Burger business: Why quality and traceable beef will prevail

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Butcher

With London’s burger boom showing no signs of abating, BigHospitality took a trip to a beef cattle farm in Scotland to find out how one of the newest burger joints to hit the capital is championing the quality and traceability of its patties to stand out from the ever-growing crowd.

In the past year, the London burger scene has evolved from simple grab-and-go snacks offered by street food pop-ups into somewhat of an icon among international foodies, with dressed-up variations and toppings galore served up in ‘posh’ bricks and mortar operations across the capital.

The phenomenon took yet another turn earlier this month when two of America’s most popular burger chains - Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack​and Barack Obama’s allegedly beloved Five Guys​- caused huge queues for their first London openings. 

Add to that Patty & Bun,Dirty Burger,Flesh & Buns​and Steers​(to name just a few) - all opening stores in the past 12 months - and you have a crowded marketplace. 

But, in the wake of the horsemeat scandal,​consumer confidence remains fragile and these restaurants are under an enormous pressure to ensure the meat they’re serving is fully traceable. 

Gate to plate

One business doing just that is BRGR.CO - the operator of two ‘back-to-basics’ burger joints in Beirut surfed the wave of West End burger bars late last year with a 50-cover venue in Soho.​Less than 12 months on and it is doubling up, with a second, much larger site soon to open in Chelsea.

“The menu is all about the quality of the burger,” says BRGR.CO's executive chef Nick Cuadrado. “That’s why we source our beef from the Buccleuch Estate.”

So, in this short video, we took a trip with Nick up to the Buccleuch Estate near Edinburgh to find out what steps are taken to ensure and follow the process from the farm, right through to the factory and into the bun.

Five tips for fully traceable burgers:

  1. Organise a trip to the farm - ​"As a chef, you need to go right out to your suppliers and be very inquisitive," says Cuadrado. "You need to know what the provinance is, where the butcher's buying it from and where it's butchered. You have to delve deep."
  2. Look for accreditations - ​Buccleuch beef, for example, is endorced by Red Tractor and protected by the Quality Meat Scotland scheme. "It has to tick all the boxes to bear the proud Buccleuch name," says Neil McCole, sales manager for the Campbell Brothers.
  3. Try and avoid cheaper cuts of meat with no labelling - ​"Anyone that's receiving meat in a bag with no official labelling should be questioning its origin," advises McCole. 
  4. Consider butchering in-house - ​This gives you a bit of extra control over the whole process and takes a step out of what can sometimes be a very complex supply chain.
  5. Reassure your customers - ​"When the horsemeat scandal broke I was pretty confident," says Cuadrado. "I wanted to shout about what we do - we have our own butchers that buther everything in-house and we know the traceability of our meat."

In January 2011, Buccleuch Foods and Campbell Brothers merged. The combined business now operates from Midlothian and continues to provide some of the UK’s top restaurants with meat. For more information on the Buccleuch Estate visit www.buccleuch.com​.  

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