Today’s college students have an appetite for high-quality fare that’s healthy and convenient. But there’s another catch: They also want their food to be sustainably sourced. Forty-six percent of students, up from 37 percent in 2013, say it’s important that the foodservice locations they visit are socially and environmentally responsible, according to Technomic’s College & University Consumer Trend Report.
This means that for on-campus operators, sourcing ingredients that meet these varied student demands is more important than ever. But it’s also important to tell the sourcing story behind each menu item—and for some ingredients, the story is a compelling one.
Take for example cattle rancher Sam Burton-Taylor. His farm, Kenny’s Creek, runs approximately 20,000 head of black Angus cattle on four properties in southern New South Wales and northern Queensland, Australia. He specializes in naturally raised beef that’s 100-percent grass-fed with no added hormones or antibiotics—something he’s passionate about. “Grass-fed is just better all around,” he says. “It’s better for the environment, better for the animals and better for consumers.”
While Sam is a fourth-generation farmer, his passion for the farm came later in life. Sam previously had a successful corporate career in Sydney, but he decided to swap it for life as a cattle rancher. In 2010, he and his wife, Nikki, bought the butcher shop where his grandfather once worked in rural New South Wales. He sold the shop last year, but what he learned from his customers was invaluable—and it’s led to him to sharpen the family’s focus on raising cattle as naturally and sustainably as possible.
Sam says, “Customers want to know where their beef is coming from, that it was treated humanely and what it was raised on. While full traceability is the law of the land in Australia, and grassfeeding is common practice, we weren’t drawing attention to it.”
“When we brought our story to the front of the store, it resonated with our customers,” he says. “I believe customers want beef to taste like beef, with a more full-flavored, natural beef taste. When you bite into a steak, you should know you’re eating meat.”
Flavor and quality, naturally
Consumers and chefs alike have been taught that it’s the marbling that gives meat its savoriness. In reality, marbling from fat is important, but just one of many factors that affect the flavor and tenderness of a cut of beef.
While as a rule, grassfed beef won’t have the marbling that grain-fed does, as it’s naturally leaner, it is still packed with flavor. And grassfed cattle farmers like Sam that focus on choosing breeds and practices that yield better-eating meat achieve the tenderness consumers are looking for.
The fresh factor
Many consumers and chefs may assume that beef from Australia is frozen for shipment to ensure quality. It’s true that some Aussie beef is frozen for export to the United States, but this is mainly for manufacturing and burger patties. Grassfed beef from Australia that’s sold as whole-muscle cuts is typically shipped by ocean in chilled containers.
It’s highly efficient and environmentally conscious to ship this way, and because of the packaging technology and stringent processing standards in Australia, Sam and other Aussie ranchers can deliver a 120-day shelf life for their beef. “Processing grassfed animals straight from the paddock means they’re also cleaner, which is better for both shelf life and food safety,” he says.
The process of shipping chilled product to the U.S. can improve the eating quality of beef, too, as it’s essentially wet-aging the product during the transport phase, creating a more tender product.
Sam Burton Taylor, wife Nikki and daughter
This post is sponsored by Meat & Livestock Australia