And my blog begins.
It's probably best if I start by giving a brief history of how Crosscliff Dexters came into being. The Crosscliff herd is the culmination of a lifetime passion for working with farm animals.
It started over forty years ago when I graduated in animal production
from the Agricultural faculty of Nottingham University. Since then, I
have reared many calves the way I was taught,on buckets and artificial suckling machines, and have also fattened a variety of cattle on indoor intensive and semi-intensive systems.
However after years of keeping animals this way I became more and more dissatisfied with the product these systems churn out so efficiently. Most consumers agree
that the younger the animal when butchered,
the less flavour there is in their meat. Cattle which are housed and fed
concentrate to speed up the fattening process produce an admittedly
tender, but decidedly bland product.
I knew that animals fed on grass alone take a
lot longer to produce the perfect degree of
marbling and 'finish' but I had discovered, whilst eating out over the years, that the flavour imparted by the combination of
grazing and maturity is incomparable.
Fortunately, we own a farm near the North Yorkshire Moors which I realised would be
ideal for this sort of beef production. It is marginal land, with a mix of
hardy native grasses and herbs rather than the chemically 'improved'
pastures found on most lowland farms. My chosen
breed of Dexter cattle originate from this sort of pasture in Ireland
and are known to seek out specific plants to meet particular dietary
needs. I started in a small way in 2008 with just three cows, aiming to produce beef for my son Tom's award-winning Entropy restaurant in Leicester. Since then. our herd has expanded to the point where we are producing around ten finished Dexter steers a year and are ready to expand our market.
All our steers spend their first year grazing with their mothers on the unsprayed wildflower pastures at the edge of Thompsons Rigg Moor. Just before the next year's calf crop arrives they are weaned onto fresh pastures nearby where they slowly mature over the next fifteen months to produce the wonderful marbled, old-fashioned beef that is so hard to find these days.
When our animals are between 24 and 27 months old they
are transported a short distance to a small local slaughterhouse, where they are given a humane end before their carcasses are hung for 21-28 days. They are then jointed, vaccuum packed and divided into eight boxes of mixed cuts. Each box contains a recipe leaflet from Tom giving ideas of how best to cook each cut to bring out the full flavour.
I hope that many of you will try Crosscliff Dexter for yourselves this
Christmas. If you do, you'll understand why I truly believe that
changing from 'fast beef' to 'slow beef' has been the best move I ever made. Happy eating! Pam Cockerill.