Malaysians need to be educated on the benefits of organic meats.
WAGYU beef (from Japanese cattle) is arguably the finest in the world and is sought after for its marbling characteristics, increased eating quality through a naturally enhanced flavour, tenderness and juiciness, and a high market value.
“Wagyu beef is popular in Malaysia and the highest grade (Marble 10) can reach RM550 a kilo,” says chef Jean-Michel Fraisse, culinary consultant of HTC in Asia and the French Culinary School in Asia.
But Fraisse says he is “not a big fan of wagyu”.
“The only reason people like wagyu is because it is tender,” he claims.
“I prefer organic meat which is cheaper and healthier. For me, taste is most important but many people in the region eat for the texture. However, one has to remember that texture has no taste and will not give you an unforgettable memory.”
Fraisse says there is a general lack of awareness about organic beef and lamb among Malaysians.
“It has to do with branding, not the price factor,” he says.
“The branding for organic meat is not canggih (sophisticated) enough.”
Compared to wagyu, which gourmands will pay a lot for, the price of organic lamb and beef isn’t exorbitantly high.
The problem, Fraisse believes, is that it is “practically impossible” to find good quality meat since there is no specialised meat shop in Kuala Lumpur.
“There is a huge qualitative gap between what we can find in a regular supermarket and what we call good quality meat.
“Imagine how difficult it is to sell organic meat which is even more expensive. People don’t buy because they have not been taught why they should buy these meats,” he says.
Fraisse serves only organic lamb and beef in his French restaurant, La Vie en Rose, in Jalan Raja Chulan, Kuala Lumpur.
“Customers don’t have a choice but to eat organic meats,” he quips, adding that what he serves up is relished with gusto.
Although organic meat is slightly more expensive (up to 30% more) than the usual, Fraisse says his customers do not complain as they can easily perceive the difference in the quality and taste of the meat.
He says: “Our ambition is not to serve cheap food. I’ve been trained to eat and cook good food and I don’t know how to do otherwise.
“We support organic farming because it follows traditional ways of feeding cattle with grass and not grain. Grain-fed meat is tender but has no taste. We used grain-fed meat in the past because it was the only acceptable quality in the market,” Fraisse says.
Organic farming, he says, is more environmentally sound and does not contribute so much to global warming.
Fraisse gets his organic lamb and beef from a “responsible” supplier, who imports the halal organic meats from Australia.
His restaurant also houses a shop that sells groceries and meats, including organic lamb and beef.
“Quite often, customers come back to us to buy the meat for a barbecue or special dinners at home,” says Fraisse, noting that most of these customers are expatriates or real food lovers.
Good for health
It’s common knowledge that organic meats are good for health and the environment. Organic farming places strong emphasis on sustainability, animal welfare and “the harvest” of the product.
But what is “organic meat”?
To be certified organic, all livestock must meet the following criteria: born and raised on certified organic pasture, never receive antibiotics or growth-promoting hormones, are fed only certified organic grains and grasses, and must have unrestricted access to the outdoors.
The livestock must be 100% grass-fed on farms that are completely chemical-free pasture (no pesticides, herbicide and fungicides), and where humane practices are employed.
The livestock is also processed in export-certified processing plants.
According to the Australian Organic Standard, it takes a minimum of three years of management for land and the livestock born and raised on that land to be certified organic.
There is “paddock-to-plate commitment” with organic meats. They are said to have a “good flavour” unique to the pasture and environment in which the animals were raised. They are also higher in Omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid, and are not genetically modified.
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