Dry aged meat has soared in popularity in recent years. The rich flavour and tender textures are a hit with customers looking for a different experience, but you need specialised equipment like the Meat Ageing Refrigerator from Williams Refrigeration to ensure meat is aged correctly.
Philip Armstrong of Armstrong Butchers is a strong advocate for aged meat and the Meat Ageing Refrigerator. In February 2022, he relocated his business to Walkers Garden Centre in Blaxton, near Doncaster, and installed a range of equipment from Williams.
“We aim to provide something that supermarkets can’t,” says Philip. “We work with local farmers and slaughterhouses to handpick our meat, we have a great selection of rare breeds and can offer cuts of meat that you don’t get anywhere else.”
When Philip relocated to Walkers he wanted to upgrade his previous refrigeration equipment. “Storing large sides of beef takes a lot of room to do it properly, and the temperature needs to be rock solid,” he says. “Our old equipment took too long to get down to temperature once it was filled, and I wanted more room to be able to keep more stock at hand.”
At Armstrong Butchers, Williams installed two dual compartment coldrooms, one sited externally and one internally, customised to their requirements. “I wanted plenty of hanging space, and I knew we’d need reinforced rails that could handle sides of beef, lamb or pork.”
The external coldroom is configured with one compartment as a chiller room and the other as a dry store, while the internal one has a chiller room and a freezer room. Williams’ coldrooms are completely modular, allowing for bespoke designs precisely suited to customer’s requirements taking full advantage of the available space. For example, the external coldroom’s compartments are accessed via their own doors, while the internal coldroom has a door connecting each to allow easy movement of product between them.
Williams was also able to install strengthened rails to hold sides of meat. “You need space for hanging meat to allow room for air to flow around it properly,” says Philip. “Our coldrooms let us hang up a lot of meat without danger of any of it touching, which is great.”
On average Philip will hang meat in the coldroom for a few weeks, but to age the meat for longer he uses William’s Meat Ageing Refrigerator (MAR). This is an upright cabinet that was designed to put the technology Williams developed for its meat ageing coldrooms into a unit that can be installed almost anywhere. It creates the perfect conditions for ageing meat by precisely controlling temperature within a range of +1 to +6°C and humidity between 60-90%. Himalayan salt blocks assist with moisture management as well as improving flavour. An activated carbon filter removes any odours allowing it to be installed in public facing areas, while a full length glass door and bright LED strip lighting create a dramatic display of the product.
Using the MAR, Philip is able to age meat for greater lengths of time, creating cuts of meat with deeper and richer flavours while minimising product loss. Armstrong offers aged beef and lamb sourced from local farms.
“The longest I’ve kept meat in it so far is eighty days, it really enhances the flavours and it becomes beautifully tender,” he says. “Customers love it, it’s one of the most popular things we offer.”
All Williams products are designed to be energy efficient and sustainable. The coldrooms and Meat Ageing Refrigerator include many features to increase performance while reducing energy consumption, helping to lower running costs. These include CFC free, zero ODP polyurethane foam for insulation, and a simple to use control panel featuring digital readouts and temperature alarms.
“Sustainability is important to us,” says Philip. “Our Williams equipment helps with this by lowering energy costs as well as reducing wasted food – they’re very eco-friendly.”
The project was carried out by Whitco Ltd of Kettering, who collaborated with Williams to ensure the refrigeration met Philip’s requirements. “Whitco were great to work with,” he says. “I told them what I needed, like the strengthened rails, and they were able to adapt their systems perfectly.”
The Garden Centre has also invested in Williams Multidecks which have been multiplexed to provide a seamless run with extra-large capacity. These models have been installed with remote refrigeration systems, providing low noise levels and easy access for servicing.
Since moving to Walkers Garden Centre, Armstrong Butchers has seen large growth as word of mouth about the quality of its products spreads. “I’m looking for new ways to develop the business in the near future, and Williams products are going to play an important role in that,” says Philip. “My advice to anyone looking for refrigeration equipment would be: go big! You will probably need more space than you think.
“Williams should be at the top of the list of manufacturers you look at – they’re great products, great value and they went above and beyond to make sure we got the right equipment.”