Cooking Farming

Retired Dairy Cow: 9 year old beef with spectacular flavour

3rd July 2018

Retired dairy cow could be the future of sustainable carnivorism? 

Farmdrop is selling a new selection of limited edition ‘rare meats’ with bold flavours and unique heritage. We’ll be profiling each new release so keep your eyes peeled for new announcements. This time it’s beef from retired dairy cow.

Ever wondered what retired dairy cow tastes like? Well now you can find out for yourself. Farmdrop is selling a limited selection of premium cuts from Miss Norma, a nine year old Ayrshire dairy cow responsible for over 4 tonnes of hafod cheddar, from Holden Farm Dairy in Wales. Expertly butchered, hung and matured for 45 days by Nathan Mills at the Butchery. In the words of Miss Norma’s herdsman, Nicholas Millard, she’s sure to ‘bring about a final rousing chorus of flavour into the lives of those lucky few of you who buy some of her’.

What is old retired beef?

Lady dairy cows are ‘retired’ when they can no longer produce enough milk. It’s typically an inglorious ending to an animal that has churned out thousands of gallons of milk during a ten year lifetime. In conventional dairy herds, these cows will often be sent to the slaughterhouse and turned into cheap burgers, soup, or even dog food.

However a handful of organic British dairy farmers, using some borrowed imagination from farmers in Northwest Spain, are turning retired dairy cow beef into a great value delicacy. Rather than sending them off for early retirement, these farmers are keeping their retired ladies on grass for a year or so longer to cultivate some spectacular cuts of beef. 

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Today we bade farewell to dear old Miss Norma. A great big white Ayrshire cow who was born on 6th June 2009 and in her working life was responsible for nearly four tonnes of Hafod cheese. Her days were numbered when we couldn’t get her back in calf again. Miss Norma was not born on this farm, but instead came from the hallowed Stamford herd. She arrived at Bwlchwernen as a heifer-shaped ray of hope following the farm’s first bovine TB breakdown, some seven years ago. It made me sad to think of such a kindly old girl going off for burgers and dog food, so I called up Nathan at The Butchery and, after several intense, long, boozy business lunches at the Dorchester (we wish!), we closed the deal. A few weeks later and we are now here, today, when, early this morning, Nigel the haulier picked her up to take her to the abattoir. As I write this, she’ll be in four quarters and hanging for a week before she is transported to The Butchery in London where Nathan will hang and dry age her for a further few months. This will make her old flesh achingly tender and flavoursome and hopefully in one last flurry of gourmet activity, she’ll bring about one final rousing chorus of flavour into the lives of those lucky few of you who are Nathan’s customers. So long Miss Norma, I’ll miss your shapely udder, your perfectly sized and placed teats, strong, elephantine feet and your occasional bouts of lunacy.

A post shared by Nicholas Millard (@herdsman_nick) on

Why are people eating it?

Chefs in high-end restaurants have been serving old cow from Galicia in Spain and the Basque country for a couple of years now. This beef is a staggering 18 years old, and has sent carnivores crazy with its full-on meaty flavour and marbled yellowy fat.

Spotting the demand for tastier beef with a unique heritage, British farmers and speciality butchers, have started producing their own old beef from retired dairy cows. In doing so, they are getting two premium products (dairy and beef) out of the same animal.

There is a good chance you will have eaten dairy cow already. Retired dairy cows are allegedly used in around 20% of Mcdonald’s hamburgers, as the fast-food chain doesn’t specify if the meat should come from beef or dairy cattle. However, this old cow will be exceptionally lean and not come even close to the flavour and fat composition of the premium retired dairy as it is likely to come from a non-organic herd, fed on concentrates rather than grass. 

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Every now and then we have to bang on about how different we are. These 6 bone in ribeye are from an 9 year old ex dairy cow from the organic farm @holdenfarmdairy she had a name she was loved, she made amazing raw milk cheese which you can buy from @neals_yard_dairy a couple of doors down from as at spa terminus. We brought the whole cow, we paid the farmer better the. He would of got selling at market, we paid the slaughter fees and transportation to London, we aged her 38 days she was loved by us as much as the farmer. This is not something new to us we have been doing this since our butchers opened 6.5 years ago and it’s what sets us apart from the rest. Tomorrow we limited amount at Bermondsey and by good you better be quick as there will be a que of cheese monger out the door

A post shared by Nathan Mills (@naththebutcher) on

What does it taste like?

With a lifespan of up to 5 or 6 times longer than conventional beef, and fed a lifelong diet of grass, retired dairy beef is bursting with different flavours. Comparisons are often drawn with the champagne of the beef world – Wagyu – because the marbling can look very similar. In a recent taste test by youtube sensation, the Food Busker, a panel comprised of chefs and butchers thought that retired dairy matched Wagyu for flavour and was much better value at a fraction of the price.

How should I eat it?

You can cook retired dairy cow as you would beef steak. However, given the age of the animal, it might require a bit longer cooking time and at a lower heat. Nathan Mills at the Butchery, recommends the reverse sear method: cook the steak for 45 minutes to rare, either through indirect heat on the BBQ, or on a low heat (120c) in the oven; let it rest for a couple of minutes; finish searing it over a very hot grill for 30 seconds on either side.

Check out Farmdrop’s limited edition range of retired dairy cow here

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