A Debate about Black Pudding, Surely Not?
Black Pudding will always remain in either the ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ categories. There is, however, one point of contention that generally creates the divide. And it can often determine the category of choice before a pudding is even tasted. Blood!
The idea of eating a food with a core ingredient of blood is abhorrent to many. Fair enough! There are plenty of reasoned arguments for and against doing so and it’s easy to understand why people don’t want to eat it – that debate will continue to rage on!
Blood is Blood, Right?
For those of you who enjoy your black pudding, you’ve probably more recently seen a more specific debate. From what type of blood should your black pudding be made? OK, but blood is blood isn’t it? Well the answer, as far as black pudding is concerned, is NO.
The first consideration is which type of animal blood should be used. Traditionally, depending upon region, pig or cow blood is used. Today’s producers will generally follow those traditions although there are some producers who will use sheep’s blood.
The second consideration, and the debate in question, is the use of fresh blood or re-hydrated dried blood. The rules, regulations and legislation surrounding the use of blood in food are quite complex. We have neither the qualifications, nor the expertise, to get into the detail, so we won’t. We can, however, offer a general overview of the arguments and a few related facts for your consideration.
Fresh blood is effectively sourced direct from a slaughtered animal and must adhere to the following:
- it is harvested upon approval from a supervisory agency and in accordance with animal welfare guidelines
- it is harvested from a registered and approved slaughterhouse
- it is collected and stored in accordance with specific procedures regarding hygiene, health and safety
- it passes strict quality criteria to be able to used as a food ingredient
- it is transported and stored in accordance with specific procedures regarding hygiene, health and safety
It is also a perishable product and therefore needs to be utilised as soon as possible after collection.
Dried / Powdered Blood
Many of the same stringent rules as above apply to the production of dried blood. Obviously the main difference is the raw (fresh) blood after collection is transported to a unit to be processed. There are a number of methods by which the raw blood can be treated and dried. The blood is initially stored after an anticoagulant is added. It is then passed through of the following drying processes; oven drying, drum drying or spray drying. Once dried, the powdered blood can be stored and transported, again following procedures adhering to hygiene, health and safety. The handling of the product though is now easier, safer and it has a longer shelf life.
The powdered blood can then be re-hydrated when required for use.
Key Elements to the Argument
- Availability & Supply
- Governed by the rules stated above, and by it’s perishable nature, quality fresh blood is only available in limited supply. Whilst feasible for the artisan producer, the use of fresh blood is impractical for the larger volume producers of black pudding.
- Raw blood is collected in volume in the UK but a lack of infrastructure and the rules / regulations do not make it easy or possible for a consistent supply of fresh or dried blood at required volumes. Hence there is a need to source the supply (of dried blood) from overseas.
- The majority of the dried blood imported for use in black pudding is sourced from Holland and Spain. Although governed by EU regulations, the guidelines set are not necessarily as strict as those imposed in the UK. The responsibility, therefore, lies with the purchaser to ensure the required guidelines and quality are being met, to a high enough standard, for the product sourced.
- A key quality measure in the meat product industry is traceability. This is basically an ability to track a food product backwards or forwards through the food chain. Fresh blood, as it is collected in smaller volumes, can generally be tracked back to an individual animal. Given the volumes and production methods for dried blood, this makes such detailed tracking more difficult.
- Local Produce
- More a matter of fact than a trend these days, both businesses (e.g. fresh food producers, restaurants) and the general public like to support local suppliers and the use of their produce. In most cases, black pudding is made using local produce with the one exception being the blood content. Blood being a core ingredient detracts from the ability to refer to a product as being truly local.
- To source and produce fresh blood black pudding is inherently more expensive than it’s dried blood counterpart. This is due to the short supply and the cost of raising livestock specifically to include the harvesting of quality fresh blood. This additional cost will often be reflected in the final price to consumer. Consumers are happy to pay the higher price because of the perceived quality associated with the fact it is fresh blood.
- Well, you can’t win an argument as far as taste is concerned. It’s purely subjective and a matter of personal preference. But you can obviously agree or disagree. There is a difference in taste and texture between the two types, but there is also a difference in black pudding when it comes to regions or individual producers. So it is purely down to personal taste. Time for a taste challenge!!
- Just as a side note, we have observed over the time the club has been running that black pudding fans are extremely loyal to their regional pudding (and may not even know whether it is made with fresh or dried blood).
What’s your view?
The majority of black pudding in the UK and Ireland, we believe, is produced using re-hydrated dried blood. And to be fair, most of us have probably been enjoying our black pudding none the wiser as to the type or blood source origin. If you have your favourite, you may be tempted to find out which is used. Will it make a difference to your choice or preference, possibly not?
The point of the article is really to share some facts around a debate you may not even been aware of. It is not intended to influence either way but there may be elements you feel are worth further consideration.
It’s an interesting topic, so we’d like to know your point of view. Does it matter enough to you to find out more and if so, why? Or, are you happy to continue to enjoy the same black pudding you always have? Please contact us, comment below or add a post to our social media pages with your views. We look forward to hearing from you.
Reference & Further Information:
- Is it illegal to use fresh pigs or beef blood to make black puddings?
- Harvesting blood for black pudding [pdf]
And a couple of articles highlighting the contrast between the artisan producer and much larger commercial producer;
- Welsh Mangalitza: Fresh Blood or Dried Blood: Which Blood Type Are You?
- Bury Black Pudding Company: Do You Use Dried Blood or Fresh Blood in your Black Pudding?