The average size of a single breed herd in England is 28-50 and yet to provide just 8 fillets per week from one farm to a restaurant requires one farm to have 600 cattle. Curious? Read on…
There is more Aberdeen Angus beef sold in this country than is ever produced. Belted Galloway graces more menus than pastures. Gloucester Old Spot pork is lesser spotted than you would be led to believe.
10 years ago the fashion for naming breeds and single farms really took off. The result? Producers and suppliers over promising and chefs having unrealistic aspirations on what is actually achievable.
It is more than that as well; there is still a lack of understanding of how farming works and what are the best criteria for knowing you have the best beef.
Let’s take the first bold statement: there is more Aberdeen Angus sold in this country than is ever produced. We have all seen the assertion by national burger chains that all their beef burgers are Angus – how many of us also see the small print on the screen? 30 years ago the numbers of the Aberdeen Angus Society in the UK were dwindling. As the markets were flooded with continental breeds the Angus was out of favour. What did they do to increase their membership? They changed it from a pure breed society to one that would accept any beast that had been sired by an Angus bull. The result? Angus crossed with dairy producing a dairy steer slaughtered at 14 months – a world apart from the original vision and far cry from the best beef you can have.
Back to the decade of fashion and the single breed. We heard time and again that an 80 cover restaurant for example was able to get pure breed from a single named farm for all of their beef fillets.
Let’s assume that they only want 8 whole fillets of beef per week. They will need to source from one farm that can produce finished cattle at the rate of 3 per week for 50 weeks of the year. That’s 150 cattle per year. In order to produce that level of cattle, a farmer would need a herd of 600 cattle (if we agree that proper suckler beef cattle take between 3-3 ½ years from conception to finish).
The average herd size of a single breed cattle in England is 28-50 cows. Then you consider how many single farm pure breeds appear on menus.