Opinion

Beef – it’s all about taste and the US delivers

I have just returned from the US, where I attended the 2015 Alltech symposium. While there, I made it my business to eat lots of US beef. And, in all truth, it was a sumptuous experience.

We can talk for hours about the fact that the US still allows the use of hormones during the cattle finishing process. However, American consumers demand taste as the ultimate quality criterion when it comes to buying beef and when they don’t get it, complaints follow.

So, it stands to reason that if we want to export significant quantities of Irish beef to that market, then the taste issue will have to be addressed.

I am aware that lots of eating quality research on beef has been carried out in Ireland over recent years.

But despite all of this work, farmers are still expected to market their cattle on the basis of meat yield, and particularly the yield of meat generated from specific parts of the carcass: hence the development of the EURO grid.

I sense though that the Americans are at least one step ahead of us in the meat quality and taste debate. The fact is that diners going into a US restaurant and ordering prime beef will be offered a taste experience which they will be happy to pay a handsome price for.

Moreover, they will be guaranteed to receive the eating experience they expect on the vast majority of occasions.

Given this state of affairs I believe there is every reason for meat scientists in this part of the world to find out exactly how the US beef industry goes about its business and then strive to replicate these measures in Ireland.

Before someone rings up to tell me that the US beef eating experience is delivered by the widespread use of hormonal implants, let me immediately point out that such cannot be the case.

We had access to these very same products for years and back then, lots of people complained about how tough and dark cutting our meat was.

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