IT HAS been a remarkable year for farmer and butcher Martin Gilder: his Cotswold reared steak has been declared the best in the world.

And just in case the crown for World’s Best Grass Reared Steak (as awarded by the Meat Traders Journal) were not enough, he is also on the shortlist for the British Farming Award for Diversification.

“After all the hard work of establishing Martin’s Meats, I am particularly proud to have built a reputation for producing the finest meat,” he said. “Chefs and new customers are now coming to me direct from word of mouth. The icing on the cake was winning the World’s Best Grass Fed steak at this year’s World Steak Competition out of 19 countries worldwide.”

To win, he had to send a whole sirloin, ribeye and fillet steak to the contest headquarters in London, where it was subject to rigorous analysis by a team of international judges.

It is taste, these days, which makes all the difference, Martin said. The discerning diner wants quality over quantity – hence the renaissance of traditional British breeds.

“The longhorns are really quiet cattle, and they produce the best beef,” he said. “They’re reckoned to be the boldest breed of cattle in England, so they have a bit of history to them.

“When I first started out doing this, I tried a few different breeds and found the longhorn had the best taste and finest grain in the meat. They used to be a rare breed, but the numbers are coming back up. People are realising they are good animals to eat.”

Martin and his wife Emma run Martin’s Meats. They raise, age, cut and pack the finest longhorn and traditional breeds, as well as Gloucester Old Spot pork, Cotswold-reared lamb and free-range poultry and game. They have a 200-acre farm near Gretton Fields, in the Cotswolds, and a herd of 120 longhorns.

Towards the end of the 20th century, commercial European cattle breeds became more popular because they had a better meat to bone ratio – meaning more beef and less waste from each animal. These days, many people are moving away from such intensive farming and returning to traditional breeds.

“It’s like the Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs – they don’t give the most amount of meat and it’s quite fatty, but the quality is very high.”

Animal welfare is also an issue. Martin’s livestock is all taken to an abattoir in Gloucester, and his butchering facility is in Cheltenham, so the animals do not have to travel far. His longhorns live outside most of the year, coming inside only for two or three months in the winter.

“What sets us apart from other butchers is the focus on heavy marbling and dry ageing of our meat. We have purpose built at our cutting plant our own Himalayan salt chamber where we age our meat from 14 up to 70 days (beef) to enhance the taste and tenderness of the meat,” Martin explained.

The salt chamber is lined with blocks of pink Himalayan rock salt and provides a constant cold temperature and a high air flow to ensure the meat ages and improves to a high level.

“I feel that for butchery to thrive, it needs to move with the times. To me this means taking forward the knowledge of the past such as good fat in the form of marbling in the meat and to add modern twists,” he said.

Martin, 45, is the third generation of farmers in his family, and his father and grandfather were cattle dealers and farmers. Martin also worked in livestock haulage, when he set up Martin’s Meats in 2003. The husband and wife team continue to farm, transport and butcher the meat, making sure the whole process stays local. Since then, he has gone from strength to strength and over the last few years has scooped a host of prizes at the Great Taste and Taste of the West Awards.

The business is very much a family affair, and even 12-year-old son Sam is taking an interest. And Martin is evidently not one to rest on his laurels – he has plans afoot for a new cutting plant with a butcher’s shop and restaurant on the farm itself.

He also wants to fence a ten-acre wood and use it for raising free-range pigs – which people would also be able to visit.

Martin’s place as a finalist in the British Farming Awards’ diversification section seems well deserved.

He has become a popular supplier for chefs and restaurants and now members of the public can buy his meat at Dobbies Garden Centre in Cirencester. The new butcher’s counter will sell a complete range of his fresh meat.

“It also gives us the opportunity to educate people on what makes good meat, for example marbling and dry ageing. We will be able to showcase this information in the form of butchery demonstrations and recipe suggestions,” he said.

Martin’s own favourite beef recipe is a simple steak.

“I like all sorts of steak, but at the moment I prefer sirloin. I have steak every Friday night. Medium rare, two or three inches thick, cooked on the firepit. Well cooked on the outside, rare on the inside. Black and blue – that’s how I like it,” he said.

l Martin’s Meats will also be served in the Dobbies Cirencester restaurant, which has just launched the new autumn menu.

Open Tuesday to Saturday 9.30 - 6pm and Sunday 10am - 4 pm, you can explore the range and get expert advice from the butcher at Dobbies Cirencester, Siddington, Cirencester, GL7 6EU,