The History of Dry-Ageing
Ageing or hanging, has been a cornerstone of the beef production industry for centuries, after butchers discovered that beef left to hang for longer periods of time was more tender and flavoursome. There are two methods of ageing beef – ‘wet’ ageing, where the meat is vacuum packed and refrigerated, and traditional ‘dry’ ageing. ‘Wet’ ageing is sometimes seen as the preferable method as the time taken for maturity is less and a reduced moisture loss means more product to sell.
Although butchers have traditionally aged beef naturally through hanging, the latter half of the 20th century saw a reduction in the popularity of dry-aged beef owing to lack of refrigerator space, and higher demand for product demanding quicker turnaround, as well as the introduction of wet-ageing, which allows for product to reach maturity faster and also has a lower yield loss due to moisture being sealed into the vacuum packed bag. It is only in recent years that dry-ageing has seen a highly welcome revival, with more and more gourmet restaurants and specialist butchers reverting to the traditional process. Here at Dovecote Park we are proud to bring the dry-age process to the supermarket shelves, and offer those buying beef in-store a taste of tradition.
What is the point in Dry-Ageing?
The dry ageing process has a unique dual effect on the product – as beef is aged, the natural enzymes within the muscles break down the fibrous connective tissue. As the collagen breaks down and the fibrous connective tissues disintegrate the meat becomes far more tender. Secondly, as the meat is aged, moisture is lost in the muscle through evaporation, resulting in a loss of up to 20% of the weight of the joint – this intensifies the flavour of the meat and gives dry-aged beef its distinctive taste.
Our Dry Aged Beef
In 2002, Dovecote Park staff designed a bespoke dry-age maturation chiller at our Stapleton plant specifically for our dry-age range. Cuts of beef from our Aberdeen Angus and Hereford ranges - breeds renowned for their eating quality due to the even distribution of fat through the meat – are individually selected for dry-ageing. Once selected, these cuts are hand-wrapped in muslin and placed in the dry-age chiller, where they are aged in a temperature and humidity controlled environment for 30 days. After the meat has matured it is removed from the muslin cloth and the ends of the joint are cut off where the moisture loss has occurred leaving a piece of beef which is darker in colour, more tender and more flavoursome. These are then hand cut by our specialist dry-age butchers, resulting in a truly outstanding product for our customers.