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Wherstead/Halesworth: Delight at response to native beef breeds contest

06:00 18 February 2014

Robert and Oliver Paul with their Red Poll cattle in the fields around The Suffolk Food Hall, Ipswich.

Robert and Oliver Paul with their Red Poll cattle in the fields around The Suffolk Food Hall, Ipswich.

Organisers of a competition aimed at finding the best native beef breeds being reared in our midst say they are delighted with the response.

Suffolk Food Hall, a farm shop complex at the Pauls’ family farm at Wherstead, near Ipswich, and wholesale butchers Bramfield Meats at Halesworth are running a carcass competition for local native breeds, with a prize pot of £750.

“We keen to assess the traditional qualities of meat rather than the mainstream approach which is dominated by yield, and we’re delighted with the level of response,” said Oliver Paul of Suffolk Food Hall. Entries include Red Poll, Lincoln, Longhorn, Angus and Hereford. Judging will start in April. Nine entries have so far been confirmed.

Organisers say complexities in assessing the many variables of beef means that competitions often disproportionally favour a certain breed or rearing system, which is why they decided to stage the competition.

To be eligible, entries must be from pure-bred native British breeds, must be a steer or heifer and not bull beef and must be East Anglian born and reared.

Animals must be delivered to Lamberts or Blakes in the week commencing April 21.

Cuttings from each winning beast to be displayed in the EBLEX chilled trailer at the Suffolk Show 2014. One sirloin steak from each wing rib will be cut for plain cooking in the test taste.

Judging will be by a panel of experts.

Charlie Mills, manager of Bramfield Meats, stressed that it is imperative that “judging must focus on the conformation and the eating qualities, from both the retail butcher and consumer perceptions.”

Contestant David Coe who keeps Longhorns at the family farm at Great Wenham, near Hadleigh, said he was “very pleased” that someone had chosen to celebrate native British breeds in this way.

“It’s good to see somebody like them having a go at it,” he said.

“I started in Longhorns as soon as I took over the business from my father in the early 80s and it was something of an oddity for someone to start keeping Longhorn cattle.”

Since then, the breed has come more popular and is now thriving.

But David has also taken on some very rare Northern Dairy Shorthorn cattle, also a British native breed, to see if he can help preserve it.

“That’s in serious trouble,” he said.

There are very few classes for pure British breeds at events, he said.

“I was involved in the Hadleigh Show and we did introduce a native breeds class show but we didn’t have a lot of success with it, so when I was approached about this, I thought would like to have a go.”

There will be one class on in the Suffolk Food Hall/Bramfield Meats competition, with carcasses judged together, comparatively.

The first prize will be £500, second prize £200 and third prize £50.

There will be live assessments on the hoof, ‘on the hook’ assessments looking at qualities such as butcher’s yield, marbling, grain of meat and primal proportions, and then ‘on the plate’ judgments looking at eatability, flavour, succulence and tenderness.

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