Beef crisis: Chefs enraged by restriction say quality cooking will suffer

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The Independent Online
Britain's leading restaurateurs expressed outrage last night about the Government's ban on beef sold on the bone, claiming it will destroy some of our greatest culinary traditions, writes Nicole Veash.

It was a sad day for quality cooking, gourmet chef Michel Roux said. The owner of the Michelin two-star restaurant Le Gavroche told The Independent that: "All the beef I buy is hung on the bone because it is so much better to cook with - nothing else ever tastes quite the same. The bone can be removed after cooking, but not before because you just lose all the flavour."

Most chefs say that they prefer beef on the bone because it maintains joint succulence and tenderises the meat. They also use beef or veal bones when making stock, which is then added to an extensive range of dishes, including risotto.

"Without doubt this will affect my cooking," Mr Roux said. "It is a real shame for food lovers everywhere, especially as we still sell an awful lot of beef."

Raymond Blanc, celebrity chef and owner of Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons, said: "This ban is so ridiculous it enrages me. Banning beef on the bone is like banning tomatoes from cooking.

"It will undoubtedly put a stop to tradition and prevent the practice of cooking as a craft. How will we ever achieve excellence with these negative rules?"

Wayne Tapsfield, head chef at City Rhodes - owned by television star Gary Rhodes - also mourned the passing of much-loved traditional cookery fare. "I am absolutely shocked that we won't be able to cook Gary's classic braised oxtail dish again," he said. "It was always so popular with customers and you will never be able to achieve that taste with any other substitute."

The ban is also set to hit restaurants at the other end of the culinary scale. American-theme restaurants - who have made T-bone steaks and rack of beef ribs fashionable again - along with traditional British steak houses will be affected. The Beefeater chain has already withdrawn T-bone steaks from their menu.

Many supermarkets, including Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose - which sell less than 5 per cent boned beef between them - have cleared the offending products from the shelves.

A spokesman for Marks & Spencer said: "We only ever sell two beef products which have bone in them and the ribs are only on sale nearer Christmas. However, we have withdrawn both from sale and we will have to cancel Christmas orders for the rib of beef as a result."

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food also confirmed that the ban extends to stock cubes and gravy granules, including the Sunday dinner stalwart, the Oxo cube.

Helen Park, spokeswoman for Oxo, said: "Our cubes do contain ground beef bone, but it is from Sweden, a country where there has never been had a reported case of BSE [bovine spongiform encephalopathy].

"Obviously in the light of this announcement we will be seeking to consult industry and consumer groups before coming to any decision about the future of the Oxo cube."