Vernet has the ability to determine the age of an animal, whether it was stressed prior to slaughter, and even the sex of the animal – all through how it tastes. This supports the notion that we should only be eating ethically grown meat – meat that, while alive, roam the paddocks freely and walk to slaughter as calm and relaxed as possible.
His taste buds it seems only extend to beef. In the article he demonstrates his taste skills with three different steaks all of different maturity: a 46 day maturation or ‘aging’; a 21 day maturation; and a 9 day maturation. He can also detect the sex of the animal – a slight metallic taste indicates female hormones whereas saltiness possibly indicates the animal was a bull.
What you’re looking for in a good steak is three to four chews per mouthful, he says. “You chew beef at the back of your mouth and if it’s too tough, you get beyond about four chews and automatically bring it forward. That’s when you know you have a problem. But that’s not necessarily anything to do with age.”
If consumers educate themselves well enough about the required quality of meat then surely the demand will drive the supply. First we need to convince the butchers that it’s worthwhile information and that it will help them sell more meat, and we have to lobby the Food Standards Authority to ensure that the age of meat, and the preparation of it (hanging and aging) are facts that we consumers want to hear.
Check out Laurent Vernet’s tips for the perfect steak.