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A Conversation with city'super meat buyer
 
Marc Chau sheds light on global meat trends, meat sustainability and the definition of premium meat.
Chau started working for city'super 18 years ago, first behind the counter as a butcher, then as a merchandiser, before becoming a meat buyer eight years ago. He travels around the world in search of premium meat, observes global trends, visits farms, meets with vendors and attends food fairs. That heavily marbled Yamagata Wagyu at the meat counter you’re coveting? That’s his doing.
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What does the job of a meat buyer entail?
We’re not just selling meat, but a concept. How we turn a piece of raw material into a portioned cut, and sell it to a customer, there’s a satisfaction there. We decide the assortment of products on offer. We travel around the world, discover new trends and see how we can adapt those trends to Hong Kong and the Asian consumer’s tastes and habits. So it’s much more than that. We don’t just buy meat.
 
What are some of these global trends?
There was a time when American beef was very popular in Hong Kong. To differentiate, we went and found Australian Wagyu, foie gras, and then Japanese Wagyu. Beyond the beef, people started to look for premium poultry and pork, our answer to that was French Poultry and Iberico Pork. Dry-aged beef also slowly gained its popularity over the years. There is one trend that has been around for a long time, but it has never really penetrated the market – which is the whole concept of organic and sustainable meat.
Can you elaborate on the concept of sustainability?
When we talk about sustainability, we talk about the whole process, from breeding and grazing to the final raw material. Australian saltbush lamb is an excellent example. They graze on the saltbush pastures of the Australian outback, which gives them a naturally clean, slightly salty flavor. They also absorb the saltiness in the soil and makes it more suitable for other plants and animals to live. Eating meat is a human essential for many of us, so now we have to decide how we can enjoy meat and still be kind to the world.
Australian saltbush lamb chops
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Dingley Dell pork belly bone-in with skin
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city'super has a premium beef corner. What constitutes premium meat?
Premium, to me, is not about the most expensive or valuable cut of meat. It’s not always the Wagyu or USDA Prime. On the contrary, it’s a cut of meat with a story behind it. I like to understand the story behind each cow, pig and chicken – how the farm raises the animal, the farmer’s dedication to feeding them. This can be a small, family-run farm. At Dingley Dell in Britain, two brothers manage the farm themselves and we communicate directly with them. We want to tell our consumers more of these stories.
What is the most luxurious cut of meat you’ve come across?
Yamagata Wagyu. Before we introduced it to city'super, I traveled to Yamagata prefecture and selected a farm where a second-generation farmer adjusts the feed according to the cattle’s age. The youngest cattle are fed the softest feeds, and after 24 months they’re fed Yamagata rice. Wagyu on its own sounds luxurious, but when you interact with the farmers, understand their commitment and everything that is invested in this process to produce what’s on the plate, you’ll gain a new-found appreciation for it. Most Wagyu is all about the marbling; it’s very fatty and instantly melts in the mouth. The Yamagata breed is less fatty, but with a much richer beef flavor, so there’s a beautiful balance.
 
What are your thoughts on local consumers’ demand for, knowledge of and respect for premium meat?
Hong Kongers know their luxury ingredients very well and are willing to pay for them. In terms of more adventurous cuts of meat, I would say they’re not very advanced. If you put rump on a restaurant menu, they’ll try it, but they may not go out of their way to try to make it. So we put a lot of effort into tastings, educating them that beyond the rib eye and tenderloin, a dry-aged rump, shoulder and chuck can be delicious, too.
 
How do you like your steak?
My favorite has to be the strip loin. It has great texture and, in my opinion, the best cut to eat if you want to taste the real, unmasked flavor of the beef.
 
 
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