How meat scientists are getting in on the charcuterie trend
In this video interview, Dr. Phil Bass, meat scientist at Certified Angus Beef LLC, discusses how meat science can improve charcuterie and artisanal meats, during AMSA’s Reciprocal Meat Conference in San Angelo, Texas.
Andy Hanacek: One of the cool things you were talking about with charcuterie was it’s not a trend at this point. It’s a movement in the culinary food world. What do you mean by that? What makes it a movement versus a trend at least in your eyes?
Phil Bass: In my eyes, there are things like a fad that are going to be here and gone. A trend is a little longer lasting, but this movement I believe is here to stay. There is so much interest in the charcuterie, salumi and artisan meats, not just with the foodie side but also with folks who are interested in enjoying meat in a different way. The restaurant community especially is starting to take this up in small bites in some areas, and there are other chef partners that we work with who are making a lot of their own in fact, and I was hoping during our discussion and reciprocation session to simply inspire the meat scientists at this meeting to start to investigate this further.
Hanacek: So the industry should be passionate about this and should get involved. You were talking about that in the session. Why should the industry care so much beyond the bottom line concept of ‘hey, we could possibly make money off this’? Why should they be passionate and involved in charcuterie?
Bass: Certainly there is a business aspect to this whole market, which is practically untouched. If anything from just a pure message is that we need to get involved, because if we don’t, a lot of these folks are going to go out there and do it anyway, and hopefully we can be a resource to them so they are doing it safely, using the appropriate methodologies we have established in the meat science community. Then [we can] also just use the scientific mind to identify potential mishaps that could happen, so we can avoid that. The business aspect, there is a great potential. It’s an untouched market that essentially is in its infantile stages here in North America. Because of that, now is the time to get involved. Get in at the grassroots, the ground floor of this, so as we grow this market, the artisanal meats, the charcuterie and salumi, we are growing with it and we are directing it in the right way instead of the haphazard way it could potentially go.
Hanacek: I know there are a lot of people out there, regular old consumers who think ‘I will just grind up some meat, throw it in a casing of some sort and make some sausage’ and it’s not that simple. The industry needs to be involved.
Bass: Absolutely. There is some simplicity to it, but there is a lot of complexity to it too that we do have established in the meat science community. So we could be an excellent resource to those who are interested in it, and I do hope we have inspired a lot of folks in our meat science community to just start looking at this more.
Hanacek: So where do you see the education of charcuterie going? Is this going to be a very formalized kind of thing? A good parallel might be the whole craft beer thing. I think charcuterie is going to go that way, where you have the equivalent of a microbrewery. That’s semi-formal. It’s not really formal, and you talked a little bit about the coolness of the butcher coming out. The guy with the shirt and the jeans and the long beard. That kind of lends itself to the craft beer hipster thing. Where do you see charcuterie going in that respect? Does [the education] become so formalized that it’s a little less of a pop up thing like the craft brewers are nowadays or does it go that path.
Bass: I could see it going both ways. We still have volumes of craft brewers popping up all over the place. Yes, 10 years ago, 15 years ago, 20 years ago, they were kind of a novelty, and now it is almost ubiquitous in most gentrified areas of metropolitan cities. I do believe that’s here and here to stay. The small processor will continue to grow and continue to produce these types of artisanal charcuterie and salumi, but this is also an opportunity for a large scale operator to get on board to make some really tasty items that could actually help themselves differentiate from a competitor. There are a lot of large volume operators who have some really great high quality items that are very affordable but maybe aren’t of interest of this whole market of the foodie type and the ones that do enjoy the craft beers and who do enjoy the artisanal cheeses. This is a chance to start using some of the more formalized folks who are out there and have larger scale capabilities to produce on a grander scale. It’s a chance for them to start getting in the market, but I certainly see the less formalized, small operator continue to make their own as another point of differentiation. It’s just another great way of enjoying meat.
Hanacek: Theoretically, those small guys are going to be doing off-the-wall stuff like llama prosciutto or something like that.
Bass: It does take some of those artistic minds, a chef’s mind, to bring in the different ideas, and then us in the scientific community, we might be able to take those ideas, formalize them and make them a little more mainstream. Also, it’s just a different way of enjoying meat.