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Aussie Meat Trends

Grassfed Beef at Beef Australia

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Australia Cowboys

Eating meat pies, eating your values and eating to feel good 

Some observations from US food writer Alexei Rudolf

We’ll start this month’s Meat Mail with a travel tip: not all meat pies are created equal. If you’re into all things Aussie or have a few Aussie mates, you’ve probably heard about how fantastic the meat pies are in Australia. I’d heard about them before a recent trip to Australia (my first) and had trying one squarely on my Down Under bucket list.  It turns out that meat pies cover a spectrum of needs from high end dining to road trip fare which is what I ended up having one ravenous afternoon at a gas station somewhere in rural Victoria. Definitely have a meat pie, but aim a little higher than I did.

I was in Austrlia for a tri-ennial event that takes place in Rockhampton (aka “Rocky”) in Queensland Australia called “Beef Australia” or “Beef Week” to those in the know. It’s an immense gathering of about 78,000 cattlemen and women from across Australia and around the globe, all gathering together for a full week of cattle judging, culinary demonstrations from celebrity chefs, educational seminars and tours of some of Queensland’s most innovative and successful cattle properties. This is a pretty typical scene from a tour around Rocky – note the iconic “cowboy lean” and distinctive attire.  

Yours truly was invited to speak about the recent rise in demand from the US for the chilled (not frozen) cuts of grassfed beef from Australia. This beef is sold to foodservice and retailers in the US at a premium for their grassfed attributes, and now at a rate of over 60,000 metric tons a year. Producers were keen to know what the future might hold for American appetites for Aussie grassfed beef, and what’s driving the demand today.

Here’s what I told them:

American appetites for grassfed beef are driven by a desire to “eat our values” and choose foods that make us feel good; in this case, it’s about the environmental sustainability and positive animal welfare aspects of the grassfed food choice. It’s especially true among younger demographics, including millennials, that much coveted cohort.

Making food choices that feel good has another element as well in grassfed – the idea of eating healthier. Grassfed beef is leaner cut-to-cut and has more Omega-3s than grain-fed beef, both attributes that are attractive to consumers. More importantly, grassfed carries an inherent value as natural, and many Aussie grassfed programs are certified free of added hormones and antibiotics, which many US consumers are seeking to avoid. 

The final piece that’s helped kickstart this interest in grassfed beef among consumers has been economic. In part an improving economy that’s made more expensive proteins accessible to a larger group, but also record high costs for domestic, grain-fed beef for restaurants and consumers alike. When the premium to pay for grassfed isn’t so large, it’s easier to shop your values and conclude that it’s worth a little bit more for beef that’s better for the planet, better for the animals, and better for you, too.

ICCA 2015

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Meat Mail readers will probably be aware that your mates at True Aussie beef and lamb spend a good deal of our efforts in educating chefs and culinary R&D professionals about meats from Australia. One of the groups we work with is the International Corporate Chefs Association, or ICCA.  The ICCA brings together some of the industry's top R&D and corporate/executive chefs from high-volume restaurant chains across the country. This year we supported their conference in the up-and-coming culinary hotspot of Portland, Maine where the latest food industry trends from the region were uncovered in field trips and in demonstrations throughout the conference.  

During the proceedings, we showcased just what a high-quality grassfed beef product tastes like with a tasting flight of different cuts from 100% grassfed, no antibiotics, no added hormones Australian beef. We kept the preparation to a salt-and-pepper minimum and grilled the rib-eye, tri-tip and bottom sirloin flap to medium-rare. The chefs got a real taste of the fresh Australian grassfed beef flavors. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the rib-eye was voted most delicious but with all cuts 'selling out' we know the other grassfed cuts also “went down a treat” as we like to say.

Aussie lamb also made quite the splash from morning to night at ICCA, starting with our lamb breakfast sausage sandwich-modeled after typical roadside American offering with American cheese, English muffin and eggs, but taken to another level with the boldly spiced housemade lamb sausage patty. And as the day progressed, our Aussie lambstrami Rueben sandwich  on marbled rye with emmenthaler cheese and sauerkraut, and the lamb gyros straight off of the autodöner were a hit with the chefs as well. All of the lamb dishes were created with value cuts like shoulder and leg, showing that lower food cost and delicious results go hand in hand. 

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