Welcome to our first blog on the Nanthes Park Cattle website!
Last year, someone who is now at the pinnacle of Australian agriculture visited my small farm. When looking at my British White Cattle in the yards they asked: “why do you have this breed?“
I replied “because they have the most flavoursome, tender beef that I know of.”
“Really,” they said, “because I have been told by the industry that “they all taste the same with the skin off.”
I was taken aback that this would be the prevailing attitude, that it would be assumed that all beef tastes the same. The attitude that all beef tastes the same leads to the commodification of beef as a product. Like all commodities, it then becomes all about getting as much of it as quickly as possible.
Since the 60’s, the push in the cattle industry has been to get as many kilos on the carcass as fast as you can. The adage that “length weighs and weight pays” has had, I think, a deleterious effect on both cattle breeding and production methods. You only need to go to a stud bull sale and see people clamouring over estimated breeding values of bulls that produce the highest 200, 400, and 600-day weight gain.
While beef may always be treated as a commodity, there is change on the way. The growth of the ‘celebrity chef’ and increase in community interest in cooking and what they are eating has given rise to what I call the ‘Flight to Flavour’. Taste and texture are now all important.
This food flavour renaissance has really exploded since 2000. Think of the rise of heirloom vegetables, such as the humble tomato. Years ago there was very little choice, with products designed for shape and shelf life, but thanks to companies like ‘Diggers Club’ these old, long since forgotten varieties like Tommy Toe, Mortgage Lifter and Green Zebra have been brought to the public’s attention and now there is a sizeable shift in consumer preference driving the demand for “it’s all about taste”.
Beef is having a similar renaissance.
The introduction of Wagyu to Australia by David Blackmore and others since the mid 1990’s has really focused on the flavour of the meat. Likewise, there is now a return to heritage breeds of cattle such as British White for their flavour, marbling and tenderness.
This ancient breed is slower growing, and thus out of favour with the industry generally, but this trait, along with their placid nature, allows them to be able to develop a rich, deep flavour with great fat content and good marbling.
Recently, at the prestigious Delicious Magazine Produce Awards, the eating qualities of British White Beef were recognised when Brooklands Free Range Farm 100% grass-fed British White Beef was awarded a gold medal. The judging panel of top chefs, like Neil Perry and Shannon Bennett, and other food industry leaders noted the very high calibre of the produce. To be awarded a gold medal at this competition proves to me the very high quality of the beef that this breed produces.
A lot goes into developing quality beef, including their management, feed, and butchering, but breed is the foundation of the process. As the ‘flight to flavour’ continues and more people focus on the eating experience, the return of the British White breed seems assured.