The Farmers Behind Fantastic Scottish Beef

Scotch Beef turned 25 years old last year – but just what constitutes as ‘Scotch’ and why is seen by some as the gold standard for meat-eaters?

Over 25 years ago the Protected Geographical Indication known as ‘Scotch Beef’ was registered with the EU, ensuring that this name could not be given to beef that has not been produced according to the meticulous standards that dozens of Farms and Processors are held to.

Given its age and success, the Scotch Beef PGI is now the longest established scheme of its kind and has proven invaluable for Scottish tourism. Thanks to its rigorous standards and worldwide reputation, Scotch Beef is a major draw for tourists from all over the world who come to Scotland to try this beef at its source. Whilst these foodie tourists are in the country they’ll spend hundreds of pounds in accommodation (mini break in a Highland lodge with a hot tub, anyone?) and restaurants, making the continued success of the Scotch Beef industry a real boon to the Scottish economy.

But just how are these standards kept so high? We chatted to Rory Jeffreys, a farmer that has spent the past 10 years dedicating himself to producing quality Scotch Beef, about how he keeps his Beef up to scratch and the kind of rigorous tests that his farm is put through before he can get the stamp of approval to sell his product.

“Every Scotch Beef PGI that is sold can be traced back to its origin, part of gaining the certification means that you open your operation up to some pretty intrusive tests and audit, but I believe that it’s all worth it when you can call your meat Scotch Beef at the end of the day. We’ve always been committed to our welfare and hygiene standards, but having the pressure of knowing that an auditing team could appear at literally any time to check up on us keeps us focused on our work.”

An important characteristic of Scotch Beef is that the animals are all from a happy and healthy livestock. In practical terms this means that animals bred on Scotch Farms are given their chance to roam around freed and are also not injected with unnecessary vaccinations or hormones that would serve to compromise the quality of the meat. In most cases, farmers will strive to maintain cattle populations using natural methods, this means that young calves will be suckled for the first 6 months of their lives which gives them a chance to develop a valuable relationship with both their mother, as well as the farm that they will grow up on.

As for the breeds of cattle that are used on these farms, Rory tells us that regardless of if they’re dealing with a pure-bred native or cross-breed, in order for the Scotch Beef PGI to be given the breed but have originated from a herd that is suited to the climate in Scotland. This factor is important when considering the welfare of the animal, not to mention the environment and the resulting quality of the meat.

“Scotch Beef is more than just an arbitrary name given to beef that is reared within Scotland, it’s a cultural marker for this country’s dedication to excellent animal welfare and a world-class product.”

Beef Pot Roast: A British Beef Classic

Matt Bulmers walks us through his traditional take on this classic Beef dish.

“There’s something so unmistakably British about a Beef pot-roast. Now, I’m nowhere near old enough to have been alive during World War II, but whenever I make this meal my mind drifts back to episodes of Dad’s Army, the iconic British propaganda posters of the time and a lingering line from that old Vera Lynn song ‘We’ll Meet Again’.

‘Beef and two veg’ is a staple dish of the British diet, but it’s by no means derivative or unoriginal; despite many exciting new techniques and flavours that I’ve come across as a chef, I’ve yet to find any recipe that showcases British beef as brilliantly as this simple but effective one-pot meal.”

Ingredients:

Approx 1kg of quality boned and rolled British Beef brisket

Vegetable Oil

2 large onions, halved and sliced

3 celery sticks, finely chopped

2 large carrots, sliced

250g large mushrooms, stalks chopped and heads thinly sliced

Knob of butter

500ml bottle of brown ale

Fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

2 tsp light muscovado sugar

500g parsnips

Method:

Preheat your oven to 190/Gas 5. Rinse your meat in cold water, then pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat some oil in a deep casserole pan and then brown your beef all over before removing to a pan. Reduce the heat and then fry the onions, celery, carrots and mushrooms stalks for 7 minutes.

Carefully place the beef back in the pan before adding the beer, bay leave, thyme and sugar. Top up with water if needed to bring the liquid two-thirds up the beef. Season then bring to a simmer, cover and cook in the oven for 20 minutes before reducing the heat to 160C/Gas 3 for two hours, turning every half an hour.

With an hour to go, roast your parsnips in a baking tray above the beef with seasoning and oil, turning them after half an hour to avoid burning.

Once the beef is ready, remove it to a plate and tent with foil to keep war. Then turn your oven back to 190C/Gas 5 and stir in your roasted parsnips and mushrooms. Check seasoning and then cook in the oven for a further 20 minutes. Now is the time to prep any sides like mashed potato or greens to go with your meal.

When everything’s ready, remove your veg with a slotted spoon and arrange around your beef before serving with your potato/bread. Scoop off any excess fat before whisking your mustard into your gravy and tucking in!