DRY AGEING: Chef Andrew McConnell and butcher Troy Wheeler with dry-aged beef.

MLA developing national dry-ageing guidelines

Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) has flagged the development of national guidelines for the dry-ageing of meat, following the discovery there were no such standard currently in existence.

MLA Market Access Science and Technology manager Ian Jenson said the work came out of a larger project, currently being undertaken in Western Australia, on the dry ageing of sheepmeat.

“It was identified that there is currently no nationally agreed method or definition for dry aged products,” Mr Jenson said.

“This broader project includes the drafting of nationally accepted guidelines to produce dry-aged product based on previous and current research in the domestic and international market.”

Mr Jenson said an expert working group, including red meat industry representatives, state government regulators and food safety and meat scientists - had been convened to discuss best practice around dry-aged meat.

Guidelines, similar to those for the production of smallgoods, would be produced to give general advice to producers of dry-aged meats on acceptable quality standards.

“The project is ongoing, with the development of the guidelines at an early stage,” Mr Jenson said.

“The working group is currently having input and providing commentary on the content of the guidelines – with additional scientific input expected into a final set of guidelines.

“When this process is complete later this year, we expect that regulators in each state will determine whether the guidelines meet their requirements.”

Victorian butchers agreed with the development of a set of national guidelines.

Wangaratta smallgoods manufacturer, Felix Gamze, fell foul of Victorian meat safety regulator PrimeSafe, when he was trying to run salami making workshops.

He welcomed a national guideline, saying the difference from what was acceptable in New South Wales to that permitted in Victoria was huge.

“It makes sense to do it nationally. It’s not rocket science, it’s the same science they will use across the whole of Australia.

“It’s terrific if it can all be agreed on by all the states, but what variations are they going to throw into it?”

State based interpretations of national guidelines would mean Victoria was not facing a level playing field. “We tend to get that, in Victoria,” he said.

“It’s terrific if it can all be agreed on by all the states, but what variations are they going to throw into it?”

And former Benalla butcher and smallgoods manufacturer Sandy Leatham, who said she closed her business Hook and Spoon because of heavy handed regulation by PrimeSafe, said she couldn’t understand the aim of the guidelines.

She said around Australia butchers were “doing a great job” but she had no confidence in the authorities, to “do the right thing.

“I was running a paddock to plate butcher’s shop and selling at farmer’s markets – for 10 years I dry aged beef and mutton successfully,” Ms Leatham said.

“The difficulties I had with PrimeSafe were the reason I chose to close.”

Ms Leatham said going through the process of setting up national guidelines appeared to be a waste of time and money.

“It’s very hard to see what good they are trying to achieve,” she said.

“What is their aim? It doesn’t seem to be helping small business or being aware of what the consumer actually wants.”

But MeatSmith’s Troy Wheeler said national guidelines could help overcome some of the inconstencies, between states.

​“The laws and regulations in Victoria are very different to what’s done in New South Wales of Victoria

“At times, it can be very frustrating for the industry, when someone is allowed to do something, and someone isn’t.”

Mr Wheeler said he grew up on the border of New South Wales and Victoria, doing his apprenticeship at a butchery which had outlets on both sides of the Murray River.

“It was crazy what we were allowed to do on one side of the river, compared to what we were able to do on the other side.”

He said Meatsmith had been producing and selling dry aged meat, after setting up facilities regulated by PrimeSafe.

“I think PrimeSafe do a relatively good job, it’s a difficult job trying to appease everybody, but they have the consumer’s interests at heart,” he said.

PrimeSafe had acted against operators who had “tarnished the practice for the rest of us.”

“There are not that many people doing it legally and it’s hard to come by people who are doing it correctly, too.”

Meatsmith, run in conjunction with noted chef Andrew McConnell, had invested “a lot of money” in setting up a dry ageing room, with the appropriate racks, correct temperature and air flow and laboratory testing of meat, to ensure it was safe to eat.

A spokeswoman for PrimeSafe said dry ageing of meat was becoming increasingly popular with high end consumers and restaurants.

“The risks for consumers from dry aged meat include mislabeling meat as dry aged when it is not,” the spokeswoman said.

“Some species of fungi found on meat in uncontrolled conditions have been reported to produce dangerous mycotoxins. However, some fungi are reported as being advantageous by producing flavor enhancing substances.”

PrimeSafe produced a guide about the dry ageing of beef at the request of industry a few years ago and was assisting the industry panel to develop a national guideline.

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