Dry Ageing
Dry aged beef has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best tasting products in the meat sector – a dry aged steak cooked perfectly is a dining experience hard to beat. And yet, it would be fair to say many consumers who have enjoyed dry-age beef know little about how it is produced.

Technically most beef is ‘dry-aged’, as the industry norm is for beef to be aged in sides for a couple of days, with the hindquarter usually aged further. Our regular British beef is hung for 2 days, with the hindquarter aged for a further five days. However, the moniker ‘dry-aged’ is reserved for beef which has been hung or aged for significantly more time than the standard – enough to have a noticeable effect on the taste.

Stronger taste and better texture

Butchers have been hanging meat for centuries, after discovering fairly quickly that hanging the product for longer resulted in a stronger taste and better texture. However, as demand grew higher, ‘wet-aging’ – using vacuum packing - became the most common aging method as it was cheaper to conduct. Wet-aging improves the texture of the product, but with a notably lesser impact on flavour than dry aging. The dry-aging process, with its ‘traditional’ reputation was well-regarded but comparatively rarely seen, and generally confined to specialist restaurants and butchers shops.

We were among the first to bring dry aged product to the supermarket shelf back in 2002, and have since led the movement for dry aged beef – from classic sirloin and rib-eye steaks through to lesser seen dry-aged products such as burgers, mince, meatballs and kebabs.

Cuts are carefully picked for dry aging, using primals from Hereford and Angus cattle procured from a small group of trusted farmers. Once the aging process is complete, a specialised team of dry-age butchers – the only such team in the country - trim the aged cuts with expert care and precision.

In 2018, the company installed, along with their sister business Newtech Ltd, a bespoke dry age refrigeration system, which keeps the meat at an optimum temperature throughout and uses robots to select cuts by maturation date. This greatly reduces the need for the meat to be handled and separates the cuts to avoid them touching – allowing an even aging process. A truly remarkable piece of technology, and a symbol of our commitment toward dry aged beef.
As an oft-featured menu item in high-end restaurants around the world, many customers have seen dry aged beef on offer and enjoyed its fantastic flavour. However the dry-age process itself is something of a mystery to those outside the beef sector.

Whilst most of us within the industry find a chiller full of dry aged beef a thing of beauty, the truth is at first glance the process might seem a little off-putting – beef left to sit out, lose mass and break down tissue over a lengthy period of time.

World-famous flavour and texture

However, it is this slightly odd-looking process which gives dry-aged beef its world-famous flavour and texture. The black crust which forms on the outside of the beef creates a protective shell of sorts which prevents the beef from spoilage. Despite it perhaps looking like the beef has been simply left out, the process is actually conducted at a carefully controlled atmosphere of optimum temperature and humidity.

The aging process has a unique dual effect on the beef – as the enzymes in the muscle break down over time resulting in a highly tender texture to the final product. At the same time, the beef loses moisture – around 10% - as the beef ages, which means the flavour is intensified.

This lengthy process, along with the significant loss of mass is why dry-age is sold at a premium price around the world. Don’t worry about waste though – the crust is saved after trimming and used to make exceptionally tasty pet food.

The resulting beef is a deeper, richer red in colour and exceptionally tender, with a rich umami flavour often described as ‘buttery’, ‘nutty‘ and often just ‘beefy’.

How long can you dry age beef for?

In theory, the sky’s the limit! 60 days and 100 days cuts are not unheard of in certain gastronomic circles, and some bold chefs have even tried upwards of 400 days – although this is referred to as ‘extreme dry age’ and is highly experimental, with the flavour risking becoming overpowering and the potential for waste high. The industry standard is 28 days – our dry aged beef is aged for between 30 and 40 days – which we feel is the perfect amount of time for the optimum flavour to develop.