Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Putting the Angus into a burger

Some interesting background from a cynical Michael Pascoe below. I myself think that the McDonald's version is a definite improvement on an ordinary burger -- but I don't like the Hungry Jack version at all

Hats off to the year’s most spectacular marketing success, or con job, depending which way you care to look at it: the rise and rise of the Angus beef brand via the lowly means of fast food hamburger mince. McDonald's and now Hungry Jack's have pushed beyond the marketing aphorism, “sell the sizzle, not the steak”, by flogging a vague and arguably uninformed concept of the sizzle.

The Land newspaper reported in September that the launch of the two “premium” Angus burgers had resulted in McDonald's beef sales soaring by as much as 20 per cent. The greatest confirmation of that success has been rival chain Hungry Jack's jumping on the Angus bandwagon. Ah, the power of branding.

But also big winners are Angus cattle breeders – to the chagrin of other breeders - as the massive advertising campaigns print on the brains of the great unwashed that Angus is the superior breed of moo cow. Chances are the vast majority of fast food customers seeking something “a little bit fancy” only know the names of two or three breeds anyway and a great deal less about the meat itself.

It’s a dangerous thing to criticise any cattle man or woman’s breed of choice - you’re much safer criticising their religion or even brand of ute – so I’ll play safe and just say that Angus is a very fine breed, as are several others. The Sydney Royal Easter Show steer and carcase competition is by no means a definitive indication of beef superiority, but for what it’s worth, the Stanhill Trophy this year was taken out by the Limousins with the silver going to Charolais, followed by Shorthorn, Square Meaters (yes, there is such a breed), Poll Hereford, then Angus, Murray Grey, Galloway and Santa Gertrudis. Properly prepared and slaughtered, they are all very fine eating.

Beef taste testing becomes very subjective, as several other competitions can show. What’s more, the breed of the beast is well down the list of what makes a particularly tasty steak. What the animal had been eating, its age and condition and how little stress it experienced in the lead up to slaughter all count a great deal more.

And as for what goes into hamburger chain patties, well, despite the advertising, it’s not actually the prime cuts of prime beef. That sticker on the McDonald’s ads, “Prime Australian Beef“, doesn’t seem to be actually defined as anything by Meat and Livestock Australia. It doesn’t necessarily mean cattle in their prime, just good Australian hamburger mince which, depending on the season and what’s being turned off, can mean a whole pile of old cows as well as the usual offcuts and less-marketable bits from trade steers. So there’s actually nothing particularly special about McDonald’s or Hungry Jack's hamburger mince that happens to be made from cattle that are at least three-quarter Angus (the definition allowed McDonald’s by Certified Angus Beef Pty Ltd).

There might have been a hint of what the marketing success was about in this paragraph from The Land: “Bronwyn Stubbs, corporate communications manager for McDonald's Australia, said Angus beef had come up trumps in its extensive research with local customers to identify what they perceived as a good quality, great tasting beef.”

Perception is a wonderful thing. It was probably helped by the availability of plenty of cattle of that breed with a well-organised breeders’ lobby group promoting them. That Angus burgers were first launched by McDonald’s in the US three years ago no doubt has absolutely nothing to do with it. So congratulations to McDonald’s, Hungry Jack's and Angus breeders on a well-copied marketing format that has more Australians eating beef.

For what it’s worth, taste being such a personal thing, the best beef has to be grass fed – all that grain-fed nonsense just ads weight, fat and maybe some tenderness to a beast while taking out taste. The animal has to be prepared well for slaughter – no stress. And then, if you really want something a bit fancy, it will have lived on desert grasses.

Without doubt the best steak I’ve ever had was in Birdsville while doing a story on the Channel Country’s OBE organic beef. I’ve tasted nothing like it before or since. And the breed didn’t really matter.


Australia now a magnet for people smugglers

The federal opposition says the arrival of another boatload of asylum seekers shows that Australia has become a favoured destination for people smugglers. A boat carrying 11 suspected asylum seekers was intercepted near the Ashmore Islands off northern Australia late on Monday by Border Protection Command.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says the continuing arrival of boat people is putting the assessment system under too much pressure. "The government's indifference and weakness, both in their border protection policies and the decisions they've taken, have ensured that Australia has become a magnet for people smugglers," Mr Morrison told ABC radio on Tuesday. "So we're now left with a situation where we have Christmas Island full, boats arriving pretty much at will and this must be putting extraordinary pressure on the processing systems that need to be undertaken under such overcrowded conditions."

The latest suspected asylum seeker arrivals will be taken to nearby Christmas Island for questioning and to undergo security, identity and health checks.

The interception comes only days after the federal government rejected claims overcrowding in detention facilities on Christmas Island had forced it to move 30 Afghan asylum seekers to Melbourne for processing. It is the 59th asylum seeker boat to have been intercepted in Australian waters so far this year.


Victoria police again (1)

Drug case against ex-cop shooter of Gary Abdallah

A FORMER Victorian detective who was acquitted of murdering a Melbourne criminal has been charged with a serious drug offence. Cliff Lockwood was allegedly caught with thousands of pseudoephedrine tablets in a police raid in the Northern Territory. Mr Lockwood, who shot dead Gary Abdallah 20 years ago, was the first Victorian policeman charged with murder while acting in the line of duty. He was found not guilty.

