What are my special features?
Blue Grey cattle have a distinctive look with inch long grey mottled hair, although sometimes they have auburn mottled hair (known as a “roaney” Blue Grey), a sturdy frame and is polled (hornless). It derives from crossing two native breed; the rare Whitebred Shorthorn (bull) and the Galloway (cow). The number of Blue Grey cattle is intrinsically linked with that of Whitebred Shorthorn.
The Blue Grey is renowned for its high quality, slow grown, succulent beef. It takes approximately 2 to 3 years to reach slaughter weight, which is longer than modern non-native breeds.
What is my history?
The earliest records of the Blue Grey were in the mid 19th century and its popularity grew throughout the 20th century due to the reputation of the female for reaching sexual maturity and the male for its quality beef. The demand for Blue Grey, as well as the Whitebred Shorthorn, has declined over the last 50 years, due to the rise of non-native breeds of cattle, which are faster growing, and the more general decline in cattle numbers in the hills.
The Blue Grey is traditionally bred around high fells of the English and Scottish border in areas such as the Northumberland National Park and around Hadrian’s Wall, although some Blue Greys are also bred in Cornwall, Devon, the Highlands of Scotland and North Yorkshire. Blue Greys are sold at 1 to 2 years old, as ‘store’ cattle meaning that the females are virgins and the steers have to be fattened on grass for 1-2 years before being ‘finished’ cattle and ready to kill. The farmers who finish / fatten Blue Grey steers live all over the UK and farm land which is more grassy than the hills where the Blue Greys began life.
Why am I forgotten?
The Blue Grey has fallen out of favour due lack of publicity and the modern monopolisation of grocery sales by supermarkets, which don’t distinguish between cattle breed types and which buy and sell beef at the lowest price, therefore the faster growing modern non-native breeds are more cost effective for the farmer to produce. The predominance of supermarkets in the meat industry means that the British public knows little about breeds of cattle and the superb quality of meat available from traditional breeds such as the Blue Grey, which means it gets little publicity.
The Blue Grey’s sire, the Whitebred Shorthorn, has been listed as Critically Endangered by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST), with fewer than 150 registered breeding females in the UK. This in turn threatens the existence of the Blue Grey. By seeking out Blue Grey beef you are assured quality and are indirectly supporting the existence of one of the rarest farmed breeds in country, the Whitebred Shorthorn.
Don’t lose me…cook me!