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English Winter Fair champions at the abattoir

Butcher Anthony Kitson has given unprecedented access to the six English Winter Fair cattle champions he bought delivering a final verdict to exhibitors.

Butcher, Anthony Kitson, is keen for all producers to see the final link in the chain when it comes to exhibiting at, and purchasing from a Christmas primestock show.

 

Mr Kitson, who runs family retail butcher B. and T. Kitson at Northallerton and Stockton on Tees, was able to view his English Winter Fair purchases once hung at C.H. Meats’ abattoir, near York.

 

He said: “This is where as a buyer I see whether my decision was right, whether the judge got their decision right and whether the producer’s done their job right.”

 

At £5,700 the show’s champion, a pure-bred Limousin heifer from T.A. and L.C. Lyon, Bourne, Lincolnshire, was Mr Kitson’s biggest investment.

 

Weighing in at 442kg and killing out at 68 per cent of its liveweight, the carcase, graded E3, had been maturing for almost three weeks before Mr Kitson would quarter a rib for exhibitors to view without the meat spoiling ahead of sale to his retail customers.

 

“What immediately stands out is just how square that loin is. And although it was a photo finish between this and the reserve champion that is what makes the difference,” he explained.

 

“It will give an excellent meat to bone ratio for the customer and has a lovely texture and colour to the eye muscle. By touching the tissue and seeing how it relaxes I know I could cut that right now with the back of a knife – that is pure eating quality.”

 

Next in line was the reserve champion from Mark Harryman and Sarah Warriner, Pickering, North Yorkshire. This three-quarter Limousin heifer reared on a base diet of home-grown barley also killed out at 68 per cent and graded E3.

 

“The loin is more rounded but there is just a little more fat which will enhance flavour during cooking. Importantly, there is almost no gristle line around the eye muscle which is a tell-tale sign an animal has had two distinct growth periods in its lifetime. Ideally, from a retailer’s perspective, I do not want it as it spoils the eating experience. The key message for beef producers is to have as uniform growing and finishing regime as is possible.”

 

But it was not all successes, he admitted, turning to another exhibit. “If I show you this beast you will see straight away, despite excellent conformation, the eye muscle is considerably darker in colour to the flesh around it; it has been stressed. For me, it is bottom league.”

 

One other carcase from Mr Kitson’s English Winter Fair purchases stood out for a very different reason. “Now this beast killed out at 70 per cent – that is top drawer – and graded well,” he remarked of Northamptonshire-based Frank Page’s pure-bred British Blue heifer.

 

Auctioneer Mark Elliott of Bagshaws said the whole experience had added to the understanding of all concerned. “There’s more to be learnt once a beast has left the ring. It is only by talking to people like Anthony Kitson as an industry we can continue to improve the job.

 

We can only all benefit.”

 

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