16 July 1999


The quest was to find the best supermarket quality steak and

farmers supplying Tesco made sure the judges were

spoilt for choice. Tessa Gates watched the close

run Tesco British Steak Competition at the Royal Show

SOME competition judges have all the luck – just imagine having to taste 10 top quality steaks cooked to perfection to find an outstanding winner.

It was not an easy job but the panel judging the Tesco British Steak Competition rose to the occasion at the Royal Show and resisted the temptation of swallowing such succulent meat. Their task was to chew and spit – in the manner wine tasters – as they considered the merits of the meat.

"There are two ways I would like to go when I die and eating 10 steaks in a row is one of them," quipped celebrity chef Brian Turner. He cooked all 10 short-listed steaks which he was to judge with FW editor, Stephen Howe, and Mike Owen, manager of the MLC meat technical unit.

The competition was open to all members of the Beef and Lamb Producer Clubs supplying Tesco. They had to belong to a nationally recognised farm assurance scheme and demonstrate they had complied with the relevant schemes rules on welfare and record keeping.

Contestants had to send four animals together for slaughter, to reduce stress in transit, but indicate which one was selected for the contest. The MLC then graded the carcasses, which were all cooled and matured to the same times.

&#42 Eliminations

"We knocked out all the over-fat ones and dark cutters," says Mike Owen who co-ordinated the production side of the competition. Dark cutters – where the meat goes dark very quickly – show an animal has been stressed over some time, not just previous to slaughter. The colour does not affect the eating quality of the meat but consumers do not like to buy dark meat so it shortens the shelf life when being displayed for sale.

The 10 best carcasses were selected for the competition finals and the steaks were cut from the same spot – the high sirloin – on each beast. Now it was time for Brian Turner to cook them. "For the judging we must pretend to be the average punters and they dont like their steaks blue," says Brian. His tips for cooking a good steak are – have the hotplate or grill very hot, dont salt or pepper the meat, and dont fiddle around with it while it is cooking. "Cook for three or four minutes – depending on how you like your steak – turning just once. Then leave the meat to rest for a few minutes after cooking or it will toughen," he says. For his own restaurant. Turners, in Chelsea, he favours rib-eye steaks. "A rib eye will have a bit of chew to it but it will have plenty of flavour."

The 10 steaks were rated by the judges for juiciness, tenderness, beef flavour intensity and overall acceptability and no discussion was allowed while the score sheets were marked. The three steaks with the highest scores went forward for the final tasting.

This time the judges could confer. "Mmm… juicy you can feel the meat, it has good texture… not as tender but still juicy… the previous one had more flavour" were just some of the comments. Taste and texture appealed more than tenderness.

"This one is very tender, very vealified – I would guarantee this is from a younger animal than the other two," commented Brian Turner, who was proved right later when the details of the animals were revealed. "This would be very good served with a sauce but the other two are better as straight steaks." The other judges agreed and so it was down to choosing between the remaining two steaks.

They were unanimous in choosing a clear winner and additional steaks from this beast were cooked and served to an appreciative audience in the food hall. However contestants were kept on tenterhooks until the afternoon to hear who had produced the winning entry.

&#42 Winner from Wales

The best steak was produced from an Aberdeen x Marchigiana bred on Penllyn Estate Farm, Llwynhelig, Cowbridge, Mid-Glamorgan. Major Homfray and farm manager Stephen Crowe were very pleased to accept the £1000 prize and trophy on behalf of the farms family partnership.

"Its most exciting," said Major Homfray, a former chairman of the Marchigiana Breed Society which has just eight members in Britain. "The Marchigiana is the second largest breed in the world and comes from Italy. We use the Aberdeen-Angus for texture and the leanness of the meat and the Marchigiana for its rapid growth.

Second prize of £500 was awarded to Mr & Mrs Bruce, Upper Powburn, Laurencekirk, Aberdeenshire, for steak from one of their Continental cross cattle and and third prize, £250, to Cilla Gills who farms with her son as &#42 F & J P Westcott, Higher House Farm, Umberleigh, Devon, who entered a Limousin x Blonde cross.

Tesco sources its beef from 6000 farmers and Chris Ling, the companys agricultural manager was pleased with the response to the competition. "The idea behind our producers clubs is for Tesco to feed back the requirements of customers and for the farmers to respond to this. With this competition I think it is interesting for farmers to find out what their selected beasts taste like," he says.

Stephen Crowe, manager of the winning farm was pleased at how the competition was presented to the public at the Royal. "It is great for them to be able to see and taste the winning steaks in a competition that traces the beef from the farm to the table," he said.

The finalists were:

Penllyn Estate Farm,


Vale of Glamorgan.

Mr &Mrs D Bruce,

Upper Powburn,

Laurencekirk, Aberdeen

HF & JP Westcott,

Higher House Farm,

Umberleigh, Devon.

A J P Dare

Coryton Park, Axminster,


F D Pearse,

Park farm, Axminster,


R J Pearse,

Challenger Farm,


RW & D O Vincent & Son,

Goulds Farm,

Templecombe, Somerset.

A & P Down

Shridon, Honiton,


Zodiac Farms

Bathampton Farm,


W & L Elmslie,

Upper Toucks, Stonehaven,


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