Updated: Oct 16, 2020
Have you eaten at Hawksmoor and luxuriated in their amazing steak?
Do you know the breed, genetic makeup, farm and welfare standards of the steaks you buy?
Do you fancy a real treat?
We have had the pleasure of eating at Hawksmoor and what a treat. So began what has become a long journey to source the sort of steaks that previous generations took for granted.
We are very happy with the excellent local steaks provided by our award winning butcher Owen Taylor, as you no doubt are with your chosen purveyor, we knew that we wanted to seek out something really special by looking into rare breeds grazed exclusively on grass. Well that was the hope anyway.
How hard could it be to find what Darren and I (after much research) had determined was what we wanted. The recipe that would give the best most flavoursome steaks - the quest for the ultimate treat was identified as follows:
British Heritage Breeds - the envy of the world they grow more slowly than the continental breeds likes Simmental et al that have become the norm because they put on weight quickly and provide a high yield for farmers and suppliers
Grass Fed - 100% grass fed, not corn fed or grass fed but finished on corn or barley - which is a way of loading weight on in the last weeks. We want 100% grass fed meaning matured slowly and grazing multiple fields to exercise those large muscles
No automatic dosing of antibiotics - ideally cattle who munch their way through fields of grass, herbs and flavoursome unadulterated fields.
Excellent husbandry - free ranging cattle cared for and treated exceptionally well from birth
Ideally local - supporting small local farmers moving what are essentially lazy creatures regularly to ensure they make the most of the wonderful pasture and allow the pasture to thrive
Dry aged on the bone for a decent period of time and we would like to try different lengths of dry age over time
Big cuts on the bone made by skilled butchers - it's the Porterhouse, T Bone and ribeyes of 500g and more that we really want.
The final piece being that this exceptional meat be put in the care of a skilled chef who understands how to cook such an amazing piece of meat - who will treat it with as much care and reverence the farmer did. This last piece I knew we could do - we just needed to find the meat.
Easy it wasn't. Most meat in this country doesn't come from British heritage breeds, most isn't grass fed and most are rushed through on corn or barley and typically ready for slaughter in a rapid 20 months.
The very best meat comes from slowly reared British heritage breed cattle which are the envy of the world - but they grow more slowly and are less economically viable than taking larger continental breeds heavy in the right places and feeding them on enhanced diets.
Heritage breeds include, Aberdeen Angus, Belted Galloway, Blue Grey, British White, Dexter, Galloway, Gloucester, Hereford, Highland, Irish Moiled, Lincoln Red, Longhorn, Luing, Red Poll, Shetland, Shorthorn, South Devon, Sussex, Welsh Black, White Galloway, White Park and Whitebred Shorthorn. They are the most famous breeds in the world and beware pale imitations as pure breed lines are what we really want.
Beware the Marketing Bull
When you begin researching and digging around you realise the direction of the meat production industry is travelling to meet demand and consumer pricing targets is the opposite of our goals:
Mark Schatzker author of Steak (the definitive book on Steak) asked Ron McHattie (president of the Aberdeen Angus Cattle Society) where he could get a legendary steak from Angus cattle only to be told he could go to a supermarket and buy a certified Aberdeen-Angus steak, but there was no guarantee of breed purity. Genetically speaking, it was required to be merely half-Angus!
Ron McHattie also advises that In the US it was much worse, where a steak labelled Aberdeen Angus does not even have to be Angus - the cow must simply have been 51% black! Charolais, Limousin, Salers and Simmentals can be black but these are continental breeds that have become the prevalent source of steaks because they put weight on in the right places quickly.
USDA grading consists of a cursory inspection of the fat content without any interest in the breed, feed or husbandry.
Argentinan Steak long revered is reportedly slipping (like the USA) into huge scale feedlot production. Huge factories producing meat as quickly as possible using high sugar (predominantly corn) diets and the use of antibiotics as a matter of course to meat the voracious demand and financial pressures.
We and many others do not believe that Corn or Barley diets are a good thing as suggested in the marketing. They are a sugar diet, an alternative to grass, which speeds the growth and the yield, thereby generating more money more quickly for the investment made. Industrial scale corn fed feedlots could be likened to feeding your children McDonalds every meal, everyday.
