North's steaks show they're cut above hundreds

By Mike Barrington

The national Steak of Origin competition has four Northland beef breeders - two of them past contest winners - in this year's semifinals.

The more than 300 entries have been whittled down to 37 farmer sirloin steak entries and 15 retailers and wholesalers competing in best-of-brand classes.

At the Auckland University of Technology on Friday, judges will decide which 20 beef sirloin steaks will move through to the grand final at Beef Expo in Feilding on May 13-14.

Northland has three entries among the 20 semifinalists in the best of British category. Last year's Steak of Origin winner, Alex Macmillan, of Pipiwai, has a Jersey entry, while John Bayly, of Waitangi, and Peter Cullen, of Kaeo, have Angus entries.

Mr Macmillan also has a Hinterwalder-cross entry in the best crossbred class, and is up against Te Kopuru Angus breeders Chris and Karren Biddles, who were judged Steak of Origin Breeders of the Decade last year.

Mr Biddles said he wasn't holding his breath waiting for top results this year as there had been no green grass to finish cattle properly over the drought.

Mr Macmillan had his cattle processed at Affco Moerewa and after sirloins were taken for his entries the carcasses were sent to his brother, Graeme, at Lynnmac Meats, Auckland, who lodged entries from the same animals before the meat was sold. As a result, Lynnmac Meats is in the semifinals with two entries in the retail class.

Northland has no semifinalists in the best of European section, possibly because veteran Limousin breeders Dannie and Bethley O'Shea, of Maungatapere, didn't enter for the first time in the competition's 11-year history. Mr O'Shea said the former hoof and hooks carcass competition had been a gauge for breeders and he considered the Steak of Origin "just a party before the national bull sale". He was also unimpressed by increased entry fees and rising costs for a Beef Expo dinner featuring Steak of Origin entries. "It seems like they are trying to milk the cow at both ends," he said.

- Northern Advocate

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