Aged beef has become more popular among Kenyan diners with several outlets now stocking it. Ibrahim's Butchery in Nairobi’s City Market joins the select outlets selling the pricey, tender meat that costs from Sh1,295 to Sh4,150 per kilo.
Aged beef essentially is dried in a controlled, open-air environment for a long time to transform the texture and flavour of the meat. Some people age the meat for 21 days, while others do 28 days.
“My clients started asking about aged beef, that’s why I decided to sell it. Right now we are on trial and it’s really going well. We age it for 21 days in a cold room. With aging, the meat has to be hung at a temperature of two to three degrees for a specific number of days,” says Ghulam Nabi (Ronnie) who runs Ibrahim’s Butchery, a family business.
When he took over the business, he wanted to do something different.
“I am the fourth generation of my family to take over this business. When my dad passed away, I had to step up at 14 years and now I have a lot of knowledge about beef which is totally different from what my family did before,” he adds.
Gone are the days when aged beef and prime cuts were only served in high-end restaurants. When it was introduced in the Kenyan market, the super-aged beef would retail at Sh10,000 for a serving.
The price has dropped to about Sh4,000 in some luxury restaurants. With availability in select butcheries in Nairobi, now consumers can buy and serve it at home.
Mr Nabi sells the 21-day steak at Sh1,295 a kilo.
“However, the older the meat, the more expensive it is. We age ours for 21 days, that’s why we sell it at Sh1,295 per kilo. In most dining outlets, it is super expensive because they age the meat for longer, and by themselves,” he says.
Some restaurants dry-aged the beef making it more expensive because by the time the aging process is over, the beef weighs far less than when it started because of the significant moisture loss and trimming.
Mr Nabi says that a good piece of aged steak is juicy when one sinks his or her teeth into it. On the other hand, a good piece of raw prime cut beef is easy to tell by the rich and buttery texture of the inside of the meat.
Most of his aged beef sales come from his Instagram page.
“About 70 to 80 percent of my sales come from social media. Social media has played a big role in my success. When I posted about selling aged beef, within two days the stock was sold out. I got encouraged. It’s the tenderness that keeps customers coming back,” he says.
The butcher has also seen demand for prime cuts going up as Kenyans better understand their meat and the best cuts of a steak. There are three quality meat grades — prime, choice, and select. There are about eight primal cuts of meat; the chuck, rib, loin, round, flank, short plate, shank, and brisket.
He gets his prime cuts from Angus cattle, a rare breed found in Nanyuki. Angus beef is very fatty. The more fatty the steak is, the more expensive it is because it is perfect for grilling, says Mr Nabi.
The meat from Angus cows is typically exceptional because it develops with better marbling than most cattle and is considered prime in most cases.
“Choice beef is also high quality but has less marbling than prime cuts. Choice roasts and steaks from the loin and rib are very tender, juicy, and flavourful and are suited for dry-heat cooking,” he says.
Prime cuts include the rib-eye steak, T-bone steak, the New York strip, Sirloin, and tenderloin (filet mignon), which are usually in high demand from clientele frequenting high-end hotels.
“I have a specific clientele for the prime cuts that I don’t have to hang them on the display,” he says.
Why does beef from Angus cattle taste differently from the rest?
“The doubling of the feeding portions increases the amount of fat in the beef, which when roasted on super-high temperatures, its flavour and succulence come out,” he says.
He recommends accompanying the prime cut beef with foods that are less fatty.
“Considering that the prime cut is fatty, I recommend you pair it with ugali or mashed potatoes. To enjoy the prime beef, cook it as medium rare. Wine also pairs perfectly. But I eat it on its own because I want to feel the taste in my bones.I don’t like any other flavour to musk its taste,” he says, adding that he earns a 12 to 20 percent profit margin, selling the special meats.