Cow Vs Afla romeo

Pepper the cow – Clarkson’s Farm

In Season 2, Jeremy Clarkson decides he must diversify his farm in order to better the massive £144 profit he made in the previous year.

Various strategies crop up, such as stocking the lake with fish and expanding the range of products in the farm shop, but Jeremy Clarkson’s strategy going forward is the development of a restaurant.

Central to the theme of the restaurant is home grown food – and what better than a good piece of beef.

And what do you need to get beef? Cows of course!

Pepper – not for eating…. or breeding, sadly. Just a big pet 🙂

What breed of cow is Pepper?

Pepper is a Beef Shorthorn. Beef shorthorns are an excelent native British Breed which thrive in our climate

When Jeremy and Charlie go to buy the herd, Jeremy makes a comparison of the cost of a cow being similar to what you would pay for an Alfa 156. Which one would be the better investment though?

I have prepared this handy Top Trump so you can make your decision. What the Shorthorn loses on top speed, I think it makes up for in reliability so for me the Shorthorn is the clear winner

Cow Vs Afla romeo

Why are Shorthorn’s good?

The Shorthorn is a native breed to the UK. Much like cars, there are two models to choose from. Beef Shorthorn or Dairy Shorthorn.

Beef shorthorn cow

Beef shorthorn – more muscular, smaller udder

Dairy shorthorn

Dairy Shorthorn. Less muscular, larger udder.

Where did these two models come from? Well, a bit like how a VW golf started as a small hatchback, but now comes in sports, estate and convertible variants, the Shorthorn started off life as a dual purpose breed, which gave a good amount of beef and a good amount of milk.

When Cow Tuners turbo charged the Shorthorn

Then the cow tuners got hold of them and started to specialise. Beefier cows were bred with beefier bulls and milkier cows were bred with bulls from cows with good milk yields. This gives us the two distinct Shorthorn breeds we know today – the Beef Shorthorn and the Dairy Shorthorn – turbo charged versions of the original breed, specialised to either produce more beef or more milk.

The Brits Vs the French – who’s cow comes on top???

Over the decades at our farm in Aberdeenshire, we have had almost every breed imaginable that you can find in the UK.

We have raised Angus, Friesians, Charolais and Limousin, Hereford, Shorthorn and Highland. So why choose a Beef Shorthorn?

Native British breeds like the Shorthorn fell out of favour in in the 70s, 80s and 90s when the focus was on fast growth and efficient conversion of cereal crops into beef. We found that the French breeds such as the Charolais, and Limousin excelled at this, producing more muscle per kilo of feed consumed.

Limousin bull

Limousin Bull – excellent at converting feed to muscle

Why choose a Shorthorn?

So why choose a Shorthorn when a continental breed gives a higher yield per kg of feed consumed?

In short(horn) we have found that, although the more muscled French breeds convert cereals such as barley to muscle more efficiently, the native British breeds do better on grass.

We talk about “finishing” cattle when they have grown to a good size and a ready for the butcher. This means getting fat on the animal.

Good beef needs fat on it for flavour. We found the native breeds will “finish” or “fatten” more easily on grass. The continental breeds need a little help with cereals and grains. The native breeds suit a more “grass fed” diet.

Grass fed beef – what is it and why does it matter?

You will hear the term “Grass fed” a lot these days. It’s very trendy. I can honestly say all British beef you eat will have been grass fed. It’s what cows eat in their natural environment. It is only when you go to hotter drier countries that you will find cattle being fed exclusively on cereals, maize or soya in feed lots. Stick to British beef and you can be sure it’s grass fed. Is it better? It’s better for the cows, and if they are happier and healthier it is better for you too.

Not the UK. Cattle in a feedlot. Not much grass to eat.

How do food trends influence cattle breed choice?

Interestingly trends in eating have a huge influence over what farmers will produce and of course what crops/animals they will use to do that. the 70s/80s/90s trend to vilify fat and promote lean beef suited the leaner more muscular continental breeds.

Now as people realise that natural animal fat is not the problem, it’s highly processed sugars and oils that lead to obesity and cardiovascular disease, there is a trend back towards good quality, marbled beef. And which European breeds give the best marbled beef? well it’s the native British breeds of course.

Why is this? Why are French breeds more muscular? Very interesting question; there is anecdotal evidence that the choice of draft animal in continental Europe Vs the choice of draft animal in the UK had a big influence on this. Draft animals are used to pull ploughs and work the land.

In the UK, we bred horses such as the Shire and Clydesdale to work the land, thus the need for cattle to pull ploughs dwindled. We worked the land with horses and used the cattle for food. Contrast this with France, where cattle were a more popular choice of draft animal.

Therefore they selectively bred their cattle for lean muscle to pull ploughs. We selectively bred our cattle to be easy to look after, easy to calve, good mothers and – well – taste good. Hence the lack of muscle in the locomotive limbs and the higher marbling in the cuts of beef which don’t work as hard- such as the rib.

You can see the diffence in muscle between the Limousin and the Shorthorn

Which muscles are the best to eat?

There are basically hanging muscles and working muscles in a cow. The hanging ones that just kind of hold the cow together, such as between the ribs and the brisket. They don’t do much work so are much more tender. The “working” muscles, such as the neck and the legs tend to be leaner and tougher.

A good way to remember where the good cuts come from is “the further from the horn or the hoof the better the beef”

So really, even though the Shorthorn doesn’t have quite the same rear end as the Limousin, the eating quality of the cuts that matter is likely to be higher if you like marbled beef.

There you have it, the Beef shorthorn is an ideal breed for the UK. It has been selectively bred for generations to give you the best culinary experience and give the farmer the least amount of headaches and lowest vets bills.

Where will you put your money now? An Alfa 156? or a Shorthorn for the garden?

You can watch Jeremy buying the cows on the video below.

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