Why buy British beef?
- In Britain, some of the highest welfare standards in the world regulate the way that our beef is produced.
- No growth-promoting hormones are fed to beef cattle in the UK and antibiotics are only administered if prescribed by a vet.
- Every animal can be traced to its mother and place of birth with the British cattle passport system.
- Britain’s beef industry is the envy of the world. Breeding from our livestock and genetics from breeds native to Britain are much sought after by farmers in other countries.
- Top 10 native cattle breeds are: Highland, Belted Galloway, English Longhorn, Red Poll, White Park, Hereford, British White, Ayrshire, Aberdeen Angus, South Devon,
- The distance between each farm and shop is smaller than imported beef. This means fresher meat and less of a carbon footprint.
- Buying British beef supports British farmers. In turn, this helps keep the countryside how it looks today. No cows: No countryside!
- Beef is naturally rich in protein and it provides eight essential vitamins and minerals that support good health and well-being.
- 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!
- Why buy British Beef? Because it's the best in the world and part of our national heritage!
How to 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.
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.
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.
Where to source Beef
There are many reasons to choose to source British. For example, it means the produce has travelled less from farm to shop, so regardless of how carbon footprints are calculated, it self-evidently has a lower carbon footprint. It also supports our farmers and economy.
There are also other factors to consider, such as the fact British animals are reared to some of the highest standards in the world:
- Britain's cattle passport system means that each animal can be uniquely traced to its dam (mother) and place of birth.
- No growth-promoting hormones are fed to sheep or beef cattle in the UK and any antibiotics are administered only under veterinary direction.
If you are ordering meat for trade, AHDB Beef and Lamb has put together a Meat Purchasing Guide which can be downloaded as an app. AHDB Beef and Lamb advise that it can simplify the meat ordering process and save businesses valuable time. Click here for more information.
Remember when buying meat that as lifestyles have changed in the last few decades, so have the dishes that we eat and the cooking techniques used. As a result, some cuts of meat have become ‘fashionable’ and this is reflected in their price.
If you are a retailer…including cheaper cuts of meat in the range you sell will attract new customers and may encourage existing customers to spend more in your shop.
If you are a caterer or in public procurement…using less fashionable cuts of meat is a simple way of increasing the profit from a dish.
If you are a consumer…choosing less fashionable cuts is a good way to keep the weekly shopping bill down.
The Co-op always support the UK farming industry and promoted British food.They have created long-term relationships with farmers and suppliers to give our customers complete transparency in the Co-op supply chain, built on honesty, fairness and trust. The Co-op Farming Groups, combined with a clear sourcing strategy, forecasts a great future for Co-op.Co-op supports nearly 2,000 UK farmers and have dedicated long-term relationships with more than 400 farmers all part of Co-op Farming Groups. These 400 carefully selected ‘foundation’ farms focus on growing and rearing animals to The Co-op’s high standards. They provide chicken, pork, Hereford and Aberdeen Angus beef, Cambrian lamb and milk, through a transparent supply chain. Since the establishment of The Co-operative Dairy Group in 2011, five additional Farming Groups to cover own-brand fresh British meat and poultry. Together, the six groups help to maintain strict animal welfare policies and encourage long-term investment and improvements to sustainability, efficiency and training. Co-op are committed to British Agriculture.
All Co-op fresh beef and chilled prepared meals containing beef are 100% British, sourced from farms in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Useful contacts on Sourcing
Freedom Food - http://www.freedomfood.co.uk/
Quality Standard mark - http://beefandlamb.ahdb.org.uk/
Scottish beef, lamb and pork http://www.qmscotland.co.uk/
Welsh beef, lamb and pork - http://hccmpw.org.uk/
HCC also have a website aimed at encouraging butchers and retailers alike to gather more information about ways to promote Welsh red meat - www.hcctrade.co.uk
Hereford beef - http://www.herefordbeef.org.uk/
Lincoln Red beef - http://www.lincolnredcattlesociety.co.uk/index.php
Sussex beef - http://www.sussexcattlesociety.org.uk/index.html
South Devon beef, Web - http://www.sdhbs.org.uk/
Red Ruby Devon beef - http://www.redrubydevon.co.uk
Shorthorn beef - http://www.beefshorthorn.org
Aberdeen-Angus beef - http://www.aberdeen-angus.co.uk
Gloucester beef - http://www.gloucestercattle.org.uk