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Aussie Meat Trends

Featured Chef: John DaSilva

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John DaSilvaIt’s been a busy spring for Aussie beef & lamb in the Boston area, with a host of events and programs hitting the ground in Bean-town over the past several weeks. One of the latest was the Rising Stars Chefs Boston event, where a select group of young and talented chefs were lauded by Star Chefs. We caught up with one of our newest fans of Aussie Lamb, Chef John DaSilva of ‘Spoke’ in Somerville, MA. 

A New England Culinary Institute grad, John started out at the famed ‘Boarding House’ on Nantucket and eventually moved on to Barbara Lynch’s flagship restaurant, ‘No. 9 Park’. He rose through the ranks quickly and spent the next several years working as executive sous chef. The 29-year-old chef has recently garnered a great deal of attention for his modern Mediterranean-inspired cuisine at Spoke and in 2012, was recognized by Zagat as one of Boston’s ‘30 under 30’.
At the StarChefs event, Chef John served a “Harissa-Spiced Lamb Tartare with Labneh and Pistachios” which was one of the most popular dishes of the evening.

“You can’t hide anything in a tartare - it’s a great use for the clean, mild flavor of the Aussie lamb,” says Chef John. “I kept the spices mild, which I think worked really well; I didn’t want to overshadow the natural lamb flavor.”

“One of the guests, told me she usually doesn’t like lamb because she thinks of it as having an aggressive, gamey flavor. When people have a pure, natural product like Aussie lamb, it can totally change their minds about lamb.”

Lamb is a mainstay at Chef John’s Mediterranean small-plates concept. He says he’s seen tastes change over the years, even in a quieter suburban locale like Somerville, “people flock to [lamb]” - no pun intended .

“Especially when you can tout the pastured nature of a product, people of all stripes are going for that; both women and men,” he says. “I find successful menus are based on word associations; so lamb, yogurt, mint are a starting point with the Mediterranean flavors and references, and you can build and branch out from there.”

Chef says his lamb sliders are practically too popular. “I can’t run it too often, because its all folks will order!” His mini burgers are spiced like a merguez sausage with plenty of harissa, cumin, coriander and paprika, then topped with a feta aioli, and simple brioche bun. Other successful lamb dishes include a number of handmade pastas with lamb sugos, and lamb meatballs.

Once you build a dish that’s approachable and appealing,” adds Chef John, “the pure taste of a quality product like Australian Lamb seals the deal, and will bring guests back time and again.”  

2015 Flavor Summit

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Last month, our own Catherine Golding and Lambassador Emeritus Aaron Brooks of EDGE Steakhouse at the Four Seasons Miami had the honour of presenting to an august group of chefs and hoteliers at the Culinary Institute of America’s Flavor Summit conference in Napa, CA. Our topic was the growth of grass-fed beef and lamb in the US, with Chef Aaron bringing it tastily to life with demos of three dishes. More on the dishes later, but here are the top three highlights from Catherine’s talk:

#1: More than organic or natural, consumers think grass-fed beef would be both healthier and tastier than other beef. Better still, it’s a label that consumers say they’d be willing to pay a premium for. This is a big shift from the early days of grass-fed beef in America, when folks thought it might be healthier, but not as good to eat as grain-fed alternatives.

#2: Grass-fed beef is catching on at mainstream foodservice outlets, from fast-casual restaurants to food trucks, and easygoing applications from Mexican food to sandwiches, salads and burgers. This shows the broad appeal of grass-fed, well beyond health-seekers or fine-dining guests.

#3: Australia is quite possibly the best place in the world to raise grass-fed beef. Over 70% of Aussie beef is raised exclusively on the vast natural grasslands that bless our continent. And Aussie ranchers have decades of experience in sustainably managing their land to preserve and protect the environment, having reduced their water use by 65% and greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 14% since 1981.

With that as the appetizer, Chef Aaron took the group through his own experience with grass-fed beef on the menu at EDGE, noting that “as soon as I put a grass-fed label on the menu, it started selling out the door. Especially in Miami, my guests are really focused on high-quality, natural meats.”

While talking about that, Aaron’s hands were busy demoing three recipes for the audience, showcasing how he’s adapted his own cuisine to the tastes of the local market with lots of Latin influences and use of ancient grains. Here’s what he showcased:

Rib eye with quinoa and corn saladAussie Grass-fed Anticucho – skewers of grass-fed flat iron steak with a Peruvian marinade and finishing sauce featuring two versions of the famous aji peppers of Peru. 

Grilled Aussie Grass-fed Rib-eye with roasted corn salad and pink shrimp chimichurri. It’s like ’Surf & Turf’ Miami-style, with local pink shrimp and Aussie grass-fed beef.

Roasted Aussie lamb tacos with salsa verde and avocado puree; the slow-braised lamb in chipotle and spices was a big hit at lunch that day.

LCA - Environmental impacts and resource use of Australian beef and lamb exported to the USA

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A landmark study into the environmental impacts and resource use of Australian beef and lamb exported to the USA determined using life cycle assessments has recently been published.  The Life Cycle Assessment study was funded by MLA.

• This is the first multi-impact analysis of Australian red meat supply chains to the USA.
• International transportation contributed ≤5% of GHG, water and land impacts.
• Grass-fed red meat used small areas of arable land and relied on modest inputs of human edible protein.
• Volumetric and stress weighted water use assessments indicate low impacts from Australian red meat.

Australia is one of the two largest exporting nations for beef and lamb in the world and the USA is a major export market for both products. To inform the Australian red meat industry regarding the environmental performance of exported food products, this study conducted the first multi-impact analysis of Australian red meat export supply chains including all stages through to warehousing in the USA. A large, integrated dataset based on case study farms and regional survey was used to model beef and lamb from major representative production regions in eastern Australia. Per kilogram of retail-ready red meat, fresh water consumption ranged from 441.7 to 597.6 L across the production systems, stress-weighted water use from 108.5 to 169.4 L H2O-e, fossil energy from 28.1 to 46.6 MJ, crop land occupation from 2.5 to 29.9 m2 and human edible protein conversion efficiency ranged from 7.9 to 0.3, with major differences observed between grass finished and grain finished production. GHG emissions excluding land use and direct land use change ranged from 16.1 to 27.2 kg CO2-e per kilogram, and removals and emissions from land use and direct land use change ranged from −2.4 to 8.7 kg CO2-e per kilogram of retail retail ready meat.

Process based life cycle assessment shows that environmental impacts and resource use were highest in the farm and feedlot phase. Transportation contributed ≤5% of greenhouse gas emissions, water and land, confirming that food miles is not a suitable indicator of environmental impacts for red meat transported by ocean shipping. The contribution of international transportation to total energy demand was higher, ranging from 14 to 23%. These beef and lamb supply chains were found to rely on small volumes of water from stressed water catchments, and occupied only small amounts of crop land suited to other food production systems. Production of high quality protein foods for human consumption used only small amounts of protein from human edible grain.

Click here to view full study.