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Meat Quality- I don't know how I can tell from reading the label?

(23 Posts)
owlelf Fri 05-Oct-12 07:23:17

Apologies if this seems a stupid question but I am unsure how I can tell the quality of meat (and meat products) from the label?

I know the real basics: that organic meat comes from animals reared with less chemicals; free range hens have better living conditions but that is about it.

I've begun shopping in Aldi recently, but I've avoided buying their meat. I'm assuming that because it's cheap, it's poor quality, but I'm not sure how to find out whether that is actually the case.

I was quite tempted by Aldi's schnitzel but I was worried it would be one of those things made up from all the 'bits' of the animal that are left over- but I don't know how I can find this type of information? Same goes for sausages and burgers?

I would love to know more about this, can anyone help please?

mrsvilliers Fri 05-Oct-12 09:24:44

If you look on the back the meat should have a percentage beside it, that will tell you how high the meat content actually is. I'm afraid something like a schnitzel probably is made up of all the ropey stuff though, they don't have to state what the meat is. The cheaper a product is the more likely it is to have substandard meat or meat subsidiaries I. Sorry.

mrsvilliers Fri 05-Oct-12 09:28:12

Basically the cheaper the meat the worse condition it has been reared in. Although you should bear in mind that you can't intensively farm beef or lamb so that's always going to be a higher quality than cheap chicken or pork. Hope that helps.

On processed products you need to check the ingredients for added water, its often used to bulk out cheap meat particularly in chicken and pork products.

Sausages and burgers look for meat content. When you compare a value range to a premium range you'll be amazed at the difference.

Housewifefromheaven Fri 05-Oct-12 09:30:08

Anything that isn't a 'cut' of meat, is processed. Some food uses mechanically removed meat.

I don't eat it very often, however I am partial to a waitrose chicken kiev occasionally!

Also 'formed' ham is processed too.

AMumInScotland Fri 05-Oct-12 09:33:34

In general, if it's been "reshaped" like I assume a schnitzel has, and doesn't say anything much about what it's made from, you can assume it's going to be the cheaper parts of the animal.

But is that such a big deal? Isn't it better to use up all of an animal rather than just the prime cuts? The meat isn't automatically "better for you" because it's a prime steak rather than minced up bits and pieces.

Some meat products will also have things like the fat content, and that gives you information which is relevant, as you don't want to eat high quantities of meat fat all the time. Burgers and sausages tend to have that information, but I'm not sure what the law is on labelling for other meat products.

ethelb Fri 05-Oct-12 09:34:04

its very difficult is the answer. I have given in and now eat less meat and the stuff I do eat is from our local butcher (however, a good butcher who can tell you where the meat is from is rare) or Farmers Choice (an online shop

The biggest problem I have is when eating out tbh. And stuff for packed lunches.

Sorry to be so difficult, but one useful tip is to look for stuff that is British in origin as we have quite high welfare and safety standards compared to the rest of the EU. It's not perfect, but it is a little bit better.

PigletJohn Fri 05-Oct-12 09:36:29

For beef, look for deep red rather than pink, with some fat marbling.

For products containing meat such as pies or sausages, look for any of the words "mechanically recovered tapioca reformed" and fling them as far away as you can.

A lot of Aldi sausage-like products are made to german standards and far superior to British ones. They have a thing called Bockwurst in a tall glass jar that is twenty times better than hot dog sausages.

owlelf Fri 05-Oct-12 12:12:50

Thank you for your answers. They are really helpful.

Amuminscotland your point about using up all the bits of an animal in interesting, and I guess that you are right that the 'odd' bits are not necessarily any worse for you than the more conventionally used stuff.

But I do think that the type of product that uses the 'odd bits' is more likely to be a 'mechanically recovered meat' type product. Which I assume is to be avoided (as suggested by Pigletjohn).

I wonder if all mechanically recovered meat has to state this on its packaging? The schnitzels I looked at in Aldi didn't state anything along these lines. In fact there was no ingredients list- just a percentage of meat (I can't remember what the number was).

