On the farm with Quality Meat Scotland: Edinvale Farm, Moray Fifth

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 18th June 2015
The Staff Canteen caught up with the owner of Edinvale Farm Jock Gibson to find out about breeds of cattle, how meat can be matured and what chefs should consider when selecting certain cuts of beef. C027_CLOSE low resJock has been running the butchers and game dealer Macbeth’s since 2006. The shop is situated on Edinvale Farm, which is located between 500 and 800 feet above the Moray Fifth in the Highlands of Scotland. The farm is home to between 150 and 200 cattle of various breeds. Jock’s parents founded the farm in the mid 1970s and Jock explained they took rent of another farm during the early 1980s to build up the herd. He said: “We introduced Shorthorn cattle and Aberdeen Angus cattle into the mix.” He added: “The shop was established after the farm, in the mid-80s, and now includes a wholesale and food service element and a mail order service.” Edinvale farm is on a hill and Jock is keen to ensure the animals are compatible with the land. He said: “We need to match breeds to the ground and grounds to the breeds.” The farm breeds Highland, Shorthorn and Aberdeen Angus cattle. Jock explained that the Highland cattle work well on indifferent ground but take a long time to mature and the meat to bone ratio is not always what the customer is after. Jock said: “It has a very skinny bum so when you’re looking at rump steaks and joints around that area they’re not always what a customer might want. “That’s why we introduced the Shorthorn, which is known as ‘the great improver’. It fills out the shoulder and the rump end and gives a slightly better fat level so we get a better shaped carcass.” He added: “The Aberdeen Angus was introduced partly because we inherited an Aberdeen Angus herd and partly because it matures slightly faster.”C086_CLOSE low res Jock explained that the cattle are killed at various ages depending on the breed. The Aberdeen Angus crosses are killed at about 24 months. Whereas, the Highland shorthorn crosses are killed after 28 or 29 months because they take slightly longer to mature. But Pure Highland cattle are not killed until they are between 36 and 38 months. Jock said: “We are looking at two years minimum to get an animal to maturity.” Jock and his team dry-age all of their meat on the bone. Jock explained that the method does produce a lot of waste, which means it is an expensive procedure but he believes it enhances the maturation process. He said: “If you wet mature it then you don’t get the same level of waste but you don’t get the same level of maturation process either.” The farm hangs the cuts of meat for a minimum of three weeks and the prime cuts are often hung for almost four. “It’s a taste thing; it’s a tenderness thing,” Jock explained. “The hanging period helps to break down the cell structure that holds the meat together, which gives you a more tender eating experience and helps to enhance the flavour.” Despite acknowledging the importance of hanging the meat, Jock believes there is little difference in a steak that is hung for 21 days compared to a steak that is only hung for 28. Jock said: “I don’t think the extra cost of hanging it for a further week is worth it. It becomes a marketing ploy.” Jock added: “If you’re going to hang it for longer you go much further: you hang it for six or ten weeks.” One of the main issues that Jock and his team face is the utilization of the carcass. The farm tries to find a use for all of the cuts of meat but this is difficult. Jock explained: “As an industry it’s challenging and as an individual business it’s almost impossible.” C060_CLOSE low resKilling cattle solely for the demand of fillet steaks results in a large by-product so Jock has to find a market for all of the other parts of the cow. He explained: “Things like the sirloin, the rib-eye and rump you’ll find a home for with no problems. But, you’re still only counting for maybe a fifth of the animal.” Jock explained that the shoulders are often sold for mince, stew or good quality burgers. The top beef can be sold as roasting cuts and flanks can be sold for sausages and catering burgers. The utilization of the carcass is obviously very important for farmers and butchers but do chefs understand its significance? “I don’t think chefs understand it or necessarily want to understand it. They want fillet, for example, and they want to make sure that they get the best fillet at the best possible price. That’s perfectly understandable but there is a whole mechanism that has to go on behind that for it to happen.” Most farmers across the UK rear their cattle in compliance with farm assurance schemes, which ensure high standards of animal welfare. Scotland was at the forefront of Quality Assurance and pioneered its introduction way back in 1990. Now, 25 years on, over 90% of Scotland’s breeding cattle population are assured from birth and the meat produced from them is processed through a fully integrated chain of assurances which are your guarantee of quality and origin.Rib Roast low res Animal health is a key concern at Edinvale Farm. Jock and his team not only maintain animal health for moral reasons but also to help them produce good quality meat. Jock explained: “Animal health is key to making sure that you have the best product quality at the minimal cost of producing that meat.” Jock added: “You are what you eat. We eat our products and we want to be eating the best product that we can. You’re not going to be healthy if you’re not eating a healthy product.” By Abbie Cattano

Watch as Michelin star chef Martin Wishart prepares and cooks shin of Scotch Beef with wild mushroom ravioli:

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 18th June 2015

On the farm with Quality Meat Scotland: Edinvale Farm, Moray Fifth