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Beef

Beef



All Co-op fresh beef and chilled prepared meals containing beef are 100% British, sourced from farms in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Why buy British beef?

British beef is produced to some of the highest welfare standards in the world. No growth-promoting hormones are fed to beef cattle in the UK and any antibiotics are administered only under veterinary direction. Britain's cattle passport system means that each animal can be uniquely traced to its dam (mother) and place of birth.

Britain's beef industry is the envy of the world: breeding from livestock and genetics from our native breeds are much sought after by farmers in other countries.

British beef travels less far from farm to shop so regardless of how carbon footprints are calculated it self-evidently has a lower carbon footprint. Choosing British beef means supporting British farmers whose work helps to keep the British countryside the way we want it to look: no cows - no countryside!

Simply Beef and Lamb  provides a wealth of information about beef, including many delicious recipes to try. AHDB Beef and Lamb is the organisation for the English beef and sheep industry. 

How tell if the meat is British

Beef labelled 'British' must come from animals born, reared and slaughtered within the UK. If you are not buying direct from a farmer you might find it helpful to look for a quality mark. These mean that all stages of the food chain have been independently checked to ensure that they meet the required standards.

The primary standards for beef is as follows.  

Quality Standard Beef has been produced and processed through a fully assured independently audited supply chain. The quality standard mark for beef is the only one to have standards relating to eating quality such as age, sex and, at certain times of the year, maturation. A St George's flag on the mark indicates that the meat has come from an animal born, raised and slaughtered in England. A union flag indicates it is born, raised and processed to the same standards but of UK origin.

The Scotch Beef mark confirms that the animals have been born and reared for all of their lives on assured Scottish farms and that they have been slaughtered in an approved abattoir in Scotland. The standards are set by Quality Mark Scotland's assurance schemes. Scotch Beef has been awarded the European PGI mark that recognises special regional significance and so the marks will often be accompanied by the PGI logo.

The Welsh Beef mark can only appear on beef that has been born and raised in Wales and that has been slaughtered in an approved abattoir. Welsh Beef has been awarded the European PGI mark that recognises special regional significance and so the marks will often be accompanied by the PGI logo. 

When looking to purchase beef, keep an eye out for marks such as the Red Tractor logo 

 For more information on logos and marks visit our Logos and Marks page.

Flavour of beef

The flavour of beef is affected by breed, feed and welfare as well how the beef is cooked and what flavours are added. Beef produced from grasslands will be higher in natural sugars than beef from cattle raised on marshlands. ‘Suckler beef ’is the product of a farming method whereby the mother and calf are kept together for longer with the calf suckling for up to six months. The increased milk in the calf’s diet affects the eventual flavour of the meat. Suckler herds are widespread.

Which cut of beef is the best?

We tend to equate 'eating quality' with tenderness and succulence. It is therefore important to use the correct cut of meat for a particular dish: for example, fillet for pan-frying, rib-eye for Sunday joints and chuck and blade for stewing.

Our Beef Fact Sheet is a diagram of where different cuts of meat come from on the carcass and a guide to which cuts are the best ones to use for different regional dishes.   It can be downloaded from the blue box on this page.

Why is meat aged?

Meat is left to age in order to give the enzymes an opportunity to dissolve the connective tissues and this results in more tender meat. For this process to take place, the carcass is either hung in a cool, well-ventilated place or the butchered meat is left in a vacuum pack.

Do not rely solely on the number of days that meat has been aged as a sign of quality as other factors such as temperature and humidity will have an impact on the optimum ageing time. 

Breeds

The quality of beef varies from breed to breed. Meat from cattle bred for milking, dairy cattle, can be eaten but the quality of the meat from beef cattle is generally of a higher standard. Beef cattle tend to have bigger carcasses than dairy cattle. Some breeds, such as the traditional breeds, are more prone than others to have flecks of unsaturated fat running through the meat. This is known as ‘marbling’ and gives the meat greater flavour when cooked and stops it from drying out. 

It is important that we protect our great native livestock industry buy buying the real thing, not an imported substitute. Note that beef sold by breed name, for example ‘Aberdeen Angus steaks’, can be a product of another country.

Breeds to look out for include:

  • Aberdeen Angus - a native British breed dating back to the 1800s and arguably the best known and most numerous beef cattle breed in the world. Its beef is well marbled with creamy-white fat interwoven throughout the close-grained texture, preventing it from becoming hard and leathery.
  • Hereford - one of the oldest and most important cattle breeds in British livestock history. Its beef is of the highest quality and has a distinctive flavour - it is tender and very well-marbled giving a depth of flavour to the meat.
  • Lincoln Red (original population) - developed to thrive on the cold marshes of Lincolnshire. The flesh is well marbled and so the meat has an excellent flavour.
  • North Devon and South Devon - produce meat with perfect marbling and fat coverage that, when hung for the appropriate length of time, produce very tender and flavoursome beef. Some herds are referred to as 'Red Devon' or 'Red Rubies' because of the breeds' red colouring.
  • Sussex - one of the oldest and purest breeds of British cattle. The Normans found Sussex cattle in the south of England at the time of the conquest in 1066.

 Delicious beef recipes