Steak can taste very different according to the breed of cattle it comes from and how it is reared. Our steak here at The Jones Family Project is from team at The Ginger Pig. This has been a very deliberate choice. We believe that the naturally fed traditional Longhorn cattle they rear and the way they rear them produces steak that tastes fantstic.
Longhorn cattle are one of the oldest breeds of British cattle, originating from the North of England, but they fell out of favour for many years as people focussed on lean meats that could be produced intensively and quickly. Tim Wilson, founder of The Ginger Pig, has been championing this bred for over 20 years to world-wide acclaim. Last year, we hosted a delegation from The Japanese Meat Association at The Jones Family Project who were visiting the UK as they had heard about and wanted to find out more about Tim’s Longhorn cattle and their steak.
Originally, farmers bred cattle to be easy to handle, hardy and strong enough to pull their ploughs. Longhorns were popular and useful. These traits also meant that they were good to eat and they were one of the original breeds that made England famous for its fine roast beef. Sadly, though they fell of favour with the advent of machines and more intensive farming methods and by the late 1970s there were less than 500 registered breeding English Longhorn cows.
Happily, this trend has now been reversed with more and more people realising that this wonderful breed with its distinctive traditional white stripe along their back, beautiful horns and dark blue roan or lighter red brindle coat not only look fabulous but also convert our lush UK grass into excellent steak. The number of these stunning cows is now increasing and is there are now more than 2,000 registered breeding cows.
However, it is not just genetics that creates a good steak. It is the food they are fed and the way they are handled. Longhorn cows have a gentle nature and make great mothers and the high butter fat content of their milk gives their calves a great start in life. Once weaned, here in the UK we are lucky enough to have a good supply of rain which means that our cattle can be kept outside roaming free munching succulent nutritious grass for longer than in many other countries.
The Longhorn is slow to grow which means that it has longer to convert this grass to muscle and fat. The very traits that made it an excellent and popular choice with farmers years ago are true today and the reason why it makes some of the best beef in the world. Their quiet, gentle nature and careful handling by farmers, such as The Ginger Pig, with high welfare standards, produces relaxed meat. Their hardiness is ideal for converting grass into meat and their strength (now not needed to pull a plough apart from for show!) creates intra muscular marbling leading to flavoursome steak. Unlike other breeds which lay down too much external fat before the formation of intramuscular fat Longhorns not only produce large fillets, sirloins, rumps and shoulders but also naturally have good marbling throughout which gives excellent succulence, tenderness and flavour.
Photo: Lohengrin one of The Ginger Pig’s English Longhorn bulls.