Buying Beef

I’m not a big buyer of meat here in Italy, partly on animal welfare grounds. Italians are not so interested in free range; organic animals, whilst well cared for, are still kept in sheds ironically for welfare reasons – a pink pig will get sunburn in the summer. For me it’s the other way round – animals should be allowed to express behavioural patterns hardwired in their brains, and which drugs they’re given (if necessary) are of secondary importance. Waters are muddied still further when one considers that often, when a producer is very small, registering as organic is an expense they cannot afford. Provenance is everything – and it takes a while to track down suppliers.

My ‘Three Ladies’ butcher in Cingoli sells good beef, and they specialise the local white Marchigiana cattle (similar to the Chianina beef from Tuscany) pictured above.  But it’s been something of a mystery to me why butchers only age the meat for 10 days or so, not 3 to 4 weeks as they do in the UK.

Thanks to Giordano Navaresi, a Milanese butcher I mention in the Food Map, I now know!

The animals are mostly slaughtered at a much younger age than in the UK. Only when the carcass has fat two fingers deep – a function of how mature the cow is – can the meat be aged for 3 weeks or so.  So make sure you have a look at the joint or carcass before making your purchase.

PS The free range scene seems to be changing for egg production – I can now buy uova di galline allevate a terra (free range) eggs in my local supermarket, which wasn’t the case 5 years ago. But I still have to go to Ancona for free range chickens.