Best beef is consistently good, says top chef
Consistency and quality are the two most important attributes Michelin-starred chef Michel Louws looks for when he is buying beef.
The former executive chef at Huka Lodge said he was more than happy to pay a premium for such beef.
"At the middle to the high end of the market, I would rather have a very good piece of beef consistently than an excellent piece of beef irregularly. I would not pay for that," Louws said.
Louws was a speaker at the recent field day for the supreme winners of the Waikato Farm Environment Awards, Mike and Sharon Barton.
Louws bought his beef from the Bartons' brand, Taupo Beef. He told farmers he listened to what the butcher had to say on determining beef quality.
"Use your ears, you listen, you look."
Louws looked for beef that was marbled. It needed to be aged.
"If they say it's a fresh meat, walk out."
On a recent tour of the country Louws had only come across three nice pieces of beef, he said.
"All the rest have been pretty average."
The meat processors "usually stuffed it up", because they were not prepared to let a carcass age properly.
"They want to warm bone it and they will tell you the story that they have done tests that it is all the same. Don't buy it, it's not true."
A beef carcass had to be hung and left to age for 10-14 days before being handled, he said.
The Bartons' Taupo Beef was high quality and it was local.
He said he was more than happy to pay what Barton considered a premium price. For a high-end restaurant, Barton's premium was "dirt cheap".
Consumer attitudes were beginning to change, he said. They would rather have a good piece of beef twice a week than a poor piece of beef six times a week.
"I might as well get the best. I definitely think there is a market for it."
However, the trend of buying the best quality was slowly changing as consumers started to look at where the beef came from, he said. "If you get in there, most chefs that I know of are very loyal, unless you do anything funny."