Beef mince in France is made from good quality meat and run through the grinder once on a fairly coarse setting. It is frequently made to order, when the customer asks for it. No preservatives are allowed to be added and the law does not permit it to sit on the supermaket refrigerator shelf longer than three days unless packaged with gas to store it in an oxygen free environment, whereupon it is granted a couple more day's shelf presence.
A steak haché pattie, produced to order by my local butcher.
The French preference for eating beef mince raw or virtually raw means that Europe wide the rules about how beef mince is sold are very strict. The ubiquitous steak haché is considered best if served seared on the outside but still fridge cold in the middle. Steak tartare is very popular in workers restaurants. The British and Irish complain the regulations are too stringent and restricting, because in their cultures mince is always well cooked so there is less risk of consumers being made ill by bacterial contamination. They argue that the strict rules about what goes into beef mince (no sulphur dioxide preservatives, no connective tissue, limited fat) make what should be a staple unnecessarily expensive.
My butcher makes steak haché to order.
Despite the traditional attachment to fresh raw beef mince, consumer habits are changing, even in France. Beef sales in France are split 70% to household consumers, with the remaining 30% sold to the catering trade. Forty years ago mince only made up one percent of total beef sales, now it is 30%. These days households purchase 80% of their mince from the supermarket, with the remaining 20% being purchased from independent butchers and specialist retailers. Consumers are also increasingly choosing processed products that require less skill and time to cook and are cheaper. Mince that has been processed further than just pure meat once through the mincer is classed as a 'preparation' and may be finer (more mushy in texture), containing connective tissue, more fat, sulphur dioxide to preserve colour and prevent bacterial growth, spices and herbs. All of this must be clearly indicated on labelling.
However, the most popular product remains the standard and ubiquitous 15% fat steak haché pur boeuf which retails for around €10/kg. Many customers still prefer to buy from an independent butcher because of concerns around provinence (after BSE and horse meat scandals).
The rules in Australia regarding the sale of beef mince are very similar, but it is less common to have mince prepared on the spot as customers demand it.
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