Fred'll fix it

Fred A'Court was editor of Meat Trades Journal for more than 15 years. During that time he saw the industry go through a great deal, giving him valuable insight into what makes the sector tick. Here he offers the opportunity for butchers and retail operators to get practical answers to the kind of issues they are facing every day. If you have a trade question that you would like to have answered, and no-one else can help, write to 'Ask Fred' at Meat Trades Journal, William Reed Publishing, Broadfield Park, Crawley, RH11 9RT or email ask.fred@william-reed.co.uk

Q I am a microbiology student reading meat processing and quality control of meat. I have to write up this topic for my upcoming project, but I have not been able to place my hands on good detailed material. Can you help please? ET


A There are only a few specialist publications on the market. The following are written in English.

At 584 pages, The Handbook of Meat Processing by Fidel Toldrá, published by Wiley Blackwell, is comprehensive. It presents the current state of manufacturing for the most important meat products and Toldrá, himself a renowned meat expert, heads an international group of meat scientists, who have contributed to this good reference book.

Part one looks at technologies, beginning with meat chemistry, biochemistry and quality and then provides background information on processing techniques, such as freezing, cooking, smoking, fermentation, emulsification, drying and curing. Part two focuses on important products, including cooked and drycured hams, cooked and fermented sausages, bacon, canned meat, pâté, restructured meats and functional meat products. Each chapter addresses raw materials, ingredients and additives, processing technology, main types of products, production data, particular characteristics and sensory aspects, and future trends. Part three offers current approaches for the control of the quality and safety of manufactured meat products, with coverage including: sensory evaluation; chemical and biological hazards.

Meat Processing: Improving Quality, by Joseph Kerry and David Ledward, is also a good read. It reviews the latest research on what defines and determines meat quality, and how it can be maintained or improved during processing. Part one considers the various aspects of meat quality; part two then discusses how these aspects are measured, beginning with the identification of appropriate quality indicators. Finally, the book reviews the range of new processing techniques that have been deployed at various stages in the supply chain. Published by CRC Press, it is regarded as a standard reference for all involved in the meat industry and meat research.

Both these titles cost well over £100, but any good library should be able to obtain a copy for you. A cheaper option is Food Microbiology by William C Frazier, published by McGraw-Hill Education (ISE Editions). It is available from Amazon for £13. The other publications are also available there.


Q Recently you explained the causes of dark-cutting meat, which is a problem I've been having. Where can I get more information on how to prevent it? SB

A Recent research on this problem shows dark-cutting beef can reduce carcase values by as much as £115 per animal, so it is worth understanding the issue. Eblex and the University of Bristol have published new best-practice guidelines, designed to help resolve the problem. Their research has shown that the incidence of dark-cutting beef occurs in as many as 10% of young bulls slaughtered, reducing their value by around 35p/kg. The new guidelines are designed to reduce stress in animals prior to slaughter, which is the major cause of dark-cutting beef. The guidelines can be downloaded from the Eblex website.


Q I am trying to get in touch with colleagues who used to work for Dewhurst. Would MTJ publish a letter asking people to get in touch? JWT

A Ex-Dewhurst employee Norman Finnimore is already building a network forum of contacts. He is keen to link up with old colleagues and is happy for anyone to get in touch by email. He also seems to be on his way to building an historical record of the former retail chain, as he has invoices from 1921 (some relating to Vestey companies), Dewhurst tin badges, postcards of shops, and other items. Contact him by email: norman.finnimore@yahoo.com.