When Dutch supermarkets Super de Boer and Groothedde wanted a point of difference and a naturally produced wholesome beef product for their expanding customer base it was natural that they should come to Ireland.
Along with AIBP Cahir they refined their painstaking research until settling on the Ballymartin herd of Gus, Avril and Elizabeth Kingston set in the rolling landscape close to the historic Lismore in Co Waterford.
The choice was excellent as the management system at Ballymartin since its foundation has been simple, natural and geared to the production of a top class product as close to natural as is possible. Animals need to be self sufficient, naturally docile and perform outdoors on a grass-based system.
Bulls from the herd are not pampered in any way and find a ready market direct from the farm in many cases to repeat customers built up over the years Gus says “the customer wants fit, well grown bulls with adequate muscle that are fit for purpose and will not disappoint in six months time and will give value for the investment.”
Having carried out their research both firms have concluded that Hereford beef is superior to Angus in taste, texture and fat content. Initially its customers used to continental and dairy beef were wary of the marbling but came to realise that this is what gave the Hereford meat its succulent taste and now demand has grown very quickly.
As it is a premium product the beef is packed like a gift or present with a recipe and cooking instruction as traditionally beef was smothered in sauces to give it flavour. The Dutch customer now has the opportunity to tantalise their taste buds as never before. The back end is selling extremely well, as also are fetters for casseroles.
A promotion by Bord Bia has been extremely important in helping to endorse the flavour etc. of the beef and in getting people to try the product.
Casper who represents supermarket chain Super de Boer and Ineke who represents meat buyers Groothedde are blown over by the whole concept the system and lay out at Ballymartin. They place great emphasis on the natural grass production system and the tender loving care given the animals by Elizabeth. AIBP Cahir has been most co-operative in meeting the slaughter and production requirements. Animals now approach the slaughter area around a bend in the line to avoid undue stress to the animal and carcasses are hip hung ensuring every effort is made to provide a top class product increasing the eating experience.
When the Dutch supermarket group first approached the Kingston Family at Ballymartin the family didn’t expect that both themselves and their herd would feature in the supply and promotion of naturally produced Hereford beef across the Netherlands. A carefully produced color brochure was circulated by post to just over 1 million (est. readership 3 million) people and the picture of Elizabeth riding through her cows on her horse “ Sam ” was a particular favorite and cause of comment.
Super de Boer N.V. is a Dutch retail company with 330 stores currently operating in the Netherlands. French food retail group Casino Guichard sold its entire stake privately to Dutch rival Jumbo in October 2009 in a deal worth €552 million.
Major meat suppliers Groothedde provision six different chain of supermarkets and Ineke is now working hard to have Jumbo take more Hereford beef in other supermarket chains they own.
Below we provide a translation of the brochure or click here to see the Dutch version.
Greetings from Ireland!
Our ‘Superior’ beef comes from the very best green pastures
What makes our ‘Superior’ Irish beef so delicious?
• Our ‘Superior’ Irish beef is produced solely from Irish Hereford cows; a strong breed of cattle which live permanently outdoors problem free, summer and winter. A breed that is (almost) never required to spend time confined to the byre. The animals are treated with professional care, attention and affection. The result? Well that is something you can taste: meat of restaurant quality.
• There is a choice of four cuts: rump steak, entrecote, rib-eye and tenderloin.
At Super de Boer we are always on the lookout for quality meat produced from animals which have led a wonderful life. Here we have discovered a great Hereford breeding farm, where all of these good things come together!
Why do we describe our Irish beef as ‘Superior’? Because the life of our Herefords is probably the best life that any cow could wish for. Before we learned to quality tag produce as ‘biological meat’, this was already the norm for raising cattle in Ireland. And this remains true today. A ‘Superior’ encounter.
The meadows around Ballymartin Farm appear greener than anywhere else in Ireland. In the mornings the air is cool and moist, only the occasional barking dog or the distant lowing of cattle breaks the silence. It is 7am and Elizabeth stands prepared for the day’s work ahead. In jodhpurs, lamb’s wool sweater and wax coat she heads off in the direction of the byres to feed a couple of calves. A history graduate of Dublin University, Elizabeth is these days one of the very few female farmers of Hereford cattle; a strong and robust breed, which survives outdoors all year round.
It has been over sixty years since Elizabeth’s father Gus started here with just two Herefords on this farm on which the farmhouse is now listed as an historic Irish building. Over that period the herd has grown to number in excess of one hundred cows calves and – unusually – its own two breeding bulls. Artificial insemination is not part of the routine here; reproduction in the meadows is a natural process. As is calving. On most occasions the calves are delivered naturally, without assistance. Elizabeth explains that such a herd is known as a ‘closed’ herd one of the reasons why the animals are and remain so strong and healthy. The vet is a rare visitor here.
The herd lives outside, where the animals graze in the meadows and are given all the care and attention they require. This is what you taste in the meat.
The quality of our Irish beef…
• The cattle farm system for the Irish Hereford is small scale and animal friendly
– the animals are allowed to grow entirely naturally.
• In Ireland the animals are treated with the utmost care. Animal friendliness is key and stress is avoided as much as possible.
• In Ireland they tend to take their time about things, this also applies to the process of preparing the meat for the shops. The produce is beautifully matured in a manner, which guarantees maximum tenderness.
Sustainability, a concept we prize highly at Super de Boer. And this is something, which translates directly back into our products. Our Irish beef has certainly earned its own special place. A unique taste, carefully prepared and available only at Super de Boer.