Switzerland is on 'nose-to-tail' mission to make meat-eating more sustainable - and profitable

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

Clod, chuck, cheek or brisket? Because it's not all sirloin steak... © iStock/RossHelen
Clod, chuck, cheek or brisket? Because it's not all sirloin steak... © iStock/RossHelen

Related tags: Beef, Meat

Pork hock, beef brisket and chicken legs used to be valued cuts of meat in Europe but now often end up as pet food. Swiss meat group Proviande has launched a 'nose-to-tail' project and is helping industry to promote lesser preferred cuts.

In collaboration with Swiss food consultancy Foodways, the Swiss meat trade association Proviande and Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture have launched Savoir-Faire, dubbing it a 'nose-to-tail' project that will increase the value of meat cuts often spurred by Europeans.

The 4-year project will invest CHF 250,000 (€230,000) in a series of annual workshops and training sessions. It will also work with retailers and restaurateurs on promotion techniques for lesser cuts and product innovation.

“A holistic way of eating animals is to be recommended from an ethical point of view and through respect for the animal. Value-creation of the whole carcass also better uses natural resources and is a positive development in the sustainable development of agriculture,”​ it says.

What happens to Swiss beef?

  • 35% of the animal is sold on the Swiss market
  • 15% is exported to other countries (especially offal and feet, but also bones for gelatine production)
  • 15% is turned into pet food, fish food or fertiliser
  • 15% is used for energy production 
  • 12% of the animal is considered a risk substance and either disposed of, used for energy production or processed into animal meal and fat
  • 8% - the skin and fur - is exported for leather production

More than offal: Remember hock, knuckle or oxtail?

Usually, when people hear about ‘nose to tail’, the first thing they think about is offal," ​said Siegenthaler. "Although offal certainly are lesser preferred parts of the animal, they only represent a very small percentage of the parts of the animal that are ready for sale. A much more significant amount is covered by meat cuts that require some skills and know-how to prepare, for instance cuts that need to be boiled or braised.”

In beef lesser preferred cuts such as the chuck, clod, brisket or flank make up 63.1% of the meat cuts.

cuts of beef small
© iStock/FoxysGraphic

Hock, knuckle and rind account for 53.9% in pork, while for chicken the most sought after cut is breast meat but this makes up only 33.9% of the animal while the rest - wings, legs and edible giblets - have less value.

Early days

The project is still at the early stage of development and has not yet determined whether it will focus more on raising the profile of lesser preferred cuts or how to best use them in processed meat products.

Technically, both options are possible," ​head of sustainability at Proviande and head of the Savoir-Faire project, Werner Siegenthaler, told FoodNavigator. "But to maximise the impact of the project, we want to find out which are the best ways to market lesser preferred meat cuts. This is why we plan to carry out a study on consumer behaviour with respect to meat consumption, or the consumption of lesser preferred meat cuts in particular. Based on the findings of the study, we will draw up a set of criteria, which will be used to generate product ideas.”

However, it has identified restaurateurs as pioneers in having a trickle-down influence on household eating habits, and also says tapping into Switzerland’s increased ethnic diversity could potentially drive further interest in forgotten cuts of meat, as other cultures have different culinary preferences.

pork knuckle, roast meat Droits d'auteur  stagnatilis
When was the last time you ate pork knuckle? © iStock/stagnatilis

Eat less but eat better and eat it all

But if the driving force behind the campaign really is about sustainable development, should it also be accompanied by a campaign getting people to eat less meat, or at least replace their premium pork loin for roast knuckle, or swap their sirloin for braised oxtail?

“As Proviande is the Swiss meat industry association, they don’t encourage consumers to eat less meat," ​said Siegenthaler. "But they encourage consumers to eat meat in a more holistic, nose-to-tail way.”

“If the value of lesser preferred cuts of the animal increases, this will probably have that same effect on the price, yes. But I would rather put it this way: if the value of those products increases, the manufacturers will be able to sell those products at a reasonable price because people will be willing to pay. At the moment, some products have such a low demand, that they have to be sold at very low prices such that at least some of it can be sold. Some products cannot even be sold, despite very low prices.”

The project’s results will be communicated to the sector and freely on the website.

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