Thursday, July 8, 2010

Wagyu Woes

The other day I assigned some research for my class after reading some disturbing news reports about Wagyu beef in Japan. The assignment was basic, write about the situation in Japan and also find out about Wagyu production in Australia. Being a casual sidebar assignment I allowed a simple web source to be the citation. This is what Maxim Pettersen handed in....

What happened to Wagyu in Japan?:

Japan's prized Miyazaki beef is under threat from the country's first outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease since 2000, which has spread to more than 100 frams. Foot- and- mouth disease is a highly contagious and sometimes fatal viral disease of cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats, and pigs, as well as antelope, bison and other wild bovids, and deer. The disease is highly transmissible and the icubation period has a range between 2- 12 days. It is characterized by high fever, blisters inside the mouth, drooling, blisters on the feet that cause lameness. The outbreak in Japan has forced the slaughtering of 49 seed bulls, leaving only six prized seed bulls that breed the tender beef from Miyazaki. Prime Minister Yukio Hatayama has pledged 100 billion yen ( $1.08 billion dollars) to assist farmers who are expected to lose 16 billion yen from slaughtering their livestock. The foot and mouth otbreak, also known as FMVD, was detected on April 20th, and has spread to 111 farms in Miyazaki, Japan's south, involving more than 85,000 cattle, and pigs. Fears are growing that it may spread beyond Miazaki.

Wagyu Production in Australia:

Australia received its first Wagyu genetics from a Wagyu female in 1990. Frozen semen and embryos have been available since 1991 and there have been numerous imports of live purebreds into Australia, and specifically in 1997, the first fullbloods came to Australia. The Australian Wagyu Association is the largest breed association outside of Japan. Both Fullblod and Wagyu Croos bred cattle are farmed in Australia for domestic and overseas markets. The Wagyu cattle represent only 100,000 of the 28.8 million cattle in Australia, however takes up 40% of the Australian feedlot space in a 12 month period. The FMVD outbreak that has banned the export of Wagyu cattle in Japan, has increased the demand for Australian Wagyu producers, and some producers hope to double their exports to overseas markets such as the U.S.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Kiwi, Papya and Sharp Pointy Things

Last class we decided to test out some meat tenderizing techniques. A while back I had purchased a Jaccard knife and we use it regularly to tenderize tougher veal cutlets, skirt steaks etc. I tell the students about how it is used on a larger scale by many portion cutting processors and has its attributes for introducing marinades deeper into the meat. It also has come under some scrutiny because of the problem of possible crosscontamination of bacteria into a steak type cut that will be cooked to medium rare or less.
The Jaccard has its place in the kitchen and if used and cleaned properly it can be a good way to get cuts that are sitting on the tenderness "fence" to be made more palatable.

On to our testing. We chose to use the Beef Sirloin Flap which is palatable but often a little tough to be served as an unsliced portion. While the Jaccard works well we decided to try some other techniques that will do the job. We experimented with two other methods, applying Papya and Kiwi fruit to steak cuts. We peeled and sliced both fruits and messaged them into two separate steaks and left them loose wrapped over night. The third steak was simply Jaccarded without any marinade or spice. When it came time to cook them we seasoned all three with salt and pepper, lightly so as not to interrupt the naturally occuring tastes. They were cooked to medium rare individually in a heavy black skillet with a little rendered beef fat in the pan to prevent sticking.

The results? All three methods were effective in tenderizing the meat with the two fruit methods differing somewhat from the Jaccard. The mechanical method worked well but without any marinade, it turned out a little dry. It also cooked faster due to the ability for heat to "chimney" up the tiny holes that were pierced through it. Moisture had leaked out of the meat but it was still palatable.

The Papya worked well but left a lightly sweet flavor and carmelized quite a bit in the pan. Papya contains a protease enzyme, papain, which chemically breaks down the collagen muscle fiber sheaths within the muscle. Kiwi fruit also contains protease enzymes and the effects from placing it over the steak was also very effective. The Kiwi didn't have quite the same amount of sweetness but did leave a residual flavor. Both fruits broke down the fibers about equally resulting in a steak that could be cut with a regular steak knife with ease. At 24 hrs we did not experience a "mushy" texture that can happen when steaks are left too long. In a previous test we left a steak with Papya over a weekend and it became overly tenderized and very soft which resulted in an unatural texture. The meat fibers had basically disolved.

None of the three in this test were disagreable in taste but there were certainly differences. The question is how would they be used in the kitchen? If you are trying to maintain the original flavor of the meat, the mechanical system is probably best. There is no added flavor. If looking for an ingredient that will add some flavor and can do a nice job tenderizing these two fruits worked well. Other fruits containing protease enzymes are figs, pineapple, and honey dew melon. All of these will do the job but will also add flavor. Be sure not to over marinate due to the mush factor. A half of a kiwi can be enough for about 4 lbs of meat and it is easy to overuse it.