Northern Territory police will allege that Mr Lockwood was found with tablets imported from Asia when he was arrested in Darwin last month. The 47-year-old is facing a charge of possessing and supplying precursor material to be used in the manufacture of a dangerous drug and possession of tainted property. He has been bailed and will face Darwin Magistrates' Court on January 6.

Abdallah was shot seven times at his flat in Drummond St, North Carlton, in April 1989. Police had wanted to interview him over what he knew of the 1988 Walsh St police killings. Mr Lockwood and his partner, Dermot Avon, were charged with murder but acquitted five years later. Prosecutors alleged Lockwood fired six shots from his own revolver and a final shot from Sen-Det Avon's gun. They said the gunfire could not be justified and amounted to murder.

The prosecution conceded Abdallah had produced an imitation .357 Magnum pistol, but said he could not have posed a danger by the time Mr Lockwood fired the seventh shot.

The then-state coroner, Hal Hallenstein, later made an open finding on the death of Abdallah, who he said police suspected of providing and possibly driving the getaway car after the murders of constables Steven Tynan and Damien Eyre in Walsh St, South Yarra. He found there was no evidence that Mr Lockwood had a pre-determined intent to kill Abdallah. Mr Lockwood returned to Victoria Police after the 20-day trial, but later resigned and went into business.


Victoria police again (2)

Drugs at a cop shop! Whoda thunk it?

DRUGS and drug paraphernalia have been found in a maintenance room at the St Kilda Rd police complex. A police statement said "a small quantity" was found and the Ethical Standards Department are investigating.

The stash was found by a building contractor yesterday, and appears to have been there for a considerable period of time, police say. The type of drug involved is not yet known.

A forensic examination will be conducted to determine the exact nature of the substances and items located, the police statement said.


Abbott untried and untested, but in with a chance

RECENT Newspoll research, showing voters are increasingly concerned their standard of living will decline, has handed new Liberal leader Tony Abbott the perfect opportunity to start rebuilding the opposition's economic management credentials. And he must do this quickly if he is to give the conservatives a fighting chance at next year's federal election.

The Rudd Labor government drained the Treasury coffers and plunged the country into enormous debt as a result of populist multi-billion-dollar stimulus handouts to offset the effect of the global financial crisis.

This buoyed the political popularity that carried Kevin Rudd into power in 2007. But three consecutive rises in mortgage rates, combined with the prospect of steep increases in living costs flowing directly from Labor's emissions trading scheme, clearly undermined voters' optimism when polling was conducted early this month before the Copenhagen climate change conference, leading to the ETS being scuttled.

Rudd and defeated opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull dismissed the effects of this tax-based ETS as a small price to pay in the interests of saving the planet and future generations. But this simply did not wash with voters who, although concerned about the effects of climate change on the environment, were spooked by the spectre of a far-reaching energy tax.

At the same time, Wayne Swan has played down the significance of the decision by the Reserve Bank of Australia to raise mortgage rates on the grounds this comes off a record low base. Surely the Treasurer doesn't really believe mortgage holders will accept a kick in the pants if they are first patted on the head a couple of times.

But whatever the case, at least one more, seemingly inevitable, Reserve Bank rate rise before the May budget will test this complacency. This budget is highly significant for several reasons, not the least of which is that it is the last before the federal election. Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner, who has been flagging an austerity budget after months of unbridled government spending, will be pushing it uphill to resist the sweeteners Labor MPs will need to shore up their constituencies in the run-up to the election.

While employment has held up stronger than initial government forecasts in the face of the international financial crisis, industry is guarded in its projections for business activity in the first quarter of next year. This coincides with the introduction from this week of the government's revamped award system, which will hit small business particularly hard.

Christmas has seen a flurry of strikes and threats of industrial action across the country, most particularly affecting transport and mail deliveries. This was preceded by handsome state government pay rises for public servants, including a pace-setting deal for Queensland schoolteachers. While militant unions are likely to succumb to pressure from Canberra to smother disruptive action in an election year, the key to this will be the post-poll price.

In the run-up to the election, Abbott needs to hone not just a range of credible policies for his alternative government but the qualities of his frontbench team if he is to maximise the opposition's electoral appeal. And there are big challenges ahead in this area. For a start, it will be the first election since 1994 that Peter Costello hasn't held the portfolio of treasurer, in or out of office. Costello may have lacked leadership nous but he was nevertheless a convincing economic policy manager. Abbott's choice for Treasury spokesman, Joe Hockey, has a long way to go to demonstrate the same depth of economic skills. And the jury is well and truly out on his potential as a future leader.

Meanwhile Turnbull's continued sledging of the new Opposition Leader and others who opposed his support for Labor's ETS shows his time as a member of the Liberal parliamentary team is up. He must stand down at the next election or lose preselection for his Sydney seat of Wentworth.

The opposition will enter the election year at long odds to reclaim the Treasury benches. Even so, a week is a long time in politics, as they say.

Rudd's mishandling of the climate change issue, coupled with a string of empty promises in areas such as national health reform, provide Abbott and his team with the platform to mount a serious challenge. At the very least the conservatives must emerge from next year's poll within striking distance of victory at the following general election. They have no chance of reaching even this goal unless they go into the campaign convinced they can win.


1 comment:

Paul said...

I suspect the Hacks and Bobble-heads that do their level best to manufacture opinion through media control in this rapidly declining Nation may not realize just how much support Abbott could potentially drum up. I'm your token Gay reader, and Abbott stands against everything I apparently believe in (so I'm told) and so far he's got my vote come the next election.