VALUE-ADDED lamb products, including pulled lamb, are fast becoming the next big menu sensation in Australian clubs, pubs, cafes and restaurants.
No longer can chefs afford the traditional lamb rack and they are changing the way they order and use lamb cuts.
Food service supplier Peter Andrews Jnr told delegates at the LambEx 2016 Conference, at Albury on August 11, of the trend to using secondary lamb cuts in casual dining cuisine. These include forequarter, shoulder, neck fillet, neck rack, diced cuts, mince, shank, breast flap and riblets. To get Sheep Central’s regular free news email click here.
Mr Andrews is chief executive of Andrews Meat Industries, supplying more than 1600 active customers around the nation with 800 tonnes of meat each month.
Last December, the company expanded its Lidcombe processing plant with a 5000sqm cooking facility to provide meal solutions for the catering, carvery and banquet sectors.
Product includes cooked shanks, roasts, pulled meats, slow-cooked and microwaveable meals for supermarkets, pubs and cafes.
Mr Andrews expects sales of a new pulled lamb product to triple in the short term. Pulled meat products are cooked slowly at low temperatures, allowing the meat to become so tender it can be “pulled”, or easily broken into individual pieces.
“Traditionally chefs chased lamb racks but they can’t afford them now.
“When it comes to lamb sales, loin is still up there,’’ Mr Andrews said.
“The next biggest volume is value added (meat balls, sausages, patties, skewers and specialty diced products) and forequarter cuts.
“That works well for us as it gives a better utilisation of the carcase.’’
Meat colour, tenderness and visual appeal important
Andrews Meat Industries opened a purpose-built 20,000sqm processing facility in 2011 and receives boxed product direct from the abattoir for portioning by a team of artisan butchers.
Lamb, beef, pork, poultry, game, small goods and sausages are prepared to order each morning and delivered to customers, including airlines, cruise ships, hotels, cafes and restaurants.
Mr Andrews said portion sizes were reducing, while an emphasis was maintained on meat colour, tenderness and visual appeal.
A portion size of 180-250 grams is commonly required by chefs for lamb racks, rumps and backstraps. Portion size for a lamb shoulder typically ranges from 400 grams to one kilogram.
“Trends are changing as casual dining becomes more popular, with more secondary cuts being used,’’ Mr Andrews said.
“The ideal lamb for food service is 20-24kg carcass weight as this is the best balance of portion, size and yield.
“A larger, fatter carcass creates a number of problems for us including extra labour, yield issues and disproportionate cuts.’’
Andrews Meat Industries has sourced Tasmanian and New Zealand lamb at smaller carcase weights. Mr Andrews said the Tasmanian product provided consistent yield combined with an environment aligned with the company’s production requirements.
The Andrews family has built their business on large and niche brands backed by quality assurance programs.
“Branding for our customers’ needs to be more than just a pretty lid – it requires integrity of production and consistency of supply.
“We don’t deal on commoditised products, it is all about grain fed, MSA (Meat Standards Australia) or pasture fed – it’s got to have a story,’’ Mr Andrews said.
“It’s about consistency and having a brand underpinned by a program.
“Large brands give us year round supply, consistency, volume, cut diversity, farm assurance and a story.’’
Lamb brands represented by Andrews Meats include JBS Great Southern and Flinders Island Salt Grass and Milk Fed.
“Breed is not an issue as long as the quality is right and it is backed by a quality assurance program,’’ Mr Andrews said.