Aubrey Allen English Bacon

The English Bacon Sandwich is almost as rarely glimpsed as a dodo riding a unicorn on a visit to see the Lochness monster.

Bacon, the iconic landmark on an English breakfast. A celebration in a patriotic proud manner of all that England stands for. Implied, is that we can achieve anything, face the challenges of Brexit, the slowing of followers on social media, the discontinuance of our favourite Netflix show,  as long as we have a British bacon sandwich to hand. It’s the thing that made hangovers worth having. But saying that we are enjoying British Bacon in the morning reminds me of the genius sketch in Blackadder goes forth where Captain Darling says he is as English as the Queen… and is then lambasted for his German connections.

With the African swine flu now threatening numbers and prompting price inflation this could never be more topical. China has increased its imported pork by 250% to cover the deficit. With the swine flu now in Eastern Europe, it makes you glad we are an Island.

All we hear about is the importance of sustainable sourcing; buy British we are urged! Demands for British beef and lamb. What about pork? Our market is flooded with inferior, poorly produced, highly processed cheap Dutch and German products which skews entirely the English artisan market and makes it appear expensive – but we are not comparing apples with apples, not at all. Nor are we looking at the end product and the amount of water loss in cooking not to mention the utter disappointment on flavour. The imported counterparts are pumped full of chemicals, water (more than half of all bacon is imported and the figure could be higher as the bacon is processed here but is foreign pork).  They use cheap old Boar pigs which produce wide flat eye of bacon, darker in colour and with very little fat on. These are mass produced in a commodities market in large tumblers with high levels of water and polyphosphates to encourage water retention. It is tumbled with iced-water which encourages again high water retention. They then freeze the product fully before slicing. What is worse, is so many people who care about buying British only do so to a point or are at times misled into believing they are purchasing a British product.  If we could get together to support English bacon and let the consumer know the difference then we can all charge more, give back more to our English farmers and give our guests a bacon that is welfare friendly, better for the planet and with a nutritionally higher value.

We started curing our own bacon last year simply because finding good English bacon is almost impossible on the scale that we require. We now have fully traceable, deliciously succulent bacon that is truly English. To find out more click here

 

Aubrey Allen Burger

It’s the Year 2084; Science fiction becomes science.

2 July 2084

A family drive in their electric car, down the old Banbury road that weaves mysteriously between acres and acres of hydroponic laboratory facilities, the solar panel roofs glistening in the sunlight as the masses of greenhouses provide an obscure and obscured view. Children jostling to see if it’s petri dish burgers or silicone slime sausages to get their point on the car journey home.

Everyone knows exactly where their burgers come from as they are owned by Glaxo Smith Kline Tesco, or some such agglomeration. Each burger is prepared in a mechanical and methodical way by machines; a cheap and inexpensive way to serve a growing and dispassionate population. Each burger packed with the proteins and vitamins needed for a day and no variance in flavour worldwide. Everything is controlled. The only indication of the largest live cattle market in the world is a small sign as you enter Banbury “ Old Cattle Market “ which starts the children off again with questions “did you ever see a cow in a field mummy when you were little? “

Wistfully imagined perhaps. How has this even started to happen? I cast my mind back to 2012 and the horsegate scandal where the meat industry was shaken and people became mistrustful of the poor old cow who has sustained our nation for generations. A scandal brought about not so much by the farmers and producers so much as that constant race for cheapness that we allow the supermarkets to dictate. Instead of working together to promote the best meat in the world and to encourage responsible meat eating, we allow the public to believe this utter rubbish that it is possible to get good quality nutritional food at supermarket sweepings prices.

We continue to be so far behind so many countries in the world, such as the U.S and New Zealand who have a fantastic eating quality system for their meat meaning that people know exactly what they are eating – be it USDA prime at 80 U.S dollars for a steak or entry level lesser quality cattle at 30 U.S dollars.

If we allow the chemists not the cows to produce some burgers and put these on our shelves for 50% less than its bovine friend, where will this end? Can we have a consolidated and brave approach please as a wider industry as concerned with preserving our fields of cattle and sheep as promoting a sustainable future for our industry and our landscapes.

Yes there have been some shameful scandals and is it unsurprising some people are turning from meat and giving veganism a go. But we have got some incredible producers, some wonderful meaningful stories of heritage as well as a truly natural product that nourishes a nation. The farming industry may not be so easy to control as petri dishes in labs, but if we roll over and let them control our food, what next?

