Blackmore, Rangers Valley, Snake River Farms, Tajima… you’ve probably come across these names on Singapore’s steakhouse menus, and that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the plethora of options available to diners when it comes to Australian beef. Down Under’s beef production far exceeds domestic consumption, due to the small population and sheer amount of space to accommodate more farms, which means that much of their beef products are exported to countries such as Korea, Japan and the U.S.A. In contrast, the U.S. only exports about 12 percent of their beef.
Unlike producers in Japan, which tend to stick to their native breeds, Australian farmers use different species such as the Angus (from Scotland) and Hereford (from England) in order to meet market specifications and handle the diverse environments around the country. And because there’s simply more grazing land available, there’s more opportunity to raise grass-fed cattle along with grain-fed (which usually means that the cows are kept in feedlots their entire lives), giving health-conscious consumers more options and thereby welcoming another market segment. Grass-fed beef is leaner and tougher, but can offer greater dimensions of flavour when cooked well.
What is commonly said to have led beef exports from Australia to skyrocket and the industry to flourish in the last 15 years was the outbreak of Mad Cow Disease (or BSE) around the world, particularly in the U.S. As markets such as Japan and Korea closed their doors to U.S. products overnight, it only made sense that they would look to the next closest option – Australia. The country’s beef grading system, regulated by Meat and Livestock Australia, is called Meat Standards Australia (MSA) and takes into account the meat’s colour, marbling, fat depth, carcass weight, maturity and ph to grade on a scale of 100 (no intramuscular fat) to 1190 (extreme amounts of intramuscular fat). However, restaurants around the world rarely use MSA and instead go by the simpler AUS-MEAT system, which tells diners the amount of marbling in the beef on a scale of 0 to 9 (none to most).
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