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Choice rates steak: Supermarkets vs premium butcher

The quality of beef from major supermarkets is just as good as beef from premium butchers, according to a new study.

Experts from the consumer group, Choice, assessed the physical appearance – including colour, marbling and amount of fat – of six cuts of raw beef from Aldi, Coles, Woolworths and a premium butcher. They found that many of the supermarket cuts rated as high in quality or almost as highly as the cuts from the premium butcher.

The experts rated Coles as having the best T-bone, Aldi the top rump and Woolworths the juiciest sirloin. The premium butcher scored the highest for its scotch fillet, and the blade steak scored evenly across all outlets.

"We tested six different cuts of steak – rump, sirloin, scotch fillet, T-bone, blade and eye fillet – and assessed them according to colour, marbling and amount of fat," Choice spokesperson Ingrid Just said.

"Despite some claims that supermarket butchers are inexperienced or poorly trained, the surprise result from our study was the impressive standard of the chain store cuts and the inconsistency in the quality of offering from the premium butcher."

Despite the importance of judging the physical appearance of beef, experts agreed that understanding the jargon in labelling was the best way for consumers to determine quality.

Legislation introduced in New South Wales on 31 August 2010 requires the age of beef to be labelled, with the youngest cuts warranting a premium price. All beef products labelled ‘grain-fed’ or ‘organic’ must also be proven and accurate according to the new legislation.

Meat Standards Australia (MSA) has developed a scientific, grading system that predicts the eating quality of a cut of steak. More than 80,000 consumers participated in a MSA consumer testing, which covered more than 560,000 beef samples. The MSA grade takes into consideration the tenderness, juiciness, flavour and overall liking of different cuts of meat. Only producers registered with MSA are eligible to display labels that include MSA grade and ageing information.

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