Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Naturally Aged Irish Beef

Only Naturally Aged Irish Beef Served @ Ouzos 

Over the last year I have noticed a big increase in the number of times I have been served tenderised beef in restaurants and pubs here in Ireland. In general it tends to be in places where beef such as a 10oz Sirloin steak is on the menu at €14 or €15. At first glance I would ask myself how can they sell Irish Beef at these prices? When the steak arrives at the table I understand how! Like my mother always says "In this life, you get what you pay for"

Tenderising beef is an old trick of the trade that is sadly creeping back into Irish restaurants as we all strive to retain margins and cut costs. In most cases I believe that non-intact beef is being served without the knowledge of what exactly the establishment is buying and serving. The butcher sells steaks at really good prices and nobody stops to ask "why so cheap?"

So long as there is no lableing of tenderised beef, we should know what to look for and if you feel it has been tenderised, make sure its cooked through before eating it. 

So what is Mechanical Tenderised Beef?
Mechanical tenderising is a method whereby fine incisions are made in the meat by closely spaced, specially designed knives (needles) which cut through the connective tissue. The mechanical tenderising process takes seconds with a roller type tenderised or a crank type hand operated tenderiser. Meat, which has been treated in this manner, is immediately tenderised without the need to wait for natural bacterial action to take place. The depth and the spacing of the knives and the number of times the meat is passed through the tenderiser allows for the degree of tenderising to be determined, thus controlling the amount of tenderising. Almost every grade of meat can be tenderised.
Why is Beef Mechanical Tenderised
There is only one reason to mechanical tenderise beef “Money” Ageing beef naturally is an expensive process.   

Why Should We Care?
In simple terms, E. coli O157:H7 can live on the outside of your steak and it’s a very nasty bug. When you cook a naturally aged steak the heat will kill any bacteria on the outside of the meat. Now, when you mechanically tenderise that steak you are effectively pushing any bacteria present into the centre of that steak. If you like your steak rare and the steak has been mechanically tenderised, you run the risk of very serious food poisoning.
Because the harmful bacteria can be introduced into the centre of beef when it is tenderised, United States Department of Aquaculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service recommends that mechanically tenderised beef be cooked to an internal temperature of 71oC , that’s well done, just like a beef burger. The only way to confirm that beef is cooked thoroughly enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer, preferably a tip-sensitive digital thermometer. Food safety advocates in the US have asked FSIS to require that mechanically tenderised beef be labelled with appropriate safe-cooking information.

How Can I Tell if the Beef I buy is Mechanical Tenderised
When the meat is raw, look for needle marks which will be clearly visible, tenderised raw beef will be mushy and limp to the touch. Cooked, it will be bloated and have the texture of mince meat inside.

The Americans call this tenderised beef Non-Intact Beef and there is a big move on in the states to have this beef labelled for what it is. We should all be calling on the Irish Government for the labelling of non-intact beef products on food outlet menus, wholesale packaging and retail packaging to include appropriate safe-cooking information.

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