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Conversations with a Butcher

While we’d always encourage asking our butchers any question under the sun, sometimes this isn’t the preferred approach for some customers. As we want people to be as informed as possible about the meat they buy, here’s a handful of queries you may have wanted to ask, but never got around to.

 

What does ‘grass fed’ mean?

‘Grass-fed’ and ‘pasture-raised’ means the animal is kept on a diet of or almost 100% grass – meaning they get free-range of their natural environment during the summer months, and most likely fed silage (wet stored grass) or hay in the winter. In some cases, cattle are ‘finished’ on grain before slaughter. Legally, livestock only has to be on a diet of 51% grass to be considered ‘grass-fed’, but we mostly sell 100% – or close to – grass-fed beef.

 How do I cook…?

The most asked question at our shop. Generally, prime cuts – such as sirloin or T-bone – are better suited to a short time in a hot pan or over the barbeque. Large cuts – topsides, legs, and shoulders – are roasted, while ‘lesser’ cuts – such as tongue, shin, and cheek – work best in stews or slow braises. Definitely ask about cuts you haven’t encountered before however… it’s what our butchers are there for.

 What is marbling?

Different from the band of intermuscular fat lining the edges of cuts – like with pork chops, for example – marbling describes the white, marble-like appearance of intramuscular fat found on prime steaks. Many regard marbling to be a concrete indicator of superior flavour and softer texture due to how the fat renders evenly when cooking. Others aren’t so sure, as extensive marbling can be achieved among grain-fed cattle.

 What is a heritage breed?

An old variety of animal that, while slower growing than more commercial breeds, has in some cases spent years adapting to the local terrain and whatever the British weather can throw at it. This allows them to be out on pasture more, contributing to conservation grazing and enduring less stress, resulting in flavourful meat. Examples of heritage breeds among cattle include Dexter, White Park, and Longhorn; Saddleback, Berkshire and Gloucester Old Spot among pigs; and Dorset Down, Cheviot and Romney among sheep. Heritage breeds can also be referred to as ‘rare breed’ and ‘native breed’. 

 Why age meat?

Simply put, when meat is kept at a low and stable temperature in salt-air circulated room, it slowly dries, reducing the moisture content of the meat and thus concentrating its flavour. The longer meat is left to dry, the more intense its flavour, though meat aged up to or beyond 90 days is an acquired taste.