The food and wine section of The Canberra Times had an ad last week which piqued my curiosity:
Red Hill Butcher Shop
If you are after something special from your local butcher shop, make sure you visit Red Hill. The owners smoke their own hams on the premises, have Certified Angus Beef and moisture-infused pork and sell a variety of home-made meals and treats.
They even have a selection of wines from Mount Majura and Lerida Estate Wineries to perfectly complement that medium-rare steak.
Moisture infused pork, hey? In the olden days, when pigs were fat, they didn’t need any moisture infusions. And wasn’t there a moisture infused ham scandal a while ago? So I called the butcher to find out what they meant. For those outside Canberra, Red Hill is one of the oldest and fancy-pantsest suburbs in town, full of large homes on large blocks and lots of very long established
Tony the Butcher was at pains to point out that they were advertising the “moisture infusion” not just because they had to for legal reasons, but because they wanted to establish it as a defined product and that Australian Pork Limited, the industry body, was eager to see it marketed as such. He said that the meat had two additives, Potassium lactate (326, acidity regulator, humectant, bulking agent) and Sodium acetates ( 262, acidity regulator). (Those descriptions are from the Food Standards Australia New Zealand list of food additives and their properties.) I found him very helpful and happy to answer questions and volunteer information. Full points there.
He said that he’d been selling this pork for 12 months, and his pork sales had quadrupled in that time. He sells mainly cutlets and loin steaks, ie lean cuts that need fairly quick cooking.
Tony said that the meat is marketed as “Murray Valley Pork”, which a quick google shows is “the premium retail fresh brand of QAF Meat Industries, which is Australia’s leading producer of pork for the domestic and export markets.”
They’re certainly pushing the premium angle, appearing at the Sydney Good Food Affare (shame about that name) where they’re described like this:
Murray Valley Pork, Corowa, NSW
Succulent and absolutely delicious Murray Valley Pork from the Riverina and Murray Valley region is a premium range developed in 2005 exclusively for quality retail butchers. Moisture infusing ensures that Murray Valley Pork is always juicy and tender and its neutral flavoured brine has been specially developed to provide customers with a consistently high quality eating experience.
No mention of QAF Meat Industries and their rather unpremium business name there. But checking
QAF’s site will tell you they “now supply 20 per cent of pork to the domestic market and account for 30 to 40 per cent of all farmed pork exports from Australia. We employ more than 850 people at 10 sites across Australia, with our largest site and head office for the group located at Corowa in the Murray River basin.”
I only eat premium pork, because what I found out about industrial pig farming was so horrible I couldn’t face supermarket meat anymore. (A hat tip to Noodlebowl for sending me off on that journey – thank you.)
It must be very difficult for the real premium producers, like the wonderful Mountain Creek Farm that we buy our meat from, when industrial giants prey on the ignorance of consumers who don’t know how to cook a particular cut of meat, and are afraid of a bit of fat. You don’t have to eat the fat, you know, but it really helps your cooking. And a little bit is good for you.
I found Mountain Creek Farm by emailing the Free Range Pork Farmers’ Association and asking. If you want a moist pork, I suggest you do the same.
(PS – Michael Croft of Mountain Creek Farm keeps a terrific blog (unfortunately no RSS) where he describes the farming life, the principles behind the farm, his recent trip to the Terra Madre artisanal producers’ conference in Turin and how a man who was a vegetarian for seven years became a beef and pork producer. I have since met an ex-vegan couple who are now his enthusiastic customers – that’s how good the meat is. The farm will be featured in the 10 December issue of The Canberra Times’ Food & Wine section. Sales details are on the website. And I have no connection with them, beyond being a really happy customer.)