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Tricks Of The Trade: How Swiss Butchers Extend The Shelf-Life Of Old Meat

Swiss butchers have a bit of leeway when it comes to aging meat. From mincing to marinating, there are several “tricks” they can legally employ to keep their products appealing – even after the meat’s sell-by date has expired.

Labels don't tell everything (basykes)
Labels don't tell everything (basykes)

GENEVA -- Every night, meat sections in Switzerland's supermarkets are crowded with dozens of leftover Irish beef fillets, "organic" Swiss beef rib eyes and so on. Their sell-by date has passed, but not their expiration date – which is usually one or two days later.

What's a butcher to do? Customers would no doubt prefer the dated meat be tossed in the trash. Legally speaking, however, the butcher – loathe to bin a small fortune worth of edible meat – has other options. Chopping, slicing, mincing, breading, marinating, cordon bleu-ing… It's a no-holds-barred fight when it comes to hiding the aging meat's unappetizing appearance and thus extending its shelf life.

Admittedly, the issue of graying meat is a bit of a grey area as far as customer service and the law are concerned. Supermarkets cannot be fined for resorting to such "tricks' assuming the product's expiration date is still valid. And yet selling meat in this in-between category is a serious breach in customer trust.

Legally speaking, butchers can only be incriminated if the meat is "malodorous." In some cases, these questionable practices are even encouraged by bonus systems that award butchers who are able to keep unsold items under a certain level. It's easy to see why a butcher may be tempted to repackage the same meat with a different tag.

Some Swiss supermarket chains, including Coop and Migros, have recently decided to reinforce their standards by discarding meat when it exceeds its sell-by date. "I won't ever tell a meat section manager off if, towards the end of the day, his stall lacks a few products, even if it means losing customers," a supermarket manager claims.

Read the full story in French by Willy Boder

Photo – basykes

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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