(Guilt-free beef)

When all is said and done, these beautiful beasts are beef cattle, and they have to stand up for themselves on meat quality. Here at Bairnsley, we have been finishing and eating steers (and some cows and heifers) since 1999, and it is sold under the label Bairnsley Highland Beef. We and our customers who buy our meat packages have raved about the quality of the meat during this time - the taste, tenderness, leanness and not to mention the 'natural' way in which the animals are reared and handled through the whole process.

Highland steers have been doing well in carcass competitions for the last decade, while breeders have been going to the trouble of preparing them. Top finishes, with scores in the mid-80's, have been recorded consistently at Royal Shows across the eastern states. These carcass competitions have seen these animals score maximum points consistently for eye muscle area (related to the amount of the better quality cuts on a carcass) and marbling. Marbling - the dispersal of fat throughout the meat and not just under the skin, has always been a strong point of Highland carcasses and relates to tenderness, juiciness and taste.

Several taste tests performed throughout the world have shown Highland meat to not only score extremely high for taste and tenderness but also remarkably low for cholesterol when compared with meat of other breeds. Highlands generally do not lay down fat under the skin (subcutaneous fat) like many other breeds because they rely on their thick coat and not fat for protection from the cold. So the meat is remarkably lean, and so better for us.

How do we finish our steers?

We try to finish our steers on pasture or hay only, with a moderate covering of fat and a growth rate in the last 90 days of 0.6-0.8kg/d. Weights need to be checked at least monthly on scales or by using girth measurements (see Weight Estimation by Girth Circumference). We have found that pasture fed steers have more flavour to their meat. If we want to finish steers during winter so that we can retain their hides, then good quality hay can be used to attain these growth rates and the desired minimum fat covering. (Read more about the health benefits of grass-fed beef.)

We chose animals from our pool of steers about six months prior, and make sure that they are especially looked after for the three months before we start to finish them. This means they are drenched for worms twice in this time and if we intend to keep the hides, we will make sure they are free of lice as well.

The steers' ages will vary from 20-30 months depending on their frame size and condition. We actually use our steers to clean up paddocks after other classes of stock have been through, and so they are usually on the poorest quality feed on our property, so growth rates are not maximised until that final six months. 

We aim for a live weight of 420-450kg which equates to a carcass of around 240kg. To minimise bruising and make handling easier, all of our steers are dehorned early in their life. We make sure they go through the yards several times prior to saying good-bye to them so that when the time comes, they are not particularly stressed by the whole process. Two to three animals are finished at the same time and are kept together all the way through, once again to minimise stress. Stress causes degradation of meat quality and dark cutting meat.

We have our butcher hang the meat for 14-21 days depending on the fat covering. The meat is sold in packages of a quarter of a beast, with all cuts being represented in each package - succulent eye fillet, mouth-watering porterhouse, through to tasty, lean sausages and a corned silverside that will bring back memories of dinner at Grandma's.

For all the reasons mentioned above, we guarantee
that you will not get more tender or tasty beef.

All this and knowing that the animals are raised naturally and treated humanely - guilt-free beef! This is also healthier beef than what you will get in the supermarket or at most butcher sops - our beef doesn't come from animals force fed grain in feedlots.



1) Hellifield Highland Beef