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Delivering eating consistency in a price-sensitive market segment

by Jon Condon, 03 November 2011

Hokubee staffmember Kazu Tokumoto with a striploin which has undergone the Meltique process in the company's Wauchope plantMeltique Beef aims to solve the challenge of delivering better eating performance in a price-sensitive beef market segment. 

The company (see today’s other story “Ten year milestone for value adding business”) uses a process known as ‘larding’ to enhance the eating quality and consistency of lower grade raw material.

Larding refers to the process of introducing fat to a piece of lean meat to increase its tenderness and moisture. The process had its traditional origins in France, where strips of pork fat, known as ‘lardons’ were inserted into a meat cut with a hollow larding needle.

Hokubee’s modern interpretation of the process relies on patented technology using an array of hollow needles to inject a fat-based emulsion into the whole primal muscle. As can be seen in the images at the bottom of this page, this leaves a marbling-like cobweb effect in the frozen material when sliced.

The enhancement process works in two ways:

  • the liquid emulsion, based on high quality food-grade beef fat, adds moisture, flavour and tenderness to the original primal. For Halal markets, a canola oil-based emulsion is used in place of animal fat.
  • the penetration of the muscle with the injection needles also provides a mechanical tenderising effect, breaking down muscle fibres in a manner similar to pinning systems widely used across the beef industry.

So how successful is the process in achieving its aim?

Not only does the beef carry a superior flavour and juiciness, but the overall impression of tenderness is much more like a piece of more expensive grainfed beef than product from an older grassfed A-cipher animal.

“Our aim is to deliver a product which performs more like US Choice Grade, but at a considerably more attractive price,” Hokubee’s Tom Miyamoto said.

He said potential customers often remained unconvinced about the product until they sampled it.             

One of the understandable initial reactions to Meltique Beef when people first see it in its raw state is that it may be trying to ‘deceive’ customers by attempting to mimic the appearance of marbled grainfed beef.

“That is certainly not the product’s intention,” Mr Miyamoto said.

“The Meltique technology is solely about delivering a better eating experience from a lesser quality piece of meat, at a competitive price. The marbled appearance is not there to try to trick anybody, it’s just that that is part of the process used to deliver the eating performance.”

“This product is targeting a different market segment altogether than conventional grainfed beef,” he said.            
 

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