Tuesday, 23 April 2013

It's time to get real

On Monday, I was lucky to be among the Bord Bia guests at a special lunch reception at the Irish Embassy.  The purpose of the lunch was to remind guests of the quality of Irish grass fed beef and to celebrate Team UK’s fantastic achievement in the Bocuse d’Or.

I was particularly interested in a speech by one of France’s most celebrated butchers, Jean Denaux, who exclusively imports Irish Hereford Beef and sells it to some of the country’s best restaurants.  His knowledge of every stage of the supply chain is impressive and it is credit to the Irish farmers for winning over such a genuine and influential ambassador. 

I’m a proud member of the Scotch Beef Club and it is always good to witness excellent examples of husbandry such as those practised under the Scotch Beef and Bord Bia labels.  However, as has been proven recently, in this country there is still a lack of transparency when it comes to labelling our produce.  ‘Outdoor reared’, ‘Red Tractor’, ‘Farm Fresh’. ‘Freedom Food’ - all give the impression of higher standards but vary significantly in terms of farming practice and the quality of the product.  

Many chefs these days know what to look for in the raw product but if you don’t have established relationships with suppliers, selecting the right meat can be a challenge. In the US, the meat sold under the USDA scheme has been meticulously graded not only to reassure the customer that the product is correctly labelled but to reassure of its quality.   This means that when a chef buys Prime Cut Meat, he or she knows that they are paying a premium for a young, well-fed beef cattle which has plenty of marbling and will be juicy and tender as a result.  

In my view, only when a similar system of such clarity and transparency is implemented in the UK, we will truly have the confidence that customers deserve.  In fact, I urge all members of the British meat industry to join forcing in reviewing existing processes and to come back with a clear system which makes it easier for chefs and customers to buy quality, fully traceable meat. 

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