Frozen Meat Markets

Newsletter No. 72 - Item 4

An article entitled “Frozen foods benefiting from recession” discusses the increase in popularity of frozen foods as one method consumers are using to help reduce food costs in the recession.  This can be considered encouraging news for Ostrich with the current limited, irregular and seasonal supplies.  It is simpler to supply a frozen product than a fresh meat product.  However, care must still be taken to ensure the product is of the highest quality.

Reading the article reminded me of an email that came from a consumer based in the US earlier this month (Feb 2009):

“Hi! I recently took out a couple burgers from the freezer. After defrosting, I cooked one on Friday night, and saved the other for Saturday.   However, when I took the other out to cook, it had gone bad!  I could tell because it developed a strong smell.  I should mention that I kept both burgers in the freezer until bringing them out to cook. Also, I believe that both were all natural and therefore had no nitrates.   So I was just wondering if it's fairly common for ostrich meat to go bad that quickly or perhaps was it just because they were untreated.”

It does not matter which specie, the principles that determine the keeping quality are the same for all meats.  There are two major factors that influence keeping quality, one is the diet the animal was fed in the months prior to slaughter and the other is the slaughter processes including hygiene at slaughter.  If there is a failure in these factors there will be an impact on the keeping quality of the meat.   The challenge we still have with ostrich is that the low volume does not yet enable most production units to provide adequate nutrients to the birds to ensure a reasonable shelf life of the meat.

Our Chairman, Stan Stewart, has slaughtered ostrich from different feed and management regimes over the years as he slaughtered not only his own birds, but also birds of other producers.  He observed variations in the keeping time of meat that were quite significant, from as little as 5 days to in excess of 5 weeks.  These observations made under the same slaughter and hygiene conditions.  The variable was the different nutritional program of the different farms.

When working to establish a new product in the market place it is regrettable that such experiences happen.  Through communication producers, processors and marketers can be kept aware that there is this problem (it has been around for many years), and then steps can be taken to fix the problem.  It is more difficult to fix when working on the very small scale we still experience with ostrich by comparison to other specie because of the higher costs associated with lack of economies of scale.

This communication provides a timely reminder to remember the document “The World Ostrich Association Factors that Influencing Meat Quality”.

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