NEWTON Abbot master butcher Steve Turton continued his campaign for better quality beef at the Beef and Growing Cattle Show at Hatherleigh. As judge of the Hoof and Hook competition, he and fellow judge Joanne Richards cast a professional eye over the 18 competitors happily munching grass in their enclosures. After lunch, it was Mr Turton's task to rank the carcasses, now hanging from hooks in the adjoining abattoir.

Before being admitted, Mr Turton, of Turton Quality Foods, said: 'I will be looking at the shape of the animal, making sure there is enough fat cover so it will eat properly. The shape will give you an idea of how it will yield – meat to waste. I'll be looking at the colour and texture of the meat.'

Eyeing up the animals on the hoof, he said most had looked too lean to give succulence and would eat like cardboard. 'There were only three that I picked out live,' he said.

Earlier, he and Philip Warren, a farmer butcher from Launceston, had taken part in a spirited debate on beef quality before an audience of farmers. In front of them were five cuts of beef ribs, three of which, pale and slack-looking, were judged by Mr Warren as 'totally unacceptable in the modern meat world'. With cheap imports flooding in from Brazil and elsewhere, he said farmers must think as business people and produce meat that suits the market not just themselves. And that, according to the two butchers, means good quality meat.

'Unfortunately people still don't get that message,' said Mr Warren. He said farmers should be talking to their butchers to get feedback on feeding – as an animal with too much fat cover was expensive to produce and expensive to process. Once inside the abattoir, Mr Turton strode straight over to the winner 'I was right. See, the champion is a very good shape, probably the best here, and has got a bit more cover than the rest. It's going to eat much better. And it is a heifer, which is softer.

'Farmers talk a lot about breeds but they want to consider how they are feeding as well. A lot of these animals could have done with a bit more time to get a bit more cover.'