SCBAShetland Cattle Breeders Association

Shetland Beef

If you buy your meat from the supermarket shelves it is probable that you have never experienced the wonderful texture and taste available from our traditional breeds of cattle. The various breeds will, naturally, claim that
Roast Shetland beef Roast Shetland beef © Steve Richards
their beef is best and, as it is largely a subjective matter, it is not for us to try to make comparisons. What we can do is to make the case for Shetland beef: naturally, we believe it cannot be bettered.

If you are producing your own beef, be it for sale or home consumption, an important consideration is that a Shetland can be finished off grass within 30 months. No need for concentrates. It will be grown naturally with no requirement for growth enhancers. It saves you money and there will have been minimal impact on the environment. The meat will be rich in omega 3 un-saturated fats and it will remain tender during cooking due to its fine marbling. The taste will be better than you have ever experienced. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are a breeder more concerned about the quality of your produce than the quantity. This message will be brought home to you by family and friends always willing to buy any spare meat from your freezer.

You may have thoughts about keeping a larger herd and making some profit from your enterprise. This is entirely feasible but there are certain caveats. You will need a customer base whose requirements you can meet. For example there will be organisations (hotels are an example) which will be very selective about which cuts they want and when they want them. And if you decide to process the meat yourself you must expect the interest of Trading Standards and Food Hygiene authorities in respect of your premises and workplace. However we do have an increasing number of breeders who have taken this route with success and who are helping to spread the word about Shetland beef. A Shetland farmer has his organic Shetland beef sold as "Iron Age Beef" by a leading butcher in London.

A few facts about the meat production process. A Shetland steer is likely to weigh between 450 and 550kg at 30 months. It will lose 40-45% of this weight during the dressing process at the abattoir and a further 30-40% during the processing phase where it is cut into joints of meat. So in terms of weight of meat to fit into your freezer we are talking about somewhere between 140 and 200kgs. It will add to the quality if your abattoir or butcher can hang the meat for between two and a half and three weeks.