Fred’ll fix it

Q One of my customers has asked if there is much difference between the fats of animals? JW

A Yes, there is. Pig fat is soft and greasy, sheep fat is hard and crumbly and beef fat has a different colour, according to the way it is fed and the age of the animal. A yellow fat would indicate either that it was a grass-fed animal or that it was from an older animal. White fat indicates that the animal has been mainly fed on cereals rather than grass. The amount of inter-muscular fat in a carcase, known as marbling, is more or less proportionate to the overall fatness of a carcase; so a lean carcase that only has about 20% fat will have about 4.5% total inter-muscular fat. This increases to well over 8% fat within a carcase that has 40% overall fat tissue.

Some marbling within a carcase is considered to be good in meat, as it enhances the flavour during cooking and stops the meat drying out. In pigs, back fat thickness is measured and often an integral part of the specification given by buyers.
In terms of giving customers advice on cooking meat, the function of fat is important. As already mentioned, it imparts flavour and moisture to the meat and excess fat can be drained off and cut off after cooking. It should not be completely cut off before cooking.

Q What should be a good balance of meat to bone in Osso Buco and what are the dressed weights of different types of deer? ST

A Osso Buco is a popular venison cut in the catering trade. They are prepared from the shank, being sawn through to create rings. They should each be about 25mm thick with an absolute maximum 50% bone in each one.

Red deer are the predominant farmed species in the UK and in New Zealand, while they thrive in the wild in Scotland. Dressed weights for farmed red deer are 85-160lb/38-70kg. For wild red deer it is up to 220lb/100kg.

Roe deer are not farmed, probably because they are quite small. There are increasing numbers in the wild. Dressed weights are 25-40lb/11–18kg. Fallow deer are mostly seen in parks, although there are a few in the wild. The dressed weights are 40-90lb/18-40kg.

Q How can you tell the age of a duck? Someone told me it was by the length of the bill, is this true? JH

A No, it is not. In the case of ducks, guinea fowls and turkeys you can tell by the state of the bird’s sternum or breastbone. If the tip of the sternum is flexible, it is still young and not fully-grown. If the tip is rigid, it is an older bird. In young geese, the sternum is also flexible and the fat layer over the carcase is thin – it is much thicker in an older goose.

Q Is there any risk of BSE in goats? FD

A The risk is very low; indeed the incidence of BSE in all animals has dropped dramatically in the UK in recent years. Although there was a case of BSE in a goat a few years ago, none of the other goats in the herd concerned had it.

Scientists advising the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that the likely prevalence of BSE in the European Union goat population is very low and that the current risk is considered small for goats born after a European-wide ban on feed containing meat and bone meal (MBM) was introduced in 2001. MBM is thought to have been the most likely route of BSE infection to cattle.

The European Commission and Member States have so far carried out more than 100,000 tests on goats since the first case was identified and, as far as can be ascertained, none has tested positive for BSE.

Q What is the quickest way of identifying how fresh fish is. I’m considering stocking a small quantity for my shop. DB

A The skin should be bright and firm, not dull and very soft, the eyes should be clear and black, not sunken and grey in the case of cod for example, and the gills should show no discoloration or brown spotting, again for cod. Fillets should be transluscent and not opaque.

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