PigletJohn Fri 05-Oct-12 13:19:53

no, for example pork pies have a lot minced-up of pigs' heads in them, but not MRM (it's the crushed bone, I'm told, that absorbs the juice, so cheap pork pies don't have jelly in them now)

however some meat pies (not, I think, the Fray Bentos ones) and "stewed steak" are made of lumps of MRM glued together.

I presume that the minced-up ears, ovaries and scrotums end up in sausages. If you see the word "rind" it means minced-up skin.

It's enough to make you turn veggie.

PigletJohn Fri 05-Oct-12 13:28:41

if you look at the ingredients list for a British sausage it will say something like

Pork (42%)
Rusk (=bread)
Pork fat
Wheat starch

If you look at the ingredients list of a German sausage it will say something like
Pork (100%)

Aldi sell a lot of German sausages

I undersytand that British sausages cannot be sold in most European countries as they fall way below the quality standards

SquishyCinnamonSwirls Fri 05-Oct-12 13:30:06

I've just got a pack of Aldi Weinerschnitzel out of the freezer to look at for you. They're 80% pork and nowhere does it say that it is derived from MRM.

They're actually pretty good, and appear to be a pork chop beaten and flattened (like you'd do with a meat hammer) and then coated. You can clearly see the grain of the meat when you cut into it so it's not made from reformed meat either.

I'm generally fussy about what meat I buy but these are a handy freezer item. Their free range chickens are very good value and tasty too.

ethelb Fri 05-Oct-12 13:33:22

my sainsburys british sausages are 90%

PigletJohn Fri 05-Oct-12 13:42:06

90%? I'm amazed. What does the ingredients list say?

ethelb Fri 05-Oct-12 13:43:55

I can find out for you this evening. You can get high meat percentage sausages you know. It's just you need to check/pay lots. Plus sausages do need rusk/flavourings to hold together. Why are you so obsessed with German sausage grin

ethelb Fri 05-Oct-12 13:45:04

Pork (95%), Breadcrumbs (Wheatflour, Salt, Yeast), Salt, White Pepper, Dried Onion, Preservative: Sodium Metabisulphite, Nutmeg, Sage, Coriander, Antioxidant: Ascorbic Acid. Filled into natural pork casings.

Meat content 95%.

PigletJohn Fri 05-Oct-12 13:47:45

really good. I must try some. Thanks.

the one in your link is called "Butchers Choice" and says
Pork (72%), Water, Rusk (Wheat Flour), Dextrose, Salt, Yeast Extract, Spices, Stabilisers: Diphosphates; Herbs, Preservative: Sodium Metabisulphite; Antioxidant: Ascorbic Acid. Filled into pork collagen casings

Are you looking at a different one?

ethelb Fri 05-Oct-12 13:48:54

Yes I am looking at a different one. Wierd. I was looking at Sainsbury's Ultimate Outdoor Bred Pork Sausages, Taste the Difference. And that is the link at the top. Wierd.

TellMeLater Sat 06-Oct-12 00:19:01

Depends what your priorities are. The Aldi pork sausages will be made from pigs kept in cages - it's a pretty pleasant way to house an animal - buy British, the welfare standards are higher, pigs are treated in much more humane ways.

One thing I find a tad confusing....chefs bleat on about nose to tail eating and then get all uppity about mechanically recovered meat - how do they differ? Both are using as much of the animal as possible - one is trendy in an old fashioned way and the other looks unpleasant and is cheap but realistically is there a difference?

ethelb Sat 06-Oct-12 13:53:30

@tellme good question! I think it is to do with the use of water and ammonia in the process, which both stay in the meat. Not sure though.

PigletJohn Sat 06-Oct-12 16:23:23

MRM is a slurry of particles that is blasted off the bones with a power water jet, then this "mud" is glued together into chunks that hold together and look like pieces of meat when cooked in a pie but have no texture.

PigletJohn Sat 06-Oct-12 16:28:40

like this
and this

mosaica Sat 06-Oct-12 19:16:58

In this months Good Food magazine, Aldi's Ultima sausages came up first in a blind test. They are 90% meat, apparently.

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