How do you like your steak? like it juicy and rare, my wife likes her medium with just a hint of pink (some people…) and others like it cooked right through and the fat to be nice and crispy. And oh yes, the TV celebrity chefs would have it that the perfect steak has to have been pan fried for half a minute and served with the hooves still kicking on the plate.
Really, whichever way you enjoy your steak is the perfect steak, and should be served with whatever you like, I love crunchy chips, grilled beef tomato (finished with rock salt and Balsamic vinegar) and just a little dollop English mustard with mine.
Mind you there’s another dimension to rare steak that’s worth mentioning and that’s which breed you’re buying and just how rare is it?
It is true to say that the meat farming industry has been changed out of all proportions in the past 40 years due to growing consumer demand for lower cost produce as our population increases.
The outcome of such a radical change in direction can only lead to mass production techniques being employed and the hybridisation of our traditional breeds to make the animals bigger and hence increase the yield per carcass. Added to that is a seed change in the way that we enjoy our meat now a days with traditional recipes and skills being lost through successive generations. For example at the Tiverton Pannier Market I sell almost exclusively front end cuts of beef like brisket and shin to my older customers who, simply put, know what to do with it and how to get the best for their money.
All of this inevitably leads to the development of great big hybrid beasts with large behinds and the sad decline of our smaller traditional beef breeds.
I personally think that there’s better marbling, that’s the fat within the meat rather than around the edge, on a smaller traditional pure breed animal and that adds more flavour to the steak. The amount of marbling is directly influenced by genetics and the diet that the animal has enjoyed. At The Deli Shack we only sell grass-reared and finished pure bred beef that’s a minimum of three years old. The primary cuts are hung for at least 21 days, but therein lies another point. A butcher friend of mine said recently ‘you can hang a tractor tyre for 28 days if you want, it still doesn’t make it taste any better’.
People often ask ‘if it’s a rare breed, why are we eating it?’ The point is that the small number of farms that keep our native breeds going would stop all together if no one bought the meat. It’s a circle of life thing.
What people choose to buy and eat is entirely their own business and I’m not for turning the clock back to a romantic notion of the ‘good old days’ and nor am I having a go at the farmers for producing what consumers are asking for.
What I am suggesting is that more information is made readily available at the point of sale, particularly when the breed is being advertised. Our policy on each breed is clearly stated on our website so if you’re interested in beef for example just go to ‘Rare Breed Meats –Beef ’ and have a look.
For example, locally farmed Aberdeen Angus steaks. Sound good?
Now how about: Locally sourced barn-reared 18-month-old Canadian Angus/Friesian cross, raised using only the finest quality fodder, supplements and nutrients.
Same thing, only different. It’s for that reason that I don’t think that being asked to display more information about the history of the animal is unreasonable. Here are a few beef related questions that you could ask if you wanted to.
What’s it crossed with?
Was it reared and finished on fresh grass?
Was it single suckled (raised with its mother) or intensively farmed.
Armed with that information the customer is better informed and whether that changes the purchasing decision is absolutely up to the individual.
Just as a last thought, if you’re interested in supporting the community of small farms that continue to breed these wonderful native beasts, then you could join the Rare Breed Survival Trust at www.rbst.org.uk where you’ll find lots of information on rare breed protection and related activities in your area.
What ever you choose to buy please enjoy it. Eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures…
(image: Iain Thompson of The Deli Shack)
- The Deli Chefs at the Westcountry Game & Equine Festival - March 26, 2011
- Tiverton Pannier Market – one of the premier markets in Mid Devon - March 12, 2011
- Discover the inviting and exciting Totnes Good Food Sunday Market with The Deli Chefs - February 26, 2011