There are those who say: ‘on the inside, cattle are all the same colour’. Then there are those who say: ‘If you want to know about meat, ask a butcher, not a farmer’.
We asked two butchers what they look for in a top quality beef carcase: Darren O’Rourke, butchery team leader at Vic’s Premium Quality Meat, Sydney, and Robert Constable, owner and managing director of Robert’s Meats, Singleton, NSW.
“Fat colour and distribution, meat colour and texture, and levels of inter- and intra-muscular fat are probably the attributes I look for first,” Darren said (pictured, above).
The list is similar for Robert Constable, but in addition to colour and texture, Robert looks for meat to bone yield. “Speckle Park are flat-boned cattle, providing less bone and more meat,” Robert said (pictured, below right).
Do Speckle Park cattle meet the standard for top quality meat? Very much so, according to the butchers. Robert Constable had been on the search for tasty, soft-eating beef with a good amount of intra muscular fat.
“Speckle Park has delivered that for us,” he said.
Darren’s experience with the first Speckle Park carcase he received was similar. “Perfect fat cover, muscle conformity and meat colour,” he said. “We dry-age all products – specifically beef extensively at both Victor Churchill and at Vic’s Premium Quality Meat – and our first Speckle Park carcase was dry-aged for six weeks.
I was confident the end result would be fantastic. Added to this, the fine texture of the muscle indicates eating quality was already likely to be great. Dry ageing was only going to make it better. Speckle Park beef has always been of fantastic quality in my experience.”
In sourcing premium quality meat, both butchers stress the importance of knowing one’s supplier and their product, even though they take different approaches. Robert’s Meats uses vertical integration, maintaining ownership throughout the supply chain.
Robert believes Robert’s Meats is the only butcher that has a vertically-integrated supply of Speckle Park beef all year round in Australia. He looks for F1 (first-cross) at a minimum, out of or by a purebred Speckle Park.
“It is very important to have a great relationship between butcher and farmer and even more important when the farmer is your long-term business partner,” Robert said.
“The consumer needs to see the connection with where the beef is sourced and to do this, the butcher needs to know as much about the farming practices as possible to inform his customer.”
Darren also needs to know his suppliers. “I’d want to know as much as I can about the land they’re on, their feeding regime, access to shelter, proximity to processors, and how they are transported,” he said. “What are the farmer’s views and thoughts in and around regenerative farming practices and sustainability?”
The relationship with suppliers is very important for Darren O’Rourke. “It sits at the top of my list,” he said. “I simply have no desire to work with people that don’t think the same way.”
Darren has a different strategy to achieve the same goal when sourcing top quality meat. “With the state of the market at the moment, everyone is ducking and weaving to secure product when and where they can,” he said. “Getting hold of quality produce from small, like-minded producers, however, remains as important as it has been for many years for me.
Consistency of supply is not what I’m after from small producers. It’s all about the quality of the product and if that means waiting for animals to be ready as opposed to rushing them through or producing poor quality animals then that’s how it is. Consistency of supply is not my end goal. Consistently amazing product and recognition of the farmer is what I’m always searching for.”
Darren said Speckle Park beef is “as good as, if not better than any other breed I’ve worked with. Each carcase I’ve used over the years has been impressive and consistent. Their feed conversion and very high yield adds to their value to any butcher,” Darren said.
Speckle Park-cross steers have performed consistently well in hoof/hook competitions right around the country – especially in the ‘hook’ component of these competitions, where it really matters!
Excerpt from the 2018 Minnamurra Speckle Parks Sale Catalogue:
“Our butcher says it’s the best meat he has seen and cut up ever – soft just like butter, with the perfect fat cover. It’s an absolute pleasure to work with. And it tastes awesome,” – via Wattle Grove Speckle Park, Oberon, NSW.
“We have a contract with our local butcher. He buys any steers or heifers we kill because he’s never seen anything marble so evenly. The dressing percentage on the last three steers averaged 61% with 10mm fat and marbled perfectly,” – Emily Trainor, Gingin Speckle Park, Bambun, WA (November, 2016).
“Some local Speckle Park beef on the block today! If you want beef that melts in the mouth, then look no further! Check out this tomahawk (pictured right)!” – Bullsbrook Meat and Gourmet, Perth, WA (July, 2017).
“Speckle Park beef. It isn’t like anything else! It is in a total class of its own. I’ve been cooking beef for a living for 20 years and nothing has compared to Speckle Park. If you take into consideration the yield, it smashes all breeds. Time to get a marble score of 5, 6, 7. Smashes Wagyu and in terms of tenderness, I have seen people that shouldn’t be near a BBQ or a grill cook it and turn off a great tasting piece of steak! It’s number one,” – Jason Keays, Michelin Star Grill Chef, caterer, and Fish Creek Farm Speckle Park, Gippsland, VIC (July, 2017).
“The test of any meat in a butcher shop is the response and feedback from customers. In all the years we have sold Speckle Park beef, we have never had any returned because it was tough or chewy, so I would say it has both met and exceeded our expectations. There is certainly something to be said for the fat in Speckle Park cattle as it is what I call ‘easy eating fat’ with a buttery flavour that complements every mouthful,” – Robert Constable, Robert’s Meats, Singleton, NSW.
Below is an image of a Robert’s Meats meat display.