What makes for great tasting beef? The quality of pasture? The skill of the farmer? The experience of the artisan butcher? A masterful chef? Yes to all these things, but most importantly, great tasting beef starts with the breed. Great Britain is blessed with some of the best beef breeds in the world, and whilst the Red Ruby Devon might not be a common sight on your supermarket shelves, the breed reigns supreme in terms of the eating quality of its beef. There are a couple of reasons for this.
You can’t rush a Red Ruby The Red Ruby Devon is a quiet and placid grazer with the perfect metabolism for converting grass into premium quality beef; a great source of natural, healthy protein. You won’t find Red Ruby Devon cattle in intensive beef production systems; they just don’t suit the management regime. You will find Red Ruby herds on family farms in areas such as upland, moorland, heathland and coastal fringes where Red Rubies will roam extensively across pastures for the majority of the year. As with most things in life, the best things take time, and beef is no exception. Grass reared Red Ruby Devon Beef takes more time to produce, typically 2-3 years. Time spent roaming pasture is not only good for the animal but it naturally produces a finer textured beef with real depth and complexity of flavour.
“The real wow factor becomes apparent in the eating. I believe it is down to the fine grained texture of slow grown Red Ruby Devon beef which produces smaller protein molecules, helping it to cook much better, maintaining succulence and flavour” Alyn Williams, of Alyn Williams at The Westbury, London. Michelin starred chef and National Chef of the Year 2012.
The F Word: Are we talking about Flavour or Fat? Well, both, because you can’t get flavour without fat. As Delia Smith says in her Complete Illustrated Cookery Course “fat means flavour . . . nature has so arranged things that when a good piece of meat with its proper percentage of fat is placed near a fire or in an oven the heat draws out some of the juices whilst the fat melts and bastes the meat . . . its presence during cooking is essential.” The Red Ruby has perfected its foraging ability of several hundred years to brilliantly convert pasture to prime quality beef. As it grazes, the Red Ruby lays down both flesh as well as tiny deposits of fat within its flesh. This intramuscular fat is often referred to as “marbling.” You can see whether a cut of beef is marbled when you buy it – simply look for small flecks of white within the main area of red flesh. You won’t find it on ultra-lean beef, but it’s always there with Red Ruby Devon beef! Importantly the Red Ruby Devon is a very easy fleshing breed which means that as well as marbling, Red Ruby Devon beef naturally comes with a layer of fat around the outside of the meat. This is really vital to maturing the beef on the bone – the all important hanging times. Beef that doesn’t have that external layer of fat simply cannot be hung for any length of time. Red Ruby Devon beef is typically hung for 3-4 weeks.