“ Type: Meat „
My first reaction upon seeing these was, "Oh dear, what an unfortunate name!" Someone really ought to have done a bit more market research before the launch of this product because, whatever the Big Green Tick is supposed to stand for, I'm pretty sure it isn't the image of an enormous verdant blood sucking mite. Then again, given the number of external parasites domestic poultry can fall prey to - especially if the poultry is as intensively farmed as this turkey was - perhaps the wording is more apt than we realise. (For anyone wondering what I'm going on about, the link is here:
The BGT range is Matthews' first venture into what is - for them - unfamiliar territory: the introduction of a healthy range of their regular fare. Given that the intended consumer is more likely to tuck into a plate of Turkey Twizzlers than an organic roast dinner, perhaps it's not surprising that this isn't exactly obvious from the packaging.
Now, I'll say straight away that, despite my best efforts to create a healthy diet for my family, I don't actually have too much of an issue with Bernard Matthews' products. I'm just very careful not to eat them myself. When a frazzled mother, already on hyperdrive, is being expected to run three of her offspring to three different places like, NOW, there are times when only the worst will do. And to my mind Bernard Matthews is the best of a pretty long string of worsts, when it comes to delivering a quick dinner of reshaped/preformed turkey bits. It all comes down to the coating. Like all of their rivals, BM foods are full of salt, preservatives and artificial chemicals - on the outside, anyway. Remove the coating, and they are like all the others again - dry, tasteless and totally removed from anything remotely resembling an animal. But kids don't mind that; it's the chemicals on the outside they go for, not the bit in the middle. If I must resort to poisoning my offspring in order to get them to scouts on time, then at least with BM I know I'm doing it with extra taste.
My local source of Matthews fare is Iceland. Mums go to Iceland - generally, because it's cheap. After Christmas I go one stage further, and head for the 'reduced' section. Which is how I came to be heading home after my last visit with three packs of entomological turkey; reduced from two quid per pack to one, they were a real bargain.
++ PACKAGING ++
It's certainly eye catching: a lurid green dominated by a large tick (as in the symbol, rather the parasite); very different from Matthews' usual subdued approach. EVERYTHING about this product screams, "See? We don't just sell Turkey Twizzlers to school kids. Stick THAT in your smokehouse, Jamie Oliver!" In fact, everything about it screams - rather desperately, in my opinion - at the same people Jamie is trying to target, but in a rather more obvious way, verging on contemptuous at times. For example, why have such an obvious Union Jack logo on the front when on the back is a perfectly clear statement to the effect that the turkey comes from farms in East Anglia? Do Matthews imagine their target audience can't read?
The photo of a breaded meat rissole, next to some rather lurid and out-of-focus savoury rice and lettuce, reinforces the message that this is a healthy product for kids. It also (rather conveniently) guides us away from the "Bernard Matthews" tag at the top of the box and down to the product details.
And therein lies the hook that drew me in. First reactions are everything in marketing, which is why I honestly thought I was purchasing a new line that Iceland had bought in. Which is why I was not surprised at the prospect of one hundred pennies buying me two prime Turkey Steaks. Note the capitals; a quick recheck later would reveal that all important disclaimer that my "steaks" were, in fact, "Made from 100% Breast Meat." Reformed, in other words.
No matter. By the time I'd checked out the nutritional content of each "steak" - Carbs 13.2g; Cals 144; fat 2.4g; saturates 0.5g and salt 0.9g I was hooked on the idea of providing my family of six with a nutritious meal for less than a fiver.
++ WHAT DOES BIG GREEN TICK STAND FOR? ++
That's the message on the back of the box, followed by a series of statements that Matthews do:
- ensure the range is low in saturated fat
- only use 100% turkey meat from East Anglian farms
- work with independant nutritionists to develop recipes
- wherever possible have Green on their GDA's (and please, if anyone can work out what the hell THAT one means, PM me) And:
- create simple, tasty food which has been approved by families.
They DO NOT:
- use any artificial colours, flavours or preservatives (the ingredients list doesn't say what the 'natural' ones are, which is thoughtful. Belladonna is natural. Still kills people though.)
- use any hydrogenated fats
-compromise on quality.
Presumeably, they still use their turkeys as footballs, then.
One word I expected to see heading the list, the one most people equate with "green" products - i.e. "organic", was conspicuous by its absence. No sign of the soil association logo, either. I guess BM thought this would be a step too far.
Whatever, the most important part of any review is the Taste Test, and this is what got my mouth watering: according to the blurb, my Turkey Steak was formed from chopped and shaped marinated turkey breast, coated in breadcrumb. Yum. For once, I decided to join the family, and tuck in.
++ PASS THE KETCHUP ++
Out of the packet, the steaks looked a lot thinner than they do on the box. The breadcrumb coating looked a bit thin too, in colour as well as thickness, but at least it reinforced the 'no artificial anything' message.
Cooking was easy - ovenbake from frozen at 220 degrees (gas mark 7) for 20 - 22 minutes. After just15 minutes, however, they looked done and - despite the so-called marinade - awfully dry. I served them with oven chips, mixed veg - and plenty of ketchup.
Which is just as well, since it stopped the moisture from being sucked out of my face. Being dry is one thing, but these were positively arid. You could certainly see there was no added salt or hydrogywotsits - but where was the paprika, the herbs, the MARINADE? Not to mention the 0.9g of salt. I needed that Sodium Chloride, even though I was already suffering from a raging thirst that had me grabbing for the fire hose. Okay, so I had a bit of a cold, but my kids reinforced the issue with suitably Oliverish comments such as, "Blimey, who took all the taste out?" "There's some drumsticks in the freezer, hint hint." And, most telling of all: "Why didn't you get those REAL marinaded turkey steaks from Lidl's? Nice, they are."
++ VERDICT ++
Full marks to Matthews for trying, but let's face it - they're preaching to the wrong people. Any mum genuinely trying to improve her family's diet has already got a freezer full of turkey breasts, low fat mince etc with a few unhealthy convenience foods thrown in for company. Creating acceptable alternatives is no good unless you attack what is underneath the gilded coating - and that means more than just pulping a load of intensively farmed turkey breasts with a few natural spices.
Take a tip from Lidl's book, Bernard, and start as you mean to go on - with REAL turkey steaks sourced from organic farms and steeped in a proper marinade you can actually taste.
Then again, the profits will be a lot lower ...