Why Hannan’s home-grown beef captures imaginations

Article written by Sam Butler for Farm Week.

Food innovator Peter Hannan brought beef lovers sensational flavours from his huge Himalayan Salt Chamber at Hannan Meats, his business in Moira. In addition to breaking all previous records in the highly influential UK Great Taste Awards and winning praise from most of the top food critics, his dry aged beef has captured the attention of leading chefs in Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland, France, Portugal and further afield.

Fortnum and Mason in London, renowned as the ‘Queen’s Grocer’, attributes a massive increase in meat sales to an exclusive deal to sell the beef from Glenarm Estate in county Antrim that he dry ages for at least 28 days in his salt chamber.

Hannan has set the standard in terms of the development of added value meat products that also ensure farmers a better return for their commitment and investment in superb animal husbandry here.

Not content to rest on his laurels and business success, Hannan has just launched a range of products using a new technique – sugar pit curing for beef and pork – that he’s developed in his search for new flavours especially for the high-end restaurants in London, Dublin, Paris and, of course, Belfast on which his business is focused. The new products make him a significant contender for this year’s Great Taste Awards.

“Our success with the Himalayan salt aged products encouraged us to look at other techniques that would offer deliciously different taste profiles,” he says.

“Foodservice is a fast moving sector in which chefs are continually seeking new tastes for their diners. Innovation, therefore, is at the core of our business. It’s the way to stay ahead of the field.

“Our focus is firmly fixed on ways that we can add value to our products and ensure the success of the business and the farmers here who supply us superb meat and pork,” he adds.

Hannan’s sugar-pit beef and bacon is already being supplied to top restaurants here and abroad.

“The first stage in the process is to dry-cure the meat such as ribs and briskets. The reason for this is to extract moisture, around 18-20 per cent. This, in turn, makes the meat like a sponge and this enables it to absorb the sugars once placed in the pit receptacle,” he explains.

“The sugar blend is a combination of three different types of sugar, to balance in perfect harmony with the saltiness of the cure. The sugar-pit product needs to be cooked at a low temperature to prevent the sugar from burning. This produces a meat that is salty, sweet, sticky and soft…and immensely tasty,” he adds.

“It’s another development from our on going dialogue with key clients, leading chefs, who talk to us regularly about new ideas and flavours for their customers. They visit us frequently in Moira to see and sample the new products that we are developing. And we value their advice and support.

“We stay ahead of competitors by working alongside our customers in the development of original meat flavours and textures,” he says.

This commitment to innovative product development has resulted in Hannan Meats becoming one most successful and respected meat processing businesses in the UK and Ireland.

It has won a series of international awards for products offering outstanding taste. These include a UK Great Taste Supreme Champion Award in 2012 and a host of other awards for its expertise in dry-ageing beef and dry-cure bacon.

The company, formed by Mr Hannan over 25 years ago, supplies products throughout the UK and Ireland. In addition, it provides meat to leading restaurants in France and, most recently, Portugal. The company employs around 40 people at its operation in Moira.

A board member of Food NI, he has also assisted many smaller food businesses and artisan enterprise to grow sales in Britain and the Republic.

Those benefiting from his business mentoring and other practical support include Dromore’s Abernethy Butter, Passion Preserved in Lisburn, Red Dog Foods in Kilkeel, Broighter Gold Rapeseed in Limavady, Shortcross Gin in Crossgar, Ewing Seafoods In Belfast, Flossie’s Fudge in Coleraine, Neary Nogs Chocolates in Newry and Moira Bakery. Many of these artisan businesses have been helped on the road to success by being listed by him in the Meat Merchant, the butchery/deli store at Hannan Meats in Moira. He’s also helped a number win business with Fortnum and Mason.

He’s also among the biggest supporters of the Year of Food and Drink initiative.

“Northern Ireland has fantastic food and drink and tremendously talented producers and chefs who deserve to be recognised and celebrated. Year of Food and Drink is helping to create greater awareness of the quality and outstanding taste of local products among consumers and chefs.”