Farm's tender beef is a winner

Northumberland farmer Donald MacPherson has staked his reputation on always providing his customers with tender, tasty beef.

Northumberland farmer Donald MacPherson has staked his reputation on always providing his customers with tender, tasty beef.

Along with his wife, Sarah, he set up the humorously named company Well Hung and Tender after the foot-and-mouth crisis, selling beef from his herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle direct to consumers via farmers' markets and the internet.

And the beef is already winning awards, beating Jamie Oliver's 21-day matured beef into second place in the nationwide tasting competition the Battle of the Beef Challenge.

At the moment, visitors to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival are enjoying Well Hung and Tender steak rolls, burgers and sausages as the MacPhersons have very recently bought a catering trailer. They are due to visit the York Festival next, and will be out and about at different events during the festive season.

The Aberdeen Angus herd is based at Castlehills Farm, on the outskirts of Berwick-upon-Tweed, and Mr Macpherson combines traditional and modern farming methods to ensure tasty beef every time.

As part of his preparations for the new venture, Mr MacPherson embarked on an extensive research project, backed by the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust, with additional support from the Royal Smithfield Club and the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.

His research took him to America and Australia in a bid to discover how they are able to produce consistently good eating beef and how UK farmers can adapt to compete. And he also worked with the Rowlett Research Institute in Aberdeen to find out more about the benefits of grass-fed beef.

He concluded that hanging the beef for about four weeks improved the tenderness and flavour, and by raising his cattle on grass instead of grain, his beef would boast the same beneficial health properties as oily fish.

When Donald and Sarah first started the business, the meat came from their suckler herd of Charolais and Limousin cattle, but when their customers started asking them if they sold Aberdeen Angus beef, they decided to meet this consumer demand.

The herd of continental cattle was sold to another farmer, who was restocking after the FMD outbreak, and the MacPhersons bought in 90 pedigree Aberdeen Angus cattle.

They now sell their meat at 10 farmers' markets a month and via their website, www.wellhungandtender.com.

Mr MacPherson said: "We moved into Aberdeen Angus cattle because of consumer demand, but I must admit when I tried the meat I thought it was better.

"We're supplying a niche market and we have to make sure we have a superior product."

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