Good quality meat is imperative for good quality cooking but with sourcing scandals continually hitting the headlines, how do we make sure we’re getting the best? Why is provenance important? And what do all those labels actually mean? Well, one answer to these questions is simple: buy British.
According to Alison Rose, the British Ambassador to Belgium, that is a good idea irrespective of Brexit. Rose was among the invited guests at a special event designed to promote the best of British beef (and lamb) to the Belgian market.
A select band of top quality Belgian chefs presented a cooking demonstration, using British beef and lamb, which was partly designed to showcase the products to a largely Belgian audience; comprising restauranteurs and representatives from the country’s horeca sector.
The Ambassador told Brussels Express that sales of British meat, both lamb and beef, were at all-time high and she was confident that such cross-border business will continue after the end of March 2019, when the UK is due to exit the EU. “We have very good meat and lamb products in the UK and production methods are particularly advanced. This is something that should be promoted more widely, including here in Belgium. “This is something that we in Britain should be rightly proud of.”
Rose said, “Sales of British meat in Belgium have been rising quite rapidly in recent times and that is a sign of the growing appreciation of this top-quality export.” I have every reason to believe that the close trading relationship we currently enjoy with Belgium and other EU members, not least in agricultural goods, will continue after we have left the EU.” She adds, “Of course, this is a two-way street: Belgians love our meat and lamb and we in Britain love Belgian chocolates and Belgian beers.”
It may not always be great for the tourist trade but, as she also points out, the relatively high rainfall levels in the UK are just one of the reasons why the conditions in which cattle, sheep and other food livestock are raised are “particularly excellent.”
The UK also enjoys an oceanic climate, producing an abundance of grassland and moorland, much of it ideal for raising and breeding purposes. This benefits breeders but also consumers including in Belgium, with top quality produce. It also helps, of course, that the emphasis is on a minimum use of fertilizers and that farms in the UK are subject to extremely stiff health safety regulations and codes of conduct.
This is as much aimed at safeguarding animal health as ensuring the quality of the end product. The event was told that studies show that animals fed on fresh grass produce 75 percent more Omega 3 than others, 300 percent more vitamin E and 400 percent more Vitamin A.
British meat also enjoys another asset, namely the large number of different cuts it produces. Another speaker,Remi Fourrier, director of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) in France, also spoke enthusiastically about British meat and the “particularly high environmental standards” that the industry boasts.“It is well known in our industry that the UK standards are very high and this is a message we want to disseminate to a wider audience. UK farming also offers some of the best farm assurance standards in the world.”
All British suppliers are independently audited and accredited to one of the National Farm Assurance schemes controlled by Assured Food Standards, which allow the meat to display the Red Tractor logo. Not all countries have schemes like this but the Quality Standard Mark for beef and lamb is a scheme that provides customers with high levels of assurance about the meat they buy. The Quality Standard for beef and lamb is the only scheme in the UK to cover eating quality.
All beef and lamb carrying the mark is chosen according to a strict selection process to ensure it is succulent and tender. Quality Standard beef and lamb is produced to higher standards than required by law with a supply chain which is fully assured and independently inspected at every stage from farm to meat counter.
The Quality Standard Mark also tells consumers where their beef and lamb is from. For example, meat from an animal born, raised and slaughtered in England will carry the Quality Standard beef or Quality Standard lamb Mark indicating English origin with the St George’s flag. If an animal cannot meet all the criteria, for example it is born in Scotland or Wales, it will be able to carry the Quality Standard Mark but indicate British origin with the Union flag.
The easily identifiable Quality Standard logo is designed to maximise your confidence about the meat you are buying, safe in the knowledge that all meat carrying the Quality Standard meets stringent quality assurance criteria and is fully traceable.
Fabian Frances, owner of Toucan Brasserie and Toucan Sur Mer, two Brussels restaurants, is a firm believer in the quality of British beef. He said, “My chefs tell me that, in terms of tenderness and sheer quality, it is the best they use and I am certainly not going to argue with their assessment. Of course, they also work with meat from other countries, such as the Argentine and France, but invariably it is British meat that is their first choice.”
So, Brexit or no Brexit, there’s no doubting that British beef and lamb will continue to merit its place at the top of Europe’s culinary tables.