Kiwi demand for agedmeat ‘exploding’
‘‘People are starting to recognise the incredible eating quality and consistency of these agedmeats and they’re going out or going online and treating themselves. ’’ John Skurr Alliance Group
Meat processor Alliance Group says demand is ‘‘exploding’’ for its extreme aged meat, with sales to local restaurants up 30 per cent over the past two years and waitlists on its Pure South online shop.
The country’s largest farmerowned meat co-operative launched its handpicked 55-day aged beef in 2018, and also sells 21-day aged silere (merino lamb), after it researched the optimal period for ageing different meats.
New Zealand beef is generally aged between two and six weeks, but Alliance says its extended period increases the meat’s flavour complexity, tenderness and texture.
While meat was traditionally preserved in salt or dry-aged in purpose-built cool rooms, advances in technology now allow the meat to be wet-aged in vacuum packs to protect it from bacteria and oxygen to prevent it from drying out or spoiling.
The handpicked 55-day aged beef, which won three gold medals at the World Steak Challenge in Dublin last year, is selected from prime cattle of any breed based on marbling scores, meat colour, fat colour and pH.
‘‘People are starting to recognise the incredible eating quality and consistency of these aged meats and they’re going out or going online and treating themselves,’’ said John Skurr, Alliance Group general manager of sales in New Zealand and Australia. ‘‘Demand has exploded.’’
There is often a waitlist for aged beef on Pure South’s online shop, especially for tomahawk steaks, which are aged for 21 days and are described as ‘‘the beef equivalent to a lamb rack but obviously much bigger’’.
They cost $62 for a pack of two large ribeyes, while up to 5kg of 55-day aged ribeye will set you back $215 for what the company says is ‘‘the pinnacle of fine dining’’.
Alliance initially targeted the food service sector in New Zealand and overseas for the extreme aged product, which was the culmination of a three-year research and development programme.
Many chefs had previously bought beef and aged the product themselves with varying degrees of success.
Restaurants around the country, from the Park Hyatt in Auckland to The Fat Duck in Te Anau, have added Alliance’s aged meat to their menus.
MacLean Fraser, executive chef at the Artisan restaurant at Wellington’s Bolton Hotel, put the gold medal winning 55-day aged beef fillet on hismenu in January following positive feedback after trialling it as a special dish.
‘‘It is really popular,’’ Fraser said. ‘‘I’m really happy with it and punters love it. It is going really well.’’
Fraser, who was named Chef of the Year by the NZ Chefs Association in 2018, serves the beef as part of a classic old-style dish with bearnaise sauce and hand-cut fries, retailing for $39.
Aged meat has better flavours and is more tender, he said. He also sells the aged lamb.
‘‘I quite like aged meat,’’ he said. ‘‘I feel like 55 days is the sweet spot.’’
For Alliance, adding value to its products is a way to deliver higher returns to its farmer shareholders.
The co-operative is the largest processor and exporter of sheepmeat in the country, and is looking to strengthen its beef offering.