Coles customer furious over 'beefed' up mince: 'So over it'

Would you be happy to pay $10.50 a kilo for this?

A Coles customer, trying to feed her family of eight including five teens, has hit out at the supermarket giant over its minced beef, accusing the retailer of adding an unexpected ingredient to the meat to increase profits.

Mother-of-six Jo Meredith from Tamworth in northeast NSW, was cooking spaghetti bolognese for her household on Monday night when she noticed something happening to the Coles Drovers Choice Beef Mince she’d picked up that day for $21.50 and was cooking in a frying pan.

“I looked at it and it was just all this meat bubbling away and I thought ‘Wow, ok’, and I took a photo of the spatula in the water and a photo of the spatula out of the water and you can see how deep it was,” she told Yahoo News Australia. “And I thought, no I’ll pop it in a measuring jug.”

The beef mince in the packet (left) and in the pan with some liquid (right).
Jo Meredith, mum of six, said she picked up the minced beef on Monday just hours before cooking it. Source: Supplied

In a series of photos, a large pool of liquid can be seen in the bottom of the pan next to the beef, as well as in the jug — measuring out 300 millilitres.

“You make an allowance for there to be some sort of water percentage in there, because it's a natural product of animals,” the 52-year-old said. “But 300ml is a lot."

“My husband was a retail butcher for 20 years and I asked him ‘How come there's so much water in this?’. And he's like, ‘Well, that's what some butchers do — it beefs up the profile margins’."

Meredith, whose family live on a property 60 kilometres out of Tamworth, said she’s dealt with this issue for years and has made complaints to Coles in the past but “they weren’t really interested”.

“The water just cooks out and most people are none the wiser or they don’t worry about it, but I am so over it,” she said. “I've got six kids and economic times at the moment are quite hard, and I put a kilo and a half of meat in there and 300ml of it was water.

“I am so sick and tired of buying products that rip people off.”

The beef in the pan with more liquid (left) and the measuring jug of liquid (right).
The 52-year-old Tamworth woman said she got 300ml of liquid out of the meat. Source: Supplied

No, according to a spokesperson for the supermarket, who told Yahoo News Australia that it does not add water to its branded mince.

“Any water present during the cooking process is naturally occurring,” a spokesperson said, before going on to explain the cause of any moisture.

“While everyone has their own cooking style, it’s important for anyone cooking mince to understand that large amounts of meat can cause a fry pan to lose temperature which can result in the mince stewing rather than frying, leading to the moisture from the meat to pool instead evaporating quickly.”

Peter McGilchrist, an Associate Professor in Meat Science at the University of New England, said “it’s not possible” for Coles to be adding water to its mince.

“It’s not allowed and they just wouldn’t get away with it,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

But as well as the naturally occurring moisture from the beef, he explained that Meredith had also captured the fat.

“In this mince that she has purchased, it is 17 per cent fat, so 300ml out of two kilos [the full packet] is only about 15 per cent that has come out that she has captured.

“Of the other 83 per cent of what she has purchased, is about 80 per cent moisture.”

To avoid this moisture, the Coles spokesperson suggested cooking in smaller batches “to ensure a high temperature is maintained during cooking of mince”, ensuring that the pan is heated to a high heat before cooking and keeping it overcrowded.

Coles store front.
Coles denied adding water to its branded mince beef. Source: Getty Images

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