If we move towards a meat free burger but continue to eat meat, this will lead to an astonishing 30% of the carcase going to waste – a needless rearing of a wonderful beast for at least 30% to be thrown away (we already in the meat industry face a crisis with billions of pounds of meat either not used or exported).

Visit our burger room and understand how we build trust with our clients and consumers through using a natural product with scientific evidence on consistency and sustainability.

Why we don't surrender to tender

That just about sums up how I feel about tenders. The excitement mounts as the deliciously attractive headline figures reach your inbox promising a wonderful partnership with a multi-site national brand looking for someone who understands provenance and consistency.

It sounds good doesn’t it? The buzz around a sales office as figures are banded about.

You sign into the tender documents which reach over 10 different attachments each with in excess of 40 discrete sections needing varying input from accounts, to quality assurance, purchasing, sales and directors.

They want to delve into your company and your relationships with other people deeper than a journalist digs dirt on a dodgy politician. Still, you continue to read, lured by the continued promises of quality and consistency and partnership.

You click on the product list … 90 percent of the time you are met with an unwieldy spreadsheet into which a simple cut and paste is impossible with 15 columns to complete, all with the unfamiliar packaging specification of the incumbent supplier meaning that you need to translate your own prices into 5 x this or that.

Then you search, desperately at times for a column telling you what the specification is – where does it come from? Country of Origin? Classification meat chart giving us some indication of age of animal at slaughter or hint at quality? It isn’t there.

This can’t be right? The documents before that drew you in were adamant that quality was key. You work your way through the reams of electronic paper to find, if you are lucky, a tender weighting: 60% is on price.

You pick up the phone and this is how it goes:

Supplier – “Hello, we would love to understand more of what you do and what you are looking for in a key supplier – could we meet please to see if we think we can work together“

Tender person – “We really are too busy at this stage gathering information so if you can just put it together (oh yes I forgot to say the deadlines are often 7 days turn around!) and we will look at all the tenders and get back to you (they do, sometimes 6 months later after much chasing).

The phone goes down. You then have a choice. You turn all your teams attention to this one document clinging on still to the hope (it’s not the despair I can’t cope with it’s the hope!), or you can shut up, move on as you politely decline (they are often horrified that you won’t tender).

I am left with the impression that they want a number to fill a gap for them – we need 6 butchers, 3 fish mongers and 2 grocers to tender, like a distorted happy families.

We choose to shut up and move on as without specification or a willingness to even meet to discuss how you could work together. We are turning our own industry into a commodities market who are racing to the bottom together. If tenders are your thing and you deal only in commodities; great.

We aren’t.  We deal in only the top 5% of beef and lamb in the world so why would we spend weeks or months working on a tender when all that happens is they look at the last page and see the cheapest price and go with that. We believe that if you have to purchase ingredients for your business it can either be a cost or investment and we work hard to help to be an investment in the marketing with our clients and help them grow.

Best put now in the words of the first American astronaut to orbit the earth ……

“I guess the question I’m asked the most often is:

“When you were sitting in that capsule listening to the count-down, how did you feel?”

Well, the answer to that one is easy. I felt exactly how you would feel if you were getting ready to launch and knew you were sitting on top of two million parts – all built by the lowest bidder on a government contract.”
― John Glenn , first American astronaut  to orbit the earth

Aberdeen Angus on Aubrey Allen farm trip

The average size of a single breed herd in England is 28-50 and yet to provide just 8 fillets per week from one farm to a restaurant requires one farm to have 600 cattle. Curious? Read on…

There is more Aberdeen Angus beef sold in this country than is ever produced. Belted Galloway graces more menus than pastures. Gloucester Old Spot pork is lesser spotted than you would be led to believe.

10 years ago the fashion for naming breeds and single farms really took off. The result? Producers and suppliers over promising and chefs having unrealistic aspirations on what is actually achievable.

It is more than that as well; there is still a lack of understanding of how farming works and what are the best criteria for knowing you have the best beef.

Let’s take the first bold statement: there is more Aberdeen Angus sold in this country than is ever produced. We have all seen the assertion by national burger chains that all their beef burgers are Angus –  how many of us also see the small print on the screen? 30 years ago the numbers of the Aberdeen Angus Society in the UK were dwindling. As the markets were flooded with continental breeds the Angus was out of favour. What did they do to increase their membership? They changed it from a pure breed society to one that would accept any beast that had been sired by an Angus bull. The result? Angus crossed with dairy producing a dairy steer slaughtered at 14 months – a world apart from the original vision and far cry from the best beef you can have.

