Training the future meat producers of the country to produce top quality meat is one of the focus areas at the Department of Animal and Wildlife Sciences at the University of Pretoria (UP). This is also the goal of the South African Feedlot Association (SAFA), which spends a great deal of time and resources on developing the local red meat industry. With this mutual interest in quality red meat production, UP and SAFA joined hands to host the inaugural final-year braai competition, organised by Amelia du Preez and Dr Linde du Toit, on 21 November at the Hillcrest Experimental Farm in Pretoria. The event was sponsored by SAFA and Enviro Lime.

The final-year students and university staff.

The competition was preceded by a crash course on grilling by the renowned South African chef Arnold Tanzer. A short lecture on the theory behind grilling as a cooking technique gave the students the theoretical knowledge they needed to succeed in the competition. This was followed by a demonstration by chef Tanzer. He cooked two sirloin steaks – one on the grill and one directly on the coals. He referred to the latter as a dirty steak. Both adhered to the criteria that the students were going to be judged on, namely colour profile, tenderness, juiciness and overall flavour.

Consumer awareness

As an industry organisation, SAFA plays an important role in ensuring that the quality red meat from local producers is also cooked in a manner that lives up to the high standards farmers and feedlots adhere to. Ryan Read of SAFA says their role stretches beyond just primary production. They also work with abattoirs, butchers and retailers to ensure that the entire value chain knows how meat is supposed to be handled. The Animal and Wildlife Science students at UP are taught these exact same principals in their Meat and Dairy Science module. The consumer, however, is the last link in the chain. The wrong cooking techniques can render the immense effort that goes into producing a prime piece of steak futile.

Read says this is exactly why they wanted to be part of this new initiative introduced by the UP Department of Animal and Wildlife Sciences. Prof Edward (Eddie) Webb, deputy dean: Research and Postgraduate Education of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, said the braai competition and course will be expanded next year to a two to three day course presented to the final-year students, as well as form part of their annual feedlot challenge to be conducted at UP’s Department of Animal and Wildlife Sciences. This will strengthen the students’ involvement in the industry to cover the entire process from farm to fork. Watch the short video of Prof Webb explaining the competition below. – Ursula Human, AgriOrbit