Global Outlook

It was revealed last week that Alec Jarrett's Ashdale beef had won a blind test of 20 rib steaks from all over the world with, among others, Aberdeen Angus, Hereford and Chianina beef.

This test, organised by a food magazine, took place in a well known steakhouse restaurant and the meat was judged by a panel of food journalists and chefs.

This comes after another test by a Belgian retailer two years ago that also placed English beef on top of the seven products tested. The comment of the jury regarding English beef was "unanimous and laudatory".

There is certainly a gap in the perception of English beef between home and abroad with its potential to perform in the most demanding kitchens. Beef must be treated with utmost care not only producing suckler beef which is typically, in the UK, the product of cross breeding traditional breeds with a strong Limousin influence, but also by applying the best practice in processing and maturing. Some processors are doing a great job in producing sumptuous eating beef but some could do more to raise standards.

Of course, the world beef market is not dominated by the premium product. However, the market is growing as higher disposable incomes allow consumers to be choosy. Markets in Europe, the Middle East, South East Asia and the Far East have a rising demand for premium beef. Australia, Canada, New Zealand are increasingly catering for this market segment with a bewildering offer. In the EU, the market offers national products, often breed defined that cater for top-end restaurants and retailers' premium ranges. The example to follow is Ireland. With dwindling supplies, the Irish industry has consciously moved upmarket with Aberdeen Angus and Hereford crossed beef, backed by good marketing.