned out a lot of mediocre restaurants and famous chefs emerged in increasing numbers; the eating public became more selective about what they were willing to pay good money for and chefs had to become more creative in developing cooking techniques and dishes to attract diners to their restaurants.


This combination of circumstances has led to specialist meat wholesalers to the restaurant and catering trade offering a wider choice of beef and lamb breeds and meat cuts. There are grass-fed Angus Pure, Hereford Prime, Wagyu and 90 day grain finished mainly Angus beef. For beef, brand separation has become relatively easy because of the wide diversity of breeds and types.


It has been less easy to develop separate lamb brands, partly because New Zealand lamb ranges from very to exceptionally good. Silere Merino is one of only a few variants because of where and how it is grown which results in a definably different taste and texture; this means it can be aimed at the very top of the range.


Wholesalers, such as Neat Meat and Wilson Hellaby focusing primarily on the greater Auckland market, provide a wide range of products and brands which have been developed specifically for restaurants. This enables chefs to plan new dishes using less fashionable meat cuts or different cooking methods, such as sous-vide, which have taken over from more traditional methods of preparation.


According to Simon Ericson of Neat Meat, his business has grown rapidly because of the increasingly close relationship between chefs and their meat wholesaler. This has led to exciting new products becoming available, such as nine month milk-fed calf veal, Chevron goat and helicopter shot venison which has the benefit of finding a positive use for deer, otherwise a pest from the bush.


Top restaurants now have the opportunity to source a wide range of high quality meat cuts which form the centre of the plate and can inspire the diner to try to reproduce the resulting meal at home. The restaurant kitchen can genuinely lead consumer taste and it has never been a better time to enjoy the superb meat we grow in New Zealand.


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2 Responses to “Meat quality in restaurants constantly improving”

  1. Rural round-up | Homepaddock Says:

    […] Meat quality in restaurants constantly improving – Allan Barber: […]

  2. Bobby Says:

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