Back to the decade of fashion and the single breed. We heard time and time again that an 80 cover restaurant for example was able to get pure breed from a single named farm for all of their beef fillets.

Let’s assume that they only want 8 whole fillets of beef per week. They will need to source from one farm that can produce finished cattle at the rate of 3 per week for 50 weeks of the year. That’s 150 cattle per year. In order to produce that level of cattle, a farmer would need a herd of 600 cattle (if we agree that proper suckler beef cattle take between 3-3 ½ years from conception to finish).

The average herd size of a single breed cattle in England is 28-50 cows. Then you consider how many single farm pure breeds appear on menus.

To learn more about the questions to ask to make sure you are getting the best beef, contact our sales team on 02476 422222 or come and visit us at our next chefs day

 

Aubrey Allen butchery demonstration for chefs at Menu Inspiration day

Today I pretended I was a chef… and for those of you who know me will understand what a huge leap of the imagination this is or as my 12 year old would say, more like dystopian fiction or perhaps horror…

Don’t panic Clive Dixon, Luke tipping, I didn’t pick up a cook book or frying pan. Instead I considered if I was a chef where would I get my day to day inspiration from in this ever busy world.

When time allows, of course, throw off the whites, meet friends or go with your team to inspiring restaurants to fuel the creative juices. However, when you can’t and the recipe book flick through hasn’t quite cut it where do you turn for menu ideas?

I googled, menu ideas… you don’t get much. We work hard as a butcher with our teams to develop them and help them to understand the job of a chef – there is so much more than the cooking.

We have a product development team of course, but we feel it’s the responsibility of all of our client care team to bring inspirational products to market and help chefs create a point of difference on menus.

Some of the new or re-invigorated new things that we have… English Earl Stonham Wagyu – pure bred English Wagyu, one hulking great 600 plus kilo whole carcass, per week allows the team to bring some creative differences to old favourites. At the risk of ripping off the M&S advert, this isn’t just bresola, this is pure bred English Wagyu bresola, a rich alternative. Or why not carpaccio of English Wagyu, an escalope or brochette with a difference?

Free Range Milk Fed English Suckling pigs. This is new for us. Why? Of course we can get Suckling pigs but we wanted the highest welfare and we were not satisfied with the general commercial practice of taking the piglets from mums as they suckled. To find out more about our higher welfare older suckling pigs with all the fantastic milky flavour click here or speak to our team.

And as for lamb – we go into over drive in lamb season helping chefs to balance menus, finding cost effective alternatives to racks of lamb, saddles and chumps. From our wonderful paves to a spring twist on confit lamb belly. All our lamb is from the South West and the area is so good, our lamb producers have PGI status.

Noticed a pattern in our inspiration? Its all about English produce so when Article 50 comes to an end there will be no changes for us or for you  – No man is an island , but with our purchasing philosophy bound to British for the last 85 years , we can come close.

See here for our Brexit statement: Brexit Statement

To find out more about how we can help to inspire you and your menu ideas, come and see us and our butchers on April 29th. Click here to book

 

Lucianne Allen at Aubrey Allen's Big Apprenticeship Day

Butchers continue to help shape a sustainable future for the industry!  

For the second time, Aubrey Allen has held their unique event at their Academy to bring apprentices from the farming, butchery and catering community together in a fitting end to National Apprentice Week 2019.

Aubrey Allen, award winning National Butcher based in Coventry worked with colleges and restaurants to create a unique Apprenticeship day. The idea was to give the apprentices an opportunity to shape their own future by facilitating a day of introductions and shared vision.

There were short talks from inspirational award winning Farmer, James Evans, European Champion Butcher, Michael Perkins alongside Aubrey Allen Managing Director Russell Allen and Chef, Andreas Antona, to set the tone for the day, which was all about working together to make the future of British food more secure and better than ever.

Lucianne Allen, Sales and Marketing Director at Aubrey Allen, said

“The day was about the apprentices, them working together, understanding the food chain from the farmer to the chef. If we want a sustainable farming future in this country and people passionate about growing great food for the plate it starts here.

The day revolved around group discussions focusing on what factors each sector considered when rearing or purchasing meat and what benefits there would be to join those thoughts up to create one vision of a more sustainable future. They all took part in a chicken butchery demonstration, a beef tasting session and finished with a dragons den style presentation from the students.

