Formalities are over as finalists are chosen

The annual batte to produce Scotland's best steak is underway with preliminary judging having whittled down the initial entry of 164 to 12 finalists in the McIntosh Donald/Tesco Scotch Steak Competition.

The annual battle to produce Scotland's best steak is underway with preliminary judging having whittled down the initial entry of 164 to 12 finalists in the McIntosh Donald/Tesco Scotch Steak Competition.

Sirloins from 104 carcases were chosen on visual inspection by an expert panel at McIntosh Donald's Portlethen meat plant to go through to the final judging on the Tesco stand at the Royal Highland Show at the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh on 23 June.

The steaks will be cooked and judged for eating quality by a celebrity panel at the show and the winner will receive a Caithness glass trophy plus £1,000, with £500 going to the runner-up and £250 for third place.

"The quality, conformation and presentaion of all entires has been superb. It has proven very difficult to make the final selection," said Tesco beef and lamb technical manager, James Whittaker. "The judges at the Highland Show will have a very difficult task."

Whittaker said the high quality of beef produced by Scottish farmers was the main reason for the continued expansion of sales of Scotch beef sold under Tesco's Finest range. And eating quality was about to be enhanced further following the adoption of a new blueprint to extend the maturation process from 21 days to a minimum of 28 days. Tesco is the Scottish beef industry's biggest customer and McIntosh Donald is the exclusive supplier of Scotch beef to Tesco stores throughout the country.

The sirloins came from the carcases of cattle bred and fed in Scotland and from farms meeting the high standard of husbandry, management and animal welfare laid down by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS). The winning sirloins will be matured for another three weeks before being cooked on the Tesco stand at the show by celebrity chef, Colin Capon. The final judging panel will comprise NFU Scotland president, John Kinnaird, Tesco's Chris Ling, and Alasdair Fletcher, editor of the Scottish Farmer, as well as Capon.

McIntosh Donald sales director, Alan McNaughton, who takes over as managing director from Ralph Green next week, said the uniformly high standard of the entries was impressive and a testimony to the high quality of cattle produced by Scottish farmers 52 weeks of the year to meet Tesco's requirements.

The winning sirloins came from 10 steers and two heifers suppled by 12 producers from Ross-shire to Fife. Six of the cattle were Charolais cross, five Limousin cross and one Simmental cross. The carcases weighed from 323.4kg to 393.8kg and five classified U for conformation and seven classified R, with nine at 4L for fat cover and three at 3. Three of the 12 were home-bred and the remainder bought-in.

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