Food NI member Castlescreen Farm in Downpatrick has launched a new Dexter beef salami product.
The new salami, the latest product diversification by grass-fed Dexter farmer Damian Tumelty and partner Jackie Gibson, has been crafted from the farm’s award winning Dexter beef blended with garlic and black pepper.
The farm business, recent winners in Northern Ireland of The Prince’s Countryside Fund Marks & Spencer Farm Resilience Award 2019, has a successful track record in producing a range of Dexter meat products as well gammon and bacon for customers in Northern Ireland.
Damian, commenting on the latest Dexter product, says: “We’ve been expanding our range steadily and the development of a unique Dexter salami is another important stage in our drive to increase awareness of the rich beefy flavour from our grass-fed herd.
“We’ve been helped by Alastair Crown at Corndale Free Range Charcuterie in Limavady to create an alternative salami using beef rather than the traditional pork. It’s a salami with a distinctively rich meaty flavour,” he adds.
Damian and Jackie are also now well-known at markets across Northern Ireland especially the immensely popular Inns at Saintfield Road and events in Downpatrick, Portaferry and Newcastle. “These markets,” continues Damian, “are a great way to talk to shoppers about the distinctive characteristics and delicious taste of Dexter beef,” he adds. The company also enjoyed another very successful four-days at last week’s Balmoral Show.
Castlescreen Farm is also now a supplier of beef to high-end restaurants such Ox in Belfast and the popular Avoca store in the city. Oakley Fayre Café and Deli in Downpatrick is a more recent customer.
Damian is among a small group of Dexter breeders in Northern Ireland and has won a cluster of prestigious awards for the cattle especially ‘Charlie’ a breed champion at Balmoral.
He opted to rear Dexter cattle because they are much smaller than traditional beef cows. “They may be small cows but the meat they produce is naturally marbled with fat, giving it a distinct succulence and a much fuller flavour,” he explains.
“Research also shows that Dexter meat is one the best you can eat as it is naturally marbled which comes from grass feeding.” This is why he describes the business as specialising in “wee cows, big beef’.
Dexters are also gaining in popularity due to their size and quality of meat. “Since they’re smaller and live more lightly on the land, you can keep two and a half per acre compared to one per acre of the bigger and heavier breeds,” he continues.
The animals are small and very robust, able to survive outdoors in conditions in winter that would be impossible for bigger breeds of cows, he adds.
The flavour is strongly influenced by the diet the cattle enjoy. “It’s a very healthy diet of exclusively grass or silage. Our beef is then dry-aged for up to 35 days for an intense, real beefy flavour,” Damian says. “The beef is then prepared on-site by us.”
He currently rears a herd of around 100 beef and breeding cattle on the sprawling farm which has been in the Tumelty family for over 40 years.
A native breed, Dexter’s origins are in the south-western counties of Ireland and date back to 1845. Their name comes from a ‘Mister Dexter’ who came to Ireland in the mid-1700s and settled in Tipperary. He then developed the breed through careful selection. As an old mountain breed, Dexters are well-adapted to the harsh landscape of Ireland’s rocky fields.