Beef Cattle Breeds - Limousin
By Sam Wass, Medium Well
While the black and white spots of the friesian cow may make it pretty enough to be first choice for children’s books and TV ads, there’s a very different looking breed that steals the show when it comes to getting a tasty steak.
Imagine an idyllic countryside scene - rolling hills, a few giant oak trees scattered along hedgerows, and with a gentle gleam of the setting sun there’s highlights of gold across the green landscape. Those flecks of gold in your imaginary scene are likely Limousin beef cattle, which are the real gold when it comes to top quality steaks.
Considered as the best breed for steaks by many people - from top chefs and butchers to the humble meat-lover - Limousin are not the largest or heaviest cattle in the world, but they are prized for other qualities.
The meat from Limousin cattle is extremely popular among chefs and connoisseurs as it is delicate, has a low proportion of bone and fat (when reared appropriately) and is finely marbled. And, thanks to its strong flavour, the demand for Limousin cattle grew rapidly since its introduction to the UK in the early 1970s. By the mid 1980s the Limousin breed had cemented itself as the UK’s most popular beef breed, and there at the top spot, like a stubborn bull, it has stayed.
A typical Limousin cow will weigh around 650 kilos, and bulls can sometimes reach up to 1,000 kilos. The breed’s golden, light to dark red coat distinguishes it from other breeds, and while they are now a very common sight in Britain, the breed actually originates from the southwest of France.
Originally popular in the region as draft animals for agriculture, farmers later utilized the breed as a source of especially flavoursome meat. Reared in the valleys of the low mountain ranges, Limousin cattle mixed with other breeds over the centuries, enabling them to preserve their special qualities.
While the origins of the breed are always up for debate, there is a school of thought that Limousin cattle have been around for longer the civilised man, with the images of cattle in the caves near Lascaux, which date back millennia, showing a striking resemblance to today’s Limousin cattle.
The popularity of this cow as a meat breed is not just confined to France but extends around the world with farming of Limousin in Europe, North America, and Australia. Together with Charolais cattle they are one of the most popular breeds in meat production. This is partly thanks to their flavoursome meat, but also because these animals are a very hardy breed, meaning farmers can keep them out to pasture all year round, making them very popular as grass fed cattle.
And there you have it, a breed that is as popular with the farmers of the world as it is with our stomachs. Hardy and popular enough to last for centuries (or even millennia) to come, the beef of a Limousin is one we could never say no to, and thankfully, won’t have to.