Meet the meat market
Choosing good quality meat has become increasingly difficult in recent years. As more and more people choose to buy meat from supermarkets, the chains have sought to squeeze out more profits by lobbying to change the rules of the meat industry. The definitions of what counts as ‘local,’ ‘fresh,’ or ‘smoked’ among other things have changed to mean your meat may not be exactly what it claims to be…
It is therefore hugely important to know exactly what you’re looking for when selecting your meats. You can be assured your tastebuds will be rewarded by your due diligence!
Golden rule – talk to your local butcher!
Though it’s convenient to get your meat while on the weekly shop, it’s really worth taking a trip to your local butcher. Any decent butcher will provide you with the best quality meat you can afford and give advice on how to cook the specific piece of meat you buy. Depending on the cut and the ratio of flesh and fat on the meat, cooking times and methods can vary. Your butcher will be able to help you get the most from your meat.
The specifics on choosing your meats
How to choose your red meats
Supermarkets use chemicals to keep the meat bright red. They also breed livestock to be as lean as possible so the meat is uniform as possible in the shop. Proper fresh untreated red meat goes maroon and brown within a very short space of time, and will have varying amounts of fat from piece to piece. To get the most flavoursome and untampered meat, look for cuts that are darker and have a marble of fat all the way through. Don’t be afraid of a thick layer of fat round the outside – this is where all the flavour is!
How to choose your game meats
Rule of thumb – the younger the animal, the more tender the meat. Buying game in prime season will mean the animal got a good natural diet in the wild, and, of course, it’s fresher. To keep stocks abundant, you may have to buy your game to order, so plan ahead and ask your butcher well in advance of when you require the meat. Ask how long the meat has been hung for — generally, the longer the better.
How to choose your white meats
Many large meat companies want to brand the meat as local, but pay less to feed them abroad. As a result, lots of poultry is born in one country, shipped off to be fed and reared in another, then shipped back to be slaughtered and prepared. If your Sunday roast has been further than you on your holidays, this somewhat defeats the point of buying local meat to reduce carbon footprints. Your local butcher will be able to tell you exactly where your poultry has been from the moment it was hatched. Free range chickens will have the best flavour and are treated the most humanely. Avoid any greying meat, a bright white (sometimes with a pinkish hue) is the sign of fresh white meat. Close and uniform muscle fibres mean the meat has had a healthy life.
Whether you require red, game or white meat, chefs at La Belle Assiette always use the finest quality meat from quality-assured, local sources.