For some time now, as many of you will be aware, we have been at the forefront of promoting and selling Spanish beef, both online and in the shop. This gloriously full-flavoured and densely marbled meat, sourced from the hills of Galicia and the cider lands of the Basque country, is rather special; for the simple reason that it comes from older ex-dairy cattle. Cows that have been left to roam on grass for up to 15 years. Which is quite a unique proposition in this country and as a result, Old Spanish Cow is one of our most popular range of products.
However, in the background at T&G towers, we've been wanting to start up something similar using retired dairy cows from the UK, for some time now. Fists have been thumped down on tables, plans and notes have been furiously scribbled down on beer mats, and tearful resignation has often spilled forth (often after the fourth pint) with the frustration that we are just in touching distance of reaching our goal. Yes, these discussions do usually happen down the pub.
But we are very pleased to announce, that we have finally made it.
Thanks to the work of Nemanja Borjanovic of Txuleta, who has been researching farms and developing a framework for us, we now have the opportunity to start selling Old UK Cow!
*cue the sound of trumpets*
To celebrate this breakthrough, we held a small gathering at EC1 a couple of weeks ago, to showcase the beef to a select group of people. In typical T&G style, we played with things rather loose and fancy-free. A small talk was given. John and Tom ceremoniously took apart a fore-quarter. Big fat steaks were cut up and slapped onto the roaring BBQ. Hands and fingers descended on juicy, sliced offerings. And a loud round of cheers rang out across St John Street, rather late into the night.
Yes, the beef was delicious - and was expertly cooked, even if I do say so myself. Which of course, is the proof of the pudding. There would be no point in all this effort, if the beef didn't deliver on taste.
At present, we are still in the midst of structuring the supply chain and the range. Old UK Cow will be coming through slowly online, via our Black Label Range, and into the shop. With something as special as this, we want to get it right. So watch out for announcements, as we'll be running more open events at the shop for you to come along, sample and enjoy.
In the meantime, cast your eyes over this piece by Nemanja himself, which gives the lowdown on the story behind Old UK Cow and the reasons as to why it tastes so damn good.
THE STORY OF OLD UK COW
When we first started bringing in older and retired dairy cows traditional UK butchers shunned the beef as dual purpose (dairy and beef) was uncommon farming practice and cattle over thirty months was considered of lower quality. However, the UK chefs tried the beef and like us loved the rich depth of flavour the Galician Blond cows are famous for. Soon the word spread and our beef found its place in the hands of some the best chefs in the country. Turner & George picked up on the opportunity at the very early stage and have been our exclusive distributor, spreading the word of older cows to the retail trade of UK.
Since the early days of importing Galician Blond beef to UK we have wanted to re-create what the Spanish farmers have been doing for centuries. The timing was perfect as UK had just lifted its OTM rule (over thirty-month rule specifying no cattle can enter the food chain over 30 months. Originally in place following foot and mouth outbreak some 25 years ago).
Farming old cows and retiring ex dairy cattle is very different to selecting carcasses and loins from an abattoir in Spain. As this was not done in UK before our success rate was limited – when we got it right the beef was spectacular. We realised getting old cows was not enough, it had to be coupled with all the good farming practices that have given UK beef a world-renowned fame. The cows were carefully selected, grass fed and kept outdoors as long as the weather permitted.
As with the Galician Blond beef the old UK and ex dairy cows found their home in top London restaurants. The limited supply and meant the beef was sold on allocation. While the farmer did his part, we ensured the beef was well hung in our dry ageing room in West Hampstead.
Turner & George have been at the forefront of rare native breads, naturally reared UK beef. We are delighted to be able to offer older UK cattle via their new website and shop.
All meats gain most of their flavour from the fat contents. As the cows get older they naturally put on extra fat (same as us humans). The additional fat translates to a bigger depth of flavour – similar to an oak aged wine beef from older cattle has an element of “length”, that is the flavour stays with you much longer than with beef from younger cattle. Simply put it is very rich beef.
While we primarily sell our beef on flavour we are delighted to supply cattle which has lived a significantly longer period of life compared to most cattle around the world. Our cows are led to the abattoir at the age of eight while most others do not go past 2 years.
In the current farming system we have cows for beef which are often raised on grain in order to speed up the fattening process. Cows naturally eat grass and feeding them grain/corn produces an increased level of methane. Our cows eat what all cows should eat, grass. And they graze it slowly outing weight on naturally over a period of years as opposed to months. This is not only a sustainable way of farming but it ensures that the cow has a natural fattening process which results in rain drop style marbling (the intermuscular fat which gives the beef flavour) as opposed to blobs of fat in the meat which are tell-tell signs of a rushed feeding system.
While most dairy cows endure a tough life (milking, reproduction) our cows have a retirement period which begins once the dairy cycle (typically 4 years) is over. Normally these “spent” cows would be used for cheap mince or dog and cat food but allowing them to retire for a couple of years during which they roam free grazing grass transforms these cows in to fat happy cows.
The ex dairy animals we farm are dual purpose, that is they produce milk initially and are later used for beef. This is revolutionary from a sustainability point of view because a single cow can be used to produce milk and premium beef. The current alternative is to use (and often fatten with grain) one cow for beef and another for milk. The benefit for the struggling dairy industry in the UK is a massive potential we wish to explore.