Anyway this aside our search has provided fruit! So We are delighted to announce that the steaks from two farmers amazing work will be available here at The Devonshire in the very near future.
These steaks are going to be amazing - perfect you that special treat!
Bubnell Cliff Farm
Tom has a herd of Longhorn the oldest native breed in the UK which are born and raised at Bubnell Cliff Farm in Baslow and allowed to mature naturally feasting on traditional species rich grasslands. They are left to mature for 30 months to create great depth of flavour and marbling. The farm operates a low input farming system and the beef is hung on the bone for 35 days.
Peak Pasture Farms
Consist of two small farms based in Derbyshire raising rare breed Belted Galloway cattle. They are 100% pasture-raised and grass-finished in nutritious herb-rich fields. These two farms are dedicated to animal welfare and environmentally-friendly farming.
Both farms (Ravensnest Cottage Farm and Westwood Farm) near Ashover, produce 100% grass-fed, grass finished, rare breed beef. Their small herds of Belted Galloways are a traditional native breed, who are nurtured and cared for their whole lives. They graze all year round in fields rich in wildflowers and nutritious herbs.
With their pleasingly uniform white bands, ‘Belties’ were popular with cattle drovers because they showed up in the dark. The breed stems from the ancient cattle of the Galloway hills, which may have been crossed with the Lakenvelder (Dutch Belted cow). They were later developed through four foundation breeders, notably Flora Stuart of Mochrum in Wigtownshire, descendant of the Marquess of Bute. Another, Sir Ian Hamilton, supplied Winston Churchill with his first cow from his Lullendon herd.
Belted Galloway cattle were bred as a hardy cow that would thrive outside and efficiently use poor grazing and marginal land. The Beltie is now very firmly a beef breed and has earned for itself a deserved reputation for producing beef of the highest quality which is served in a number of top restaurants. The meat is dark in comparison to much beef available and carries a more even distribution of fat through the muscle promoting succulence and flavour.
The magnificent Longhorn, with red mottled colouring and straight or curving horns, is exceptionally pleasing on the eye and is one of the great British breeds, its milk so high in butterfat that it was crucial to the success of the Stilton and Red Leicester industries. Today’s cow owes much to the efforts of Leicestershire agriculturalist Robert Bakewell; the breed society boasts that the longhorn is ‘beyond equal’ as a suckler cow and its longevity and fuss-free calving make it a desirable cross.
It is a well established fact that intramuscular fat or “marbling” within meat is largely responsible for succulence, tenderness and flavour – the hallmark of beef with superior eating quality. Unlike many rival breeds, which require the laying down of excessive amounts of external fat before the formation of intramuscular fat can take place, a properly finished Longhorn carcass will benefit from “marbling” without such excess external fat cover.
So our 9 month journey is coming to an end and a happy fruition and the choice is yours. Belted Galloway or Longhorn?
We will not have many steaks - they will all be bigger cuts over 500g or for those who prefer imperial measures over 16oz. They are perfect for sharing or for someone with a large appetite for amazing steak.
You will be amazed at the difference and we look forward to sharing the fruits of this 9 month journey with the lucky few who book early enough to secure one of the limited number of steaks available.
We are expecting delivery on or around the 23rd October. Its strange, we wait for 9 months and two farms end up delivering at around the same time so it really is a choice of Beltie or Longhorn both reared on grass exclusively with love?
Another bit of great news is that we will be adopting the same cash margin approach we apply to our wines working on cash rather than % margin as the typical % margin pricing would make these steaks more than simply, reassuringly expensive.
If you would like to grab this chance to sample amazing steaks reared and cooked with love call 01246 582551 and speak to Alice who will take your details and as soon as we have details of the specific dates and cuts available you will be called with the options of dates - breed and cuts that are available. A deposit of £50 will be taken at the time of booking to secure your steak.
I know the farmers themselves can't wait to enjoy their steaks cooked by an expert chef.
Love Steak Don't Miss Out!