Where do we source our meat from?
We source all our meat from accredited RMAA (Red Meat Abattoir Association) suppliers and abattoirs only. This ensures that the meat is from facilities that comply to certain standards , both in the treatment of animals, and in the way the meat is handled and delivered to us.
We source mainly grain fed beef and free-range lamb, where we have traceability back to the suppliers. All our cuts are Grade A2 or A3. For an explanation of how meat is graded see here.
The tenderness of meat is mainly affected by 2 factors: the cut of meat (e.g fillet , rump etc.) and whether the meat is aged. Wet ageing, which is what we do at Meat Brothers, involves leaving the primal cut to rest in a vacuum bag in a refrigerated room for a period of time and achieves excellent results, particularly with premium cuts of meat.
It costs a lot of money to sit on stocks of beef for many weeks when the suppliers want to be paid in less than 7 days. Many butcheries are therefore unwilling to age their prime cuts. However, we at Meat Brothers have a purpose built room to age our best cuts for between 14 and 28 days. Our steaks are typically aged for at least 21 days.
Accredited South African Abattoirs use a grading system that is based on the age of the animal and the fat cover. The best meat, sourced from young livestock is graded “A” and is given a fat score of between 0 and 6, where scores 2 and 3 are optimum.
Meat Brothers uses A2 and A3 for all its premium cuts of meat. Grades “B” and “C”, while less tender, generally indicate that the meat was sourced from older livestock, but much of this meat may be free-range or grass fed. If correctly aged and suitably prepared, it can just as delicious as the best grades.
What makes up a piece of beef?
In deciding how to cook beef, it helps to understand what makes up a piece of beef.
Beef is often thought of as a “protein.” The protein molecules in a cut of meat go through some changes when cooked. The first thing that happens is that the protein molecules bunch together into fibres. Then, as you cook the beef, the fibres lose moisture and shrink, making your meat tougher.
Every piece of beef has some fat in it, some more than others. Fat has positives and negatives. Too much fat in one’s diet is thought to be unhealthy (although proponents of a Banting Diet may disagree!) .
However, when you cook your piece of beef, the fat creates a protective layer around your protein fibres, which helps prevent the meat from drying out. It also adds a lot of flavour, which is why there is often a massive premium placed on steaks with better marbling, such as Wagyu beef.
Meat is actually mostly made up of water. (Generally between 60%, and 75%!) When you cook a piece of beef, some of that water is lost. The less water you lose, the juicier the beef you end up with, so it’s important not to overcook your meat. A cut of beef also has varying amounts of collagen and elastin, which are produced by the various muscles when they work hard. The harder a particular muscle works, the tougher the meat
Collagen melts when you heat it, so a piece of beef that has lots of it can be tenderized by cooking. The only catch is it needs to cook for a long time to melt all the collagen.
The best way to cook a cut of beef that’s high in collagen is to cook it slowly at a low heat. Unfortunately, you can’t break down elastin the same way. The only way to do so is by physically breaking the bonds. You can do this by tenderising the meat or grinding it. In fact, cuts of beef that are high in elastin often end up as minced beef.