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Aussie Meat Trends

Soil regeneration in Oz ─ Dung beetles have it down pat

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 Dung Beetle

G’day readers! Today we’d like you to meet one of the smallest and yet most helpful soil regeneration specialists in the world — the dung beetle. On Australia’s grassfed cattle and sheep properties, these plucky little guys break down an impressive quantity of “cow” pies — one adult cow will drop 12 in a day! Dung beetles roll them into tiny balls, dig tunnels into the soil, and actually bury them in the ground, where they lay eggs that hatch into larvae and then use the balls for food. This simple and natural action has a sh*t-ton of benefits. Aerating the soil helps retain moisture and rainfall, reducing runoff, and literally carrying nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus into the soil. As a nice side benefit, it also dramatically reduces fly populations, which is a serious plus as fly larvae can cause diseases in sheep and other livestock.

Cindy and Steven Scott use dung beetles on their property in New South Wales, Australia. Cindy knew the power of the beetle first-hand from growing up in South Africa, where beetles adapted to large animals and their dung to thrive. Her husband was not so sure. “But the visibility of beetle activity – with dung pads broken down in 24 hours – quickly convinced him,” says Cindy.

soil regeneration 2Today, “It is rewarding to drive around our paddocks and see how quickly the beetles are breaking down and burying dung, transferring nutrients underground, and how their tunneling aerates the soil and reduces run-off — not to mention lessens flies,” she adds.

The work of the beetle is particularly important in Australia, where 70% of our beef production and about 95% of our lamb production is entirely grassfed. That means a lot of grazing, and a lot of natural and improved pastures for farmers to manage. In fact, a lot of our farmers think of themselves as “grass farmers” first, and no they don’t mean that funny kind you Yanks out there are growing in Washington and Colorado! Being a grass farmer means actively managing your land and natural resources to keep grasses growing and providing nutritious feed for your animals year after year.

It’s a big job, but one that’s just right for a humble little bug that lives, eats and breeds in piles of… well…poop.

A toast to the roast

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 DougThese days, US Chefs are roasting just about everything, from citrus for cocktails to veggies, and of course their meats. We’re all for it, as roasting is a cracking good way to treat Aussie beef and lamb. We chatted up Doug Piper, MLA’s master butcher, for his tips on using roasting as a cooking technique.

What does roasting do to our meats that other cooking methods don’t?

When you roast grassfed beef or lamb you get that tasty caramelization on the outer crust of the meat, especially if you pre-sear it before putting it in the oven. This seals in the beautiful, natural flavor of Aussie beef and lamb. It’s because of this flavor that you can keep it simple — no marinades or fancy sauces needed! The natural grasses these animals eat give our beef and lamb a subtle flavor that you cannot beat.

Any personal favorite roasted beef or lamb preparations?
My two-beer lamb roast, mate! I take a lamb top sirloin, season it with oil, salt and pepper, sear on the flat top or in a cast iron pan to lock in the juices, then into the oven or roaster, cover, and two beers later it’s perfect! If you must spoil it, you can add veggies as well.

We asked Doug for his advice for chefs in terms of what cuts of grassfed beef and/or lamb are best for roasting. Here’s his take in a handy chart: 

toast to roast table 2

There you have it! Here are a few of our favorite roasted recipes:

 

Featured recipe: Herb-crusted Aussie grassfed flatiron with leek puree

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 herb crusted aussie grassfed flatiron

This month’s featured recipe from Peju Province Winery Chef Alex Espinosa shows the simplicity and depth of flavor using the roasting technique. Here, both the steak and the leeks are roasted in the oven, developing the flavors and bringing out their natural savory-sweetness. First the grassfed Aussie flatiron gets an aromatic coat of breadcrumbs, garlic and parsley, helping to seal in the juices of the lean meat. The leeks are pureed with milk, salt and pepper after their turn in the oven, providing a simple, savory condiment and complement to the beef. We caught up with Chef Alex to ask about his dish, and what he likes about cooking with Aussie grassfed beef and lamb.

What inspired this dish?


I really liked the beautiful, deep flavor of the beef, and didn’t want to overwork it. Now that I learned how grassfed beef is raised in Australia, I know why it tastes that way! Pasture-raised animals, much like wine, carry the land with them in their flavors. In addition to the leek puree, almost any seasonal vegetable works alongside it; so right now I’d use Brussels sprouts or cubes of butternut squash, or even sunchokes.

What do you like about the cut you used?


I like working with the flat iron cut. I’ll often stuff flat irons with a mix of mushrooms and goat cheese, then sear and roast them in the oven. So good!

You’re a winery chef, so I have to ask…what would you pair it with?

For this dish, I thought about serving it with a Peju cabernet franc, something with lots of depth to match the earthiness of the beef.

See the recipe on our website.