Here at Beef Bros all our beef comes from two native Irish breeds of cattle, the Dexter and the Irish Moiled. Both breeds were on the cusp of extinction only decades previously, however both have seen a regeneration of sorts over the last number of years, as farmers have recognised their value as being two hardy breeds of cattle who can survive on the harshest landscape and poor quality forage, while consumers long for the premium quality beef that is now synonymous with both the Dexter and Irish Moiled. Let's take a look at the history of these two breeds and why exactly they are proving so popular with farmers and consumers alike.
The Dexter breed has become renowned recently on both a national and international level for producing high quality, well marbled beef. The Dexter is a native Irish breed that was produced in South West Tipperary by genetically selecting the best of the hardy mountain cattle in the area. Interestingly enough, the breed is named after the man who genetically selected these animals, Mr. Dexter! What Mr. Dexter produced is a hardy, dual purpose breed that produces high milk yields as well as excellent beef.
It is no secret that high quality land and forage is few and far between in Leitrim. Given the fact that the Dexter descends from the hardy mountain cattle of South West Tipperary, they are more than able to not only adapt, but thrive on the poor quality land and forage in South Leitrim. Not only that, but given their small stature, the Dexter will do less damage to the typically water logged and damp Leitrim land. The average Dexter cow is less than half the weight of some of the continental breeds, with the average Charlaois cow weighing in at 800kg. In theory this makes the Dexter unattractive to many farmers, seeing as less weight will result in less beef being produced and therefore lower revenues per animal. However, one must work with the tools at their disposal so to speak, and the Dexter is the perfect fit for the low quality forage and land of Leitrim.
While it may be the case that they are very well suited to the Leitrim land, it is also the case that the Dexter produces premium quality beef which is renowned for its' tenderness and flavour. The breed develops a unique 'spider marbling' which is not found in typical continental breeds, while its' beef is also higher in CLAs and the 'healthy fat' Omega 3. The unique 'spider marbling' pattern in Dexter beef is due to the fact that Dexter is much smaller than other breeds, which is the beef most commonly found in supermarkets and butchers nationwide. For those who are unaware, marbling is intramuscular fat which accumulates in the beef, giving it an almost marble appearance. Marbling has an extremely positive impact on beef, particularly in terms of flavour, juiciness and tenderness.
Not only does the small stature of the Dexter has positive benefits for the Leitrim land and the level of marbling in the beef, but many chefs commend the size and thickness of a Dexter steak. For example, a typical 10oz steak from an Angus will be quite long and thin in comparison to a typical 10oz steak from a Dexter, which is much shorter but much thicker. This thickness results in a much better depth of flavour for a rare or medium steak, which is one of the many reasons why chefs not only in Ireland, but worldwide, acclaim Dexter beef to be up there with the very best.
The other breed of cow we keep on Beef Bro's farm is the Irish Moiled. The Moiled shares a lot of traits with the Dexter, they're indigenous to Ireland, they survive and thrive off poor quality land and they both produce top quality beef. However, the Irish Moiled (or 'Moilie' as they are commonly referred to) are not as well known as the Dexter, and in fact, as recently as 1979 the Moilie was rarer than the giant panda, the mountain gorilla or any of the top ten most endangered species on the planet.
The Moilie is a native Irish breed with a beautiful unique and varied colouring (typically red in colour marked by white lines across its' body). It is one of the rarest breeds still found in Ireland today, and although it was traditionally a dairy cow, it has earned its' reputation as a dual purpose breed from its' ability to produce top quality beef. Similarly to the Dexter, the Moilie is growing in popularity amongst small time holdings, typically in Ulster and North West Connacht where there is poor and low quality land. The ability to forage on low quality pastures means that the Moilie a developed a wide and varied diet through the years, which is beneficial to the conservational farming approach we adopt here at Beef Bros, as the Moilie's diet promotes the growth of many wildflowers and plants.
While there is a growing admiration for the Moilie in regards their ability to thrive on low quality pastures and their easy calving ability, it would be remiss of us to note that some people consider Irish Moiled beef to be the best marbled beef available on the market. An increasing number of butchers and restaurants are beginning to look for Irish Moiled beef for their premises. Stephen Loftus of 'The Grill' restaurant in Belfast came across Irish Moiled beef 15 years ago at a farmers market and noted that the "beef had an incredible unique flavour; being sweet, rich and creamy." Stephen now only stocks Irish Moiled beef at his restaurant, noting "from a restaurant point of view, the moderate muscling, conformation and size of an Irish Moiled animal is perfect for plating coupled with the unique flavour makes it a perfect product for a modern restaurant.”
It really is no wonder that both the Dexter and Irish Moiled breeds are surging in popularity amongst farmers, consumers and chefs nationwide. Their small stature means that they are perfectly suited for the typical small holdings across the country, while they also produce steak which is well marbled and full of flavour, making them the perfect fit for consumers and restaurants who appreciate premium quality beef.
Beef Bros are proud to stock only organic, grass - fed Dexter and Irish Moiled beef, why not try it out for yourself and taste the quality.