Photos: Butcher’s tips on what makes a top beef carcass

Winning a prime cattle show is an accolade that many aspire to, but appearance and eating quality are what consumers ultimately judge beef on.

To help farmers gain a greater understanding of the ideal prime animal, butcher Anthony Kitson gave unprecedented access to the exhibitors of the six champions he bought at the English Winter Fair. 

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They headed for CH Meats’ abattoir near York in December to see their champions undressed and in the bare flesh for the first time.

Supreme champion at show

At £5,700, the English Winter Fair supreme champion – a pure-bred Limousin heifer from TA and LC Lyon of Bourne, Lincolnshire – was Mr Kitson’s biggest investment.

The supreme carcass

Weighing in at a combined 442kg deadweight and killing out at 68% of its liveweight, the supreme’s carcass graded E3.

The supreme rib

 “What immediately stands out is just how square that loin is. It will give an excellent meat-to-bone ratio for the customer and has a lovely texture and colour to the eye muscle,” Mr Kitson explained.

Reserve rib

Reserve champion from Mark Harryman and Sarah Warriner of Pickering, North Yorkshire.

This three-quarter Limousin heifer, also killed out at 68% and graded E3. “But this would be the housewife’s choice,” said Mr Kitson. “The loin is more rounded, but there’s just a little more fat which will enhance flavour during cooking.

The gristle line

Importantly, there’s almost no gristle line around the eye muscle. That’s a tell-tale sign that an animal has had two distinct growth periods in its lifetime.

“Ideally, from a retailer’s perspective, I don’t want it as it spoils the eating experience. The key message is to have as uniform a growing and finishing regime as possible.”

Stressed beef

But they were not all successes, he admitted. “If I show you this beast, you will see straight away the eye muscle is considerably darker in colour to the flesh around it – it has been stressed. For me, it’s bottom league,” he said.

Frank Page’s pure-bred British Blue heifer carcass

One other carcass stood out for a very different reason. “Now this beast killed out at 70% and graded well,” he remarked, of Northamptonshire-based Frank Page’s pure-bred British Blue heifer.

“This one was remembered for its diminutive stance, but solid body from the show classes.”