Butchers are top for beef mince

Butchers are best when it comes to beef mince, although there remains issues with "cross-contamination", a survey by the Local Government Association has claimed.

The research, carried out by trading standards and environmental health officers, attacked supermarkets for using "misleading product descriptions and inaccurate labelling" when it came to lean beef mince, but revealed the best-quality product comes from butchers. However, the survey also claimed that mince bought from a butcher's counter is more likely to have been "cross-contaminated with small amounts of another type of meat".

Richard Stevenson, technical manager with the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders, said: "Obviously we are not surprised to learn that, once again, independent butchers have been shown to have the best-quality minced meat. This has been demonstrated many times before and is true for all types of meat and meat products.

"We do take issue with the LGA using the term "contamination". This is an emotive word with many negative connotations and has been used incorrectly in this instance. All meat is likely to have minute traces of different types of meat. The only exception would be the few instances where the meat comes from a single-species processing plant supplying the mass market."

The LGA report claimed that standards in mince could vary considerably between supermarkets and that some shoppers looking for a healthy option in "lean" or "extra lean" may actually be eating a product more fatty than standard mince. The study found that samples from Asda contained on average 27% more fat than was suggested on the label.

Douglas Scott, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders' Association, said that butchers' mince contained 67% less fat than mince from supermarkets. He said: "The recent LG Regulation report merely confirms what we already know the best place to buy quality mince is at your local butcher. This backs up the Food Standards Agency Survey on the fat content in lean minced beef in 2004, which showed that most Scottish butchers were making mince with less than 10% fat content.

"It is disappointing to hear that some traces of other species were found in the surveyed beef mince. The report suggests this to be pork, but in Scotland it is more likely, we think, to be lamb. There is a possibility for this to happen, as the same mincer might be used to mince both beef and lamb mince."

However, he said there was no need for new rules: "The last thing we need from this report is more regulations. Specification is not easy to define, since the fat content of mince will vary depending on the particular muscle of beef used and the breed, sex and age of the animal being minced."

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