Cattle rearing in Ireland is very much a family tradition, with holdings and farming practices passed on from one generation to the next. With over 120,000 small farms across the country and 1.3 cows to every person, the agricultural network of Ireland is a huge part of the Irish landscape. This allows a consistency of quality and production that has helped give Irish beef its position of excellence in the culinary world.
Ireland’s agricultural success are heavily intertwined with the climate and terrain. Ireland, more than anywhere else, feels the softening influence of the Gulf Stream, which brings warming waters from the Gulf of Mexico to northern Europe. Abundant rainfall is the most obvious evidence of this and the result is a grass growing season longer than anywhere else in Europe, making green pasturelands the mainstay of Irish agriculture.
Unseen to the eye, and a further reason for the richness of the country’s farming tradition, is a valuable resource underground: Ireland has the largest continuous stretch of carboniferous limestone in Europe. This limestone base provides the farmland with excellent drainage and the grasses with a rich source of calcium and other nutrients, the perfect conditions for grazing cattle.
Many chefs and cooks around the world cook with Irish beef to transfer this quality to a variety of dishes. Being grass-fed, Irish beef has a deep, rich colour with fine marbling of intramuscular fat throughout the meat, which results in a delicious texture and flavour.
Chef Andy McLeish, of restaurant Chapter One, uses a fillet of beef to create an impressive beef Wellington, resulting in "a beautiful eye of beef, nice and pink". At the other end of the spectrum, chef Adam Bennett, of The Cross, opts for a tougher cut: the cheek. "This cut has some lovely collagen layers within its flesh and that’s what makes it the best cut by far for braising, stews, steak and kidney pudding... anything where you've got a long slow-cooking method."
With some great tips on butchering the meat, and recipes for everything from tartare to homemade corned beef, our chefs offer the ultimate ways to make the most of Irish beef.