WHAT'S THE BEEF?

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Stanley
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WHAT'S THE BEEF?

Post by Stanley » 31 Mar 2015, 03:39

This is an article that was printed in the Food Magazine in 2004


WHAT’S THE BEEF?

In the days when my beard was black and I was driving a flat wagon which modern truckers would laugh at, a 90hp engine, 4 gears and a legal payload of 10 tons, I used to make a regular trip across to Sherburn in Elmet in East Yorkshire to pick up ten tons of barley for Cyril Richardson at Little Stainton who compounded his own cattle food. The name of the farmer I went to was Mr Bramley and I always used to enjoy visiting him because he was an able man, treated me with respect and I always learned from him.

The sharpest memory I have of the farm is the day Mrs Bramley asked me to come into the kitchen after we had loaded the 80 railway hire sacks each weighing 280lb and sheeted them down. She gave me a pint of tea and asked me if I’d like a beef sandwich. When I said yes, she asked me what sort, Angus or Hereford? I had to admit that I didn’t know there was any difference; as far as I was concerned beef was beef, full stop. She gave me some of each and I sat there and advanced my education. The thing that strikes me now is that they were so enthusiastic about beef on that farm that they always had at least two joints on the go from different breeds.

Mr Bramley ran Home Farm on the same cropping system that his father and grandfather had used. There were three rotated field crops, barley, turnips and grass. He kept Hereford beef cattle which grazed in summer and in winter were fed on barley, chopped turnips and straw in covered straw yards. The cash flow came from sales of finished beef cattle and surplus barley.

The beef cattle were bought as stores in Ireland and shipped across to Birkenhead. Jim Bramley and his mates used to go to Ireland for the sales in the spring and buy the best cattle they could obtain. Back in the 1960s they were paying £400 and £500 apiece for the beasts. I asked him how they could make any profit and he surprised me by saying that they couldn’t, they always made a small loss so I pressed him further, I knew there had to be an explanation.

He explained that the cattle were never intended to be profitable. The reason he farmed them was two-fold; he liked cattle, enjoyed rearing them and competing for prizes at the winter fatstock sales but the economic reason they were on the farm was as part of the farm machinery. They ate grass, turnips and barley and trod straw to make manure for the crops. This input maintained the condition and fertility of his land and resulted in a surplus of barley which provided the profit. A side benefit of the system was low stress and disease levels in the herd, the straw bed fermenting under the cattle kept them warm and killed off bacteria. He admitted that the main benefit to him was that he loved going out and watching prime quality contented beasts kept in the best conditions he could provide them with. Here we had a happy man making a profit out of producing top quality beef and grain with the added benefit that he was improving his land in the process.

Fifty years on it sounds like some Utopian dream doesn’t it. So what brought on this attack of nostalgia? I was listening to Farming Today on the BBC this morning and they were describing the moves in the USA to break away from traditional line breeding of cattle to a system where the selection of the breeding stock was based simply on performance. The resulting animals are finished on feed lots that can hold upwards of 100,000 cattle and rely heavily on hormonal and other chemical additives to raise conversion rates and keep down disease levels. The interviewer visited farms in Yorkshire where this technology is being adopted and the conclusion was that this was another nail in the coffin of the small scale traditional grazing farm.

My conclusion is that I must be some kind of a dinosaur. I bitterly regret the loss of the old style mixed farm which gave a good life to both the farmers and the stock. Apart from the purely agricultural considerations this is an erosion of a management system which has served us well for hundreds of years, preserved a landscape and nurtured a way of life which has made an enormous contribution to our social system. It seems to me we are losing out all round here and I wonder if considerations like these ever cross the minds of the people making the changes. Only one thing is certain, we can never go back and even though I shan’t be here to see it, I’ll lay a small bet that our children will live to regret it.

SCG/10 January 2004
830 words.
Stanley Challenger Graham
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The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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Re: WHAT'S THE BEEF?

Post by Stanley » 23 Oct 2019, 02:35

Bumped in response to Wendy's post this morning.
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"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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Wendyf
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Re: WHAT'S THE BEEF?

Post by Wendyf » 23 Oct 2019, 05:55

Thank you Stanley.

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Re: WHAT'S THE BEEF?

Post by Stanley » 23 Oct 2019, 06:41

Feel free to spread it around Wendy. Even though I say it myself I was in front of the curve 15 years ago and it is still my position when I hear Vegans spouting nonsense about meat eating being the devil's work!
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
scg1936 at talktalk.net

"Beware of certitude" (Jimmy Reid)
The floggings will continue until morale improves!

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