Zac Whittle, Galvin Restaurants  

It was very interactive and insightful. The apprentices really enjoyed it and left with lots of knowledge. It definitely got them thinking about where and how the food comes into the kitchen as well as what they see at the supermarket. The speakers were great! Sign us up for next time.

Bryan Anderson, Stratford College

A massive thank you, the event was superbly well organised and the content was timed perfectly to keep the students interest. We would love to be involved again next year.

Aubrey Allen Dry Aged Beef

Would you ever pick up the phone to a wine merchant and ask “how much please for a bottle of wine” ?

I doubt it . You may call and enquire about the Chateau LaFite Rothschild if budget permits or you may have to settle for the Gallo Family vineyards.

Would you expect those 2 bottles of wine though to be quoted for as “a bottle of wine” or would you expect it to be widely different?

From trade to consumer everyone understands the general difference in wine pricing; how much is available, the terroirs, the grape, the methods and age and nobody would dream of saying such diverse wines were comparable.

And yet, as a meat industry, that is what we are faced with daily – invitations to tender for business with a product list that reads  “sirloin steak” “rib eye steak” “rack of lamb”; no provenance never mind true specification according to the European wide classification scale.

When you judge a product simply by price rather than reference to eating quality, ethical rearing, age of cattle at slaughter, time spent dry ageing, you not commoditise that product but devalue our whole industry; if we as the experts don’t revere fantastic produce, how can we expect this in consumers?

The meat industry at abattoirs rate carcasses via a classification system and there are 56 different classifications and that’s before you look into specific geographical rearing, specific breeds and dry ageing which brings its own extra level of specification. Where does this appear on a purchaser’s invitation to tender? It doesn’t.

If we allow purchasers who do not understand about meat purchasing to buy solely on price, then it is just a race to the bottom. Guess what happens next? You have meat scandals like horse gate. You have 6 major catering butchers going bust within the last 12 months. What next? When will we stop being shocked by these scandals and closures and start accepting that we need to truly value our ingredients?

To find out more come and visit us at our next chefs day or book a private unit visit.

 

Aubrey Allen wins Chefs Choice Award

Aubrey Allen butchers in Warwickshire are celebrating as they have won the Chef’s favourite Butcher for the 8th time.

The Restaurant Magazine which represents news stories for food service, runs a competition annually where chefs can vote for their favourite products, suppliers, and brands in the hospitality sector. Thousands of chefs voted for the awards and Aubrey Allen was voted Best Meat Supplier.

Managing Director Russell Allen said “ We are thrilled to have been named as the chef’s favourite supplier once again. We are so lucky to have such a dedicated team who understand our values”.

Award winning butchers, Aubrey Allen are celebrating again as their founder’s granddaughter has scooped a National Industry Award.

Lucianne Allen, a former criminal Barrister, has worked in the family business for 10 years and on Friday received Meat Businesswoman of the Year – Wholesaling at the first Women in Meat Industry Awards.

The awards held by Meat Management at the Royal Kensington Garden Hotel on the 16th November relied on votes from people within the industry after Lucianne was shortlisted for the awards and went on to receive most votes.

Speaking about the success Lucianne said ” to be recognised as a business woman means the world to me; having changed careers 10 years ago and having no formal qualifications in business I am delighted with the result. I invest a great deal of time in studying business books and videos to help build great teams which I am lucky enough to have . My all female marketing team entered me without my knowledge which was a bit sneaky but they are vindicated now I suppose! I hope it will inspire other woman to go into the meat industry and use their talents to improve the industry and also create a great lifestyle for themselves.”

 

 

Butchers named best family business 2018

Award winning family butchers, Aubrey Allen, have won Family Business of the Year award at the Coventry Telegraph Business Awards .

The awards held on Tuesday night, were hosted at the Ricoh arena, Coventry with over 600 people and Aubrey Allen, who started in Coventry in 1933 were awarded the prestigious award, flying the flag once again for Butchery in the business world.

The awards were judged on who from the family business were active in the company, how did they continue to develop their learning and how did they help their teams.

Lucianne Allen, sales and marketing director, who collected the award with Simon Smith, client services director said “ a family business isn’t made just by having family members; it’s the values, the atmosphere and the talent you nurture that really makes it feel like a family. In our awards nomination a video of Ray from our sales team who has been with us for over 27 years was included and Simon Smith who went from Saturday boy 30 years ago to Director. It’s making the whole team feel like a family which encourages staff to stay and allows us to drive the business forward.“