Bovril – Where’s The Beef ?

I’ve been watching a bit too much Ray Mears lately. It’s given me this terrible urge to live in the woods and cook a freshly killed rabbit over a campfire. Living in harmony with nature is very appealing at times, although pooping in a hole in the ground when it’s pouring with rain does tarnish the idea.

Ray Mears considers Bovril to be the essential survival drink (along with hot chocolate I was pleased to hear). Well, I haven’t thought about Bovril since I last ate a scrumptious packet of Bovril flavoured crisps as a kid. My parents used to serve up Bovril with a piece of crusty bread during the cold British winters. If we didn’t have any Bovril they would serve up an OXO cube dissolved in a mug of hot water instead.

So with my hunter gatherer instincts awoken I set off on a Ray Mearsy foraging expedition to see if could track down the essential black elixir. To be honest I wasn’t even sure if Bovril had migrated to the Australian shores. I certainly don’t remember the bush tucker man raving about it. But scouring the aisle of Woolworths I found a small jar hiding between some other beefy imposters. At $5.29 it seemed expensive, but I simply had to have some.

If the price wasn’t shock enough, when I got it home and made a closer inspection I noticed in disbelief the tiny words “suitable for vegetarians” on the front of the jar. How on earth could the beefy wonder drink be suitable for vegetarians? On examining the ingredients I was staggered to discover that Bovril, the most famous beefy drink, has lost its beef.  For some reason Bovril has become a Marmite/Vegemite yeasty extract drink instead – and a pricey one at that. Does Ray Mears know about this? Instead of drinking the essence of a day out hunting Aberdeen Angus I am instead drinking the essence of day out picking button mushrooms. Is this more political correctness gone mad. Turning a man’s drink into a unisex one?

So let’s cut to the chase. What does it taste like? It’s been so long I can barely remember what the original tasted like. It had a good beefy tang I’m sure. But would I be able to tell the difference between it and its new age sibling?

Actually… it tastes damn good and after a few sips my memory of the flavour came rushing back. I’d love to do a side by side comparison with the real thing so see what difference there is. I’m sure there is one.

I was expecting it to taste like Vegemite, which I suppose in a way it does. But Bovril works as a drink where as Vegemite doesn’t. You see I once tried making a Vegemite hot drink in the Bovril tradition. Teaspoon of extract in a mug of hot water. It tasted awful.

So if you enjoy Vegemite and like a good strong beefy taste go give Bovril a try. Take it camping. Spread on your toast! (actually I’ve not tried that). Rub on your face as hunting camouflage. Polish your boots with it. Grease your Landrover with it. It has a 101 uses for anyone with an irresistible urge to live in the wild. Just ask Ray Mears.

18 thoughts on “Bovril – Where’s The Beef ?

  1. Hi Lisa

    I absolutly love Bovril and so do most of my family – bovvy on toast is a family favourite!

  2. Ha! Ha! Ha! Bovril was and I believe is still something we drink especially during the winter months in Montreal, Canada. You took me right back home Lisa. Thanks!

  3. Pingback: Canada bans Brit from selling Irn Bru and Marmite - Page 3

  4. Wow. And people from the the UK and Australia have the nerve to call Americans stupid. I bet more people here are health conscious enough to know how bad that MSG loaded, artificially enriched crap really is for you. Bovvy on toast is a family favourite? Sounds more like the steady poisoning of your family. Good on you. Darwin’s rules always apply.

  5. According to Wikipedia Unilever ditched the beef extract in Bovril back in 2004 due to the BSE crisis:

    In November 2004, the manufacturers, Unilever, announced that the composition of Bovril was being changed from beef extract to a yeast extract, claiming it was to make the product suitable for vegetarians and vegans; at that time, fear of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) may have been a factor. According to Unilever, “in blind taste tests, 10% didn’t notice any difference in taste, 40% preferred the original and 50% preferred the new product”.[citation needed] It now once again makes Bovril using beef extract and a chicken variety using chicken extract,[11] although the vegetarian formula is still sold in some areas, such as Australia and Hong Kong.


  6. iam laying in bed suffering from a blocked bile duct, and the only thing I can get down is bovril drink. I love it and it is keeping me going.

    I once visited the preparation factory and saw a lot of African women preparing the beef. It was charming hearing them sing. But if they once got chanting they had to be stopped working.

  7. You still get the traditional bovril but it is marked “Beefy Bovril” on the label, and depending on how good your taste buds are you will know the difference.

    If your in Australia you will NOT be able to find beefy Bovril because Custom will not allow it to be imported because it has beef extracts in it.(f*#k d*#kh*#d).

    You also get a chick favoured one : )

  8. I don’t think Bovril is the same any more. 1 it’s far too runny in the jar.
    2. It hasn’t got the same flovour find it very weak and bland. You use to get that salty beef taste but not anymore. I’ve asked a few friends and they all say the same.
    Hummm mm?

  9. The beef disappeared in UK during the BSE epidemic, but came back afterwards due to popular demand. I went out and bought a beef one to go with the veggie one I had at home, made toast and Bovril and also two mugs of Bovril “tea”. I expected to be able to tell the difference straight away, but I couldn’t – they both tasted the same.
    Not sure about this, but my mother told me that Bovril was originally made from whale meat, but once people found out in more modern times, it was changed to beef, but no mention of it here –

  10. Import of Bovril to Canada is forbidden due to beef extracts. What the heck is the matter with Canada and Australia? The stuff we were brought up on, which was always regarded as good for you is bad for Canadians? There are many ex-pat Brits in Canada who, together with their kids and grandkids and now my great grandkids who really love the stuff. In this country one might suspect an anti-Brit sentiment operating within the powers that be but in Oz?

  11. I’m trying very hard to understand whether I can still have bovril I am a coeliac and have always had bovril in the past but I see on the label the recipe has changed which us coeliacs and gluten free people cannot have anymore
    I am very disappointed to think I cannot have it anymore
    I’m still looking for the old jars hoping I can stock up with the bovril I use to have

  12. Odd that bovril made in South Africa is banned in Australia since that country has not had mad cow disease. When one looks at the problems that Australia has created for itself with some of the things that government has allowed to be imported here one can understand why there is total paranoia and becoming neurotic about just about everything at austrailian customs.rather be safe than sorry though.

  13. The reason bovril tastes beefy is rhe mix of yeasty flavours, and the ‘meaty’ msg or sodium ribonucleotides in it. Look up the effects and suspect health risks.

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