Friday, 8 February 2013

Where's the beef?

Ever since Poland joined the EU, nearly nine years ago, the price of fillet beefsteak (polędwica wołowa) has soared. It used to cost around 25zł a kilo (glory days!); today it's over 100zł. And the quality is questionable (where are those steaks that contain zero gristle or fat?).

I don't eat much meat, but when I do, only the best bit of the cow is good enough for me. There are many cheaper cuts of beef available; they look nice on the supermarket counter, but they are tough as shoe leather unless braised for hours. Flash-fry or grill - and your jaw muscles work overtime before you can swallow these inferior slabs of meat. Fillet steak should be good enough to eat raw (or extremely rare); its tenderness such that only gentle mastication is required, while the taste is supreme. BUT I CAN'T FIND ANY!

Firstly, supermarkets are often entirely out of stock (the chiller label tells you where it is - but the cabinet is empty). Butchers' shops rarely hold polędwica wołowa, but can order it for you (yeah, Mr Beefmonger, but I want it for THIS evening!).

Word is that after Poland joined the EU, the Germans, who love their fillet beef far more than Poles do, have been buying out every last scrag-end of the stuff. The best of what's left in Poland goes to restaurants (check out Butchery & Wine on Żurawia for Warsaw's tip-top meat eaterie), and what's left over is sold in higher-end supermarkets (Alma, Auchan). Carrefour? Forget it (dismal place). Tesco? John Cleese would have more chance of buying some Cheddar from Michael Palin. [Skip film to 1:31 in to see what I mean.]

Y'see, in the mart of competitive commerce - demand drives supply. And when the demand comes from somewhere else, the supply follows. Poland is a huge producer of lamb, and yet very little ever sees Polish chiller cabinets or indeed tables. It's nearly all exported (mainly to Arab countries - Poland has a large but constitutionally-controversial Halal butchery sector).

Polish supermarkets may offer little or no lamb - just as British supermarkets offer little veal. Brits can't bring themselves to eat little baby cows, while Poles can't bring themselves to eat little baby lambs (something to do with the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, I suspect).

And Brits can't bring themselves to eat horses, even when they come conveniently packaged as burgers. But that, dear readers, is a different matter...

Next week, Lent begins, and once more, for the 22nd time in a row, I will be forswearing alcohol, caffeine, confectionery, etc - and meat will be off the diet. My non-meat beefsteak substitute, the whole year round, is tuna, which I shall be eating more frequently - supermarket supply allowing. If no tuna - then fillet of salmon (without skin, without bones). Six and half weeks off meat will be good for my resolve.

This time last year:
Babcia vs. Roma action, Centrum

This time two years ago:
Reasons to be cheerful

This time three years ago:
Skiing in the Beskid Wyspowy

This time four years ago:
What's to be done about Warsaw's unmade roads?
[answer after three years: 'not a whole lot']

This time five years ago:
Jeziorki in the fog
[some lovely photos]


student SGH said...

Reading the beginning of the sentence, I thought you were going to write about the 300 billion Euro from the new EU budget for Poland...

Auchan is a top supermarket??? At the par with Alma? In terms of price competitiveness Auchan beats Tesco in any ranking...

DC said...

I wonder where Argentine or Japanese embassy employees shop for beef in Warsaw?