8 December 1995

KEEPING

MEAT ON MENUS

CATERERS are providing an ever increasing proportion of the nations meals and the Meat and Livestock Commission is working to ensure that red meat is on the plate.

Last year the MLC was involved in the development of 350 new products for caterers right across the industry, said catering development and promotions manager Derek Andrews. Mr Andrews was speaking to guests at the launch of the MLCs new purpose-built catering development kitchen at the commissions headquarters at Winterhill, Milton Keynes, Bucks.

The kitchens six working/cooking stations were already in use. Six students taking an advanced culinary skills course at Stratford-upon-Avon Catering College were putting the finishing touches to the dishes they had prepared for a "student chef challenge, which is set to become an annual event.

As the students completed their meals two 1994/95 Egon Ronay chefs of the year, Paul Heathcote and Nigel Haworth, were getting out the main course ingredients for the celebration lunch they were preparing to mark the occasion – saddle of Welsh lamb with a fondant of leeks.

Besides the workstations, the kitchen has a new product development area where the development of marinades and frozen ready meals will be the prime tasks. Ready meals are one of the major catering development areas and airlines and roadside cafes are among the customers for these fast cook, fast eat products. Veal in mustard sauce using forequarter meat was one of the dishes guests at the launch were invited to sample.

In order to ensure that meat products match the needs of present day caterers as well as consumers, fresh ways of cutting meat have to be developed.

Guests had already been taken on a tour of the butchery demonstration unit. Here butchers taking part in a Welsh lamb display competition occupied the main area, but the visitors were given demonstrations of seam cutting, both of a forequarter of veal as used in the mustard sauce dish, and of a topside of beef.

Rather than cut across the muscles in the traditional way, seam cutting entails following the seam of the muscle, cutting away connective tissue, and removing the muscle to slice as steaks or, in the case of topside, to use as mini-joints.

Even the methods of hanging meat have been revised recently. Nowadays an estimated 60% of beef is suspended from the aitch bone rather than the Achilles tendon. This, it is claimed, improves the eating quality of the meat and also calls for modifications to traditional cutting methods.

"Meat accounts for 27p of each £ spent by caterers on food," said MLC chairman Don Curry, who performed the official launching ceremony.

"The number of meals eaten out may be up by as much as 8%," he said. "This is not an industry in decline as some would like to believe."

About 40 major catering groups visit MLC headquarters every year to look at product ideas and will be among those to benefit from the demonstration and presentation area of the new catering kitchen.

Here a selection of equipment will be placed according to size so that visitors can view its operation, and low-level griddles and chargrills will be set into a serving counter so that completed dishes can be passed over to customers.

"Our new catering development kitchen is very much a working kitchen and our aim is to create new products here every working day of the year," said Mr Curry.

&#8226 Meat and Livestock Commission figures for total meat consumption in the year 1993/94 (the latest one for which figures are available) show beef consumption increased by 1.2%, lamb consumption by 7.6%, pork by 2.3%, bacon by 2.1% and chicken by 1%.

Don Curry, chairman of the MLC, places a commemorative plaque on

the wall at the official opening of the new catering development kitchen.

A new kitchen geared to developing new value-added products, providing a venue for culinary competitions and facilities for demonstrations and presentations has been opened at the Meat and Livestock Commissions headquarters. Ann Rogers went along to the launch