On the tracks of ageing meat

Jan Schemmer is Head of Product Management and Sales Promotion Charcuterie at Bell Switzerland and one of the first meat sommeliers in the country. «Bell News» was inducted into the secrets of ageing meat during the course of a tasting session in Basel.

Jan Schemmer is a complete expert when it comes to meat. Following his apprenticeship as a butcher and subsequent qualification as a master butcher, he began working for Bell in 2013 as a product developer for raw sausage meat and raw cured products. He was appointed Head of Production Management and Sales Promotion Charcuterie in 2016. He has now added another string to his bow: Jan Schemmer became one of Switzerland’s first certified meat sommeliers in June 2017.

The meat specialist acquired a wealth of expert knowledge during a nine-day crash course at the 1st Bavarian Butchers’ College Landshut – the topics ranged from production and individual cuts to sensory and culinary perception to marketing and animal husbandry issues. He completed the course to come top in class. The expert shared his knowledge during a small tasting session, where he explained the particularities and characteristics of the various methods of ageing meat.

«We age meat to make it tender», explains Jan Schemmer, «most people know that.» The process of ageing is less well-known, however: after slaughtering, the energy stored in the meat in the form of sugar breaks down. This process produces lactic acid. The energy stored in beef breaks down completely within 36 to 40 hours and the meat becomes tough. This is when the meat’s own enzymes set to work breaking down the structure of the meat fibres. The ageing process begins and the meat becomes tender again. So what ageing methods are there?


95 per cent of all cuts are aged in this way. They are vacuum-packed and placed into storage for around 30 days. The lack of oxygen supports the reproduction of lactic acid bacteria. The lactic acid that forms in the vacuum bag is the reason why the meat smells slightly acidic on removal. Expert tip: «A slightly acidic aroma does not mean the meat has gone off. Simply pat the meat dry and leave it to rest for a while until the odour dissipates.»


Dry aged meat matures on the bone for four to eight weeks under precise climatic conditions. Cuts with a high fat content are especially suitable: the fat prevents the meat from drying out too much. «Dry-aged meat has a nutty aroma», explains Jan Schemmer. «It is aromatic and has an intense, meaty flavour.»


Ash-aged is a variation of the dry-aged method. A mixture of condiments and beechwood ash is rubbed into the meat and it is left to age for four to eight weeks. The meat sommelier knows what lies behind the method: «The sterile ash has an anti-bacterial effect and lends the meat a particularly aromatic and intense note.»


Smoked meat is aged under the same conditions as dry-aged meat. The difference lies in the addition of cold beechwood smoke that gives the meat a darker colour and an especially smoky aroma. Jan Schemmer explains: «The cold smoke does not cook the meat. It is therefore still raw after smoking.»


The entire cut is immersed in mineral water and left there to mature for two to three weeks. «A recipe as such does not yet exist», says the meat sommelier, «but what counts is the ratio of water, meat, carbon dioxide and minerals such as magnesium.» The process makes the meat particularly tender and mild-tasting.

LUMA beef

LUMA beef ages on the bone beneath a patented layer of mould for up to eight weeks in a similar fashion to ham and salami. It develops an unmistakably nutty flavour and is especially tender.