Percy’s Organic Meat v Supermarket Meat

Tina Butchering Beef R

WHY IS PERCY’S ORGANIC PORK AND LAMB SO SPECIAL?

At the heart of Percy’s organic meat enterprise is chef and author Tina Bricknell-Webb. It was in 1995 that Tina first decided to rear her own meat for the restaurant table; her desire was to be in total control at every stage of the process from birth to butchery. The learning curve was a steep one but incredibly rewarding. Tina toured St. Merryn abattoir to see at first hand what the ‘normal’ procedure was for supermarket meat. She was taken under Steve Turton’s wing from Westaways Sausages, who steered her in the right direction for the perfect banger and Philip Warren gave of his time generously talking her through the benefits of the Large Black pig and how best to butcher it and tie joints and also to tell whether a lamb had been well cared for by looking at the kidney fat on the carcass.

THE PROCESS:

BIRTH

During the lambing season the ewes are checked every four hours both day and night to assist where needed. Ewes who have one lamb and large healthy udders are milked of colostrum once her lamb has had it’s quota post birth and that colostrum is saved to give to ewes that have multiple births and who may struggle to provide enough for all her lambs. The weaker lambs (those born small or who have a difficult birth) are given a day or two to ‘bond’ with their mothers on clean straw in pens in the lambing shed before being put out with the rest of the newborns on fresh pasture. They are left to grow, being checked on a very regular basis, until they reach the point when they are ready for the abattoir.

SLAUGHTER

The boys go first as the ewe lambs are left a little longer to select those to be kept back for replacement ewes, or to be put in lamb at a later date and sold on. There is a choice of a number of abattoirs in the area which are chosen for efficiency, welfare and also selected according to the skills they have removing and salting the skins, which we then collect and have tanned at Devonia in Buckfastleigh. It is very important that animals do not suffer stress or injury before, during or at the point of slaughter. Read more

SPOILAGE OF MEAT

It is necessary for animals to be stress and injury free during operations prior to slaughter, so as not to unnecessarily deplete muscle glycogen reserves. It is also important for animals to be well rested during the 24-hour period before slaughter. This is in order to allow for muscle glycogen to be replaced by the body as much as possible (the exception being pigs, which should travel and be slaughtered as stress free as possible but not rested for a prolonged period prior to slaughter). It is important that the glycogen levels in the muscles of the slaughtered carcass are as high as possible, to develop the maximum level of lactic acid in the meat. This acid gives meat an ideal pH level, measured after 24 hours after slaughter, of 6.2 or lower. The 24h (or ultimate) pH higher than 6.2 indicates that the animal was stressed, injured or diseased prior to slaughter Read more

HANGING

Once slaughtered, the carcasses are ‘dressed’ and are then cooled slowly to prevent ‘cold meat shortening’ until rigor mortis sets in.
Rigor mortis is very important in meat technology. The onset of rigor mortis and its resolution partially determines the tenderness of meat. If the post slaughter meat is immediately chilled to 15°C (59°F), cold shortening invariably occurs, where the muscle sarcomeres shrink to a third of their original length. Read more

At Percy’s, the lamb is hung for 3 – 6 weeks depending on sex, age, size, breed, time of year and weather. This may be a little longer than most but it works for us. As the meat hangs, enzymatic action on the cell structure ‘tenderizes’ the meat and the liquid within the cells (containing myoglobin, salts, protein) evaporates thereby concentrating and retaining the flavour together with the nutrients. If subsequently frozen, this meat will thaw with little weight loss and will not exude much liquid as it thaws. This means less shrinkage coupled with a better texture to the meat and a much tastier flavour. The size of meat therefore is closer to the cooked weight than a supermarket joint would be for example, so you don’t need to buy as much uncooked meat for the same yield. The amount of ‘weeping’ from a standard piece of meat can represent in excess of 5% and is generally greater if the freezing was done slowly.

TASTE THE FLAVOUR

The minerals and trace elements contained within determine the flavour of the meat. On the Coombeshead Estate, our organic pasture and woodland is classified as ‘permanent pasture’. The organic meadows rarely look as lush as those, which are re-seeded each year with perennial rye grass for example and then fertilized (non-organic). The reason for this is that the roots on modern grass monocultures are poor at harvesting essential trace elements from the soil. With only a single species of grass present, roots penetrate to the same depth in the soil. The only minerals they are able to take up are those available at this one level in the soil ‘horizon’. By contrast, species-rich pastures – such as those here on the Coombeshead Estate have a variety of root systems growing to different depths. As a result they can take up minerals from various levels in the soil and concentrate them in the herbage where the grazing livestock can make the most of them. Traditional mixed grasslands contained a wide range of plant species, some of them grasses, some of them herbs. Each species has its own distinct mineral ‘profile’ – an assembly of chemical elements unique to the plant. With a diverse ‘community’ of plants making up the pasture, livestock are able to graze selectively, choosing the plants that provide them with optimum nutrition. In addition to the grazing, during some of the winter and summer months (when the sheep do not need assistance for example during lambing months) the sheep graze in between the trees and along the rides where they have access to foliage such as ivy and holly for example, both of which have medicinal properties for a sheep’s well being.

BUTCHERING

Once the meat is at it’s best, great care is taken to cut carefully, to remove excess fat, sinew and all glands. The meat is then prepared according to customer requirements/specifications. All meat is vacuum packed to give it shelf life and also to protect it from freezer burn, in the event that it might be frozen for later use. For distribution, the meat is sent via courier either fresh or frozen with ice packs in refundable polystyrene boxes.

COOKING

Meat that has been carefully handled and well hung needs less cooking that its supermarket rival, so bear that in mind when calculating timings.
Resident chef Tina Bricknell-Webb is more than happy to talk to you about your occasion/party/event requirements and can give you pointers and tips on the cooking front to ensure that the food that arrives on the table is as good as it gets.

PERCY’S COOKBOOK AND COOKING TIPS

Percy’s cookbook is packed full of recipes and tips and is available to purchase for £20 for a single book, £18 each when purchasing two, £15 each when purchasing five and £12 each when purchasing a box of 10.
The books can be individually signed and make wonderful gifts either on their own or coupled with a voucher for either a meat purchase or a meal or overnight stay at Percy’s Country Hotel.

In addition to the cookbook, regular recipes and tips will be posted on the blog with seasonal suggestions for you to try.
If you have questions to ask about specific cuts, suggestions or recipes please post them on our forum.