When is a Hereford not a Hereford?

By , Medium Well

Hereford Cattle

As we move towards British Food Fortnight, we thought it was important to ask ourselves some probing questions about the past, and about traditional British beef cattle breeds. After all, it’s this history that makes British beef naturally tasty. Yes it's to do with great butchers and great farming techniques, but it also owes more than a small portion to history and heritage. In terms of breed, Hereford is very fashionable right now, so we've taken a look at it's history here.

Now designated as a rare breed, the Old Horned Hereford Cattle is the gene line from which the millions of Hereford cattle across the world originally came from. It dates back to the late eighteenth century when breeders in Herefordshire and the Welsh borders began attempts to improve local cattle. In the nineteenth century the stock was deliberately bred to have a white face and red-brown body to give it a distinctive look, which persists through to modern day cattle.

In the latter nineteenth century Hereford bulls were extensively exported to North and South America to enhance and upgrade the existing stock. Paradoxically when restrictions on importing breeding cattle in the UK were relaxed in the 1950s the 'new' breed of Horned Hereford bulls from North America were used to give extra height to the traditional domestic strain. This resulted in the mixed British-North American variations (Horned Hereford and Polled Hereford) which the vast majority of Hereford in Britain now are.

Over the last 20 years an initiative by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust to protect the gene line of the original English Hereford has resulted in numbers increasing. The indigenous uncrossed cattle is also now very much distinguished from the modern variants and is known as Old Horned Hereford as opposed to a plain old Hereford.

Hereford is a really good breed that produces amazing beef. It lends itself really well to grass feeding, and almost exclusively our grass-fed range is from Hereford cattle. That said, it’s sometimes good to go with tradition, so next time you’re in the countryside at a farm shop, check out if they’ve got any Old Horned Hereford Beef for sale, give it a go and let us know what you think.

Please support British Food Fortnight and buy local food when possible between. It's an easy way you can support British farms, and by doing that you help keep the British countryside, green, pleasant and generally a great part of Britain.