Devon cattle breeders offer triple guarantee for quality of their beef
Renowned breeders of ancient cattle have promised consumers a triple guarantee of quality, affordability and traceability on their "iconic" brand of beef.
The Devon Cattle Breeders' Society prides itself on the Red Ruby Devon – one of the most treasured and trusted beef breeds in the country.
The 128-year-old society, with a membership of around 500 South West family farms breeding and rearing the centuries-old beef cattle, is urging people to purchase their meat locally. It is backing the Western Morning News Buy Local campaign, reinvigorated in the past fortnight to celebrate the best of regional food.
Catherine Broomfield, breed secretary of the society founded in 1884, said: "To say Buy Local is the preserve of the middle class is bogus. It's not about economics or class, it's about buying good-quality meet that is cheaper than most people would tend to assume."
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The society is one of numerous individuals, groups and organisations to offer its support to the initiative first launched 11 years ago to encourage companies and consumers to support local food producers.
Their dark red brand of beef is championed by Michelin-starred chefs including Michael Caines and Alyn Williams.
Mrs Broomfield said: "The Ruby Red Devon is an indigenous, native breed reared on farms in the heartland of the Westcountry and dating back hundreds of years. The first herd was registered in a catalogue in 1851, but they existed a long time before that initial documentation. It is part of the South West like a cream tea, and is an iconic part of South West heritage," she added.
But the cattle are not exclusive to the South West, as the society supports another 200 farming businesses in the rest of the country breeding and rearing them.
"It's a wonderfully flavoured and textured beef," said Mrs Broomfield. "The ruby is more relevant than ever to commercial livestock farmers as they strive to produce sustainable, quality beef."
Waning trust in the quality and source of supermarket produce has seen some customers turn their back on the shelves of the big stores and return to local suppliers. But the society is supporting those few that are sourcing their food locally. "We are not turning our backs on supermarkets," Mrs Broomfield said. "Some supermarkets put a lot of effort into good practices. They are providing locally sourced beef with provenance. For example, Waitrose offers good quality, locally produced meat."
Earlier this week Tesco made a "sincere commitment" to source more meat closer to home as farmers demanded major stores stop looking around the world for the cheapest food and instead find and sell more British products.
And at local markets, both Exeter and Liskeard have recorded record prices for beef animals at auction over the past fortnight. The price per head at Liskeard this week was £1,450 for each of a bunch of four South Devon steers.
The WMN campaign has also won the backing of the National Farmers' Union, as NFU president Peter Kendall told readers to show their own support.
Mr Kendall told the union's annual conference it had been a "real shock" that consumers were deceived over what they bought, when it emerged that numerous meat products sold in supermarkets and available in schools and hospitals were contaminated with horsemeat.
An NFU poll revealed more than three quarters of people want supermarkets to sell more British produce and many are more likely to buy traceable UK foods as a result of the horsemeat scandal.
And Mrs Broomfield was keen to stress the Buy Local pledge does not have to come with a high price.
"There is a false argument put forward that Buy Local is an expensive luxury for the few. Ruby Red Beef can feed a family of four for under £9."
She said: "If we consumers make it our business to be interested and curious about the provenance of our meat, there are legions of farmers and butchers, bursting with pride about their product, who make it their business to sell you beef with honesty, integrity, value and flavour."