Archive for July, 2009

Food Standards Agency is right


It’s not often I agree with the Food Standards Agency but the report explaining that Organic food is no more healthy than other food is spot on.


I blogged here and here about the lack of integrity in the Organic brand (for that is all it is) and in this post I explained why it is no more healthy than any other product – especially when it comes to meat. I know the organic movement claim its all about the environment (which is great) but actual customers (you know the people who actually fund this project) buy primarily for health reasons.

There are lots of organic cheerleaders complaining about these articles. Why bother? Organic sales are falling despite an increase in demand for local quality food. The essential trust in food comes from being able to meet the farmer face to face not from some label on the packaging.




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A Balanced diet for animals too

Following on from the entry about how fat is good for us I thought it worthwhile pointing out that it isn’t just us that need good nutrition but also the livestock we farm for our meat.


One of the reasons for starting this blog was to provide some daylight for consumers to arm themselves with the facts about what they were buying so they could see if they were getting value for the extra money they spend on “premium” products.

As I have said before, “Organic” isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be and the post on grass fed beef illustrates why that is. Organic meat is just as likely (if not more so) to be finished on corn/cereals and therefore deficient in essential nutrition. By far the biggest impact on the nutritional value of meat is whether or not it’s grass fed, not whether it’s got Organic certification.

As far as I’m concerned if you pay for a premium product then the bare minimum should be adequate nutrition. I don’t expect to pay extra for making me ill. Then I expect taste, texture and a commitment to look after the environment the meat was produced in. Is this too much to ask?

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Fat is good for you

With all the talk about obesity, fat gets a bad reputation. But I can’t understand this as it goes against pretty much all the accepted nutritional science around, that is as long as you are talking about “good” fat.


Omega 3’s are often batted around in the media as a cure all solution to nutritional health problems like high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. Why all the focus on only one of many essential fatty acids?


The answer is that it makes a huge difference to your health and is the one that is most lacking in the modern western diet. The reason it’s become such a pressing issue is because it’s only in the last 50-60 years that this essential part of our diet has been almost eliminated through intensive meat production. It is only now that we are starting to see the implications of this with the increase in obesity, diabetes, ADHD in children and degenerative brain disease in older people.

All of the cells that make up our bodies are made of various essential fatty acids. Two of the most important are Omega 6 and Omega 3. While both of these are important, the ratio between them is even more so. Ideally we should have 1 part of Omega 6 to every part of Omega 3 in our cells. In the western diet we get far more Omega 6 than Omega 3 and when the ration goes above 4 to 1 health problems start to become more prevalent.

So what is the big change in our diets that has caused this growing health problem in the western world?

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Mutton Salami dilemas


We are just experimenting with a few recipes for our two mutton salamis. In the past we have only produced high quality fresh meat. So the journey into product development and processing is new to us.

What it highlights is the choices that we have to make at each stage of the process and how they affect the integrity of our food. I think it is fair to say that our customers like to buy our Mutton because it tastes great, it’s local, helps wildlife and is product they can trust for their family.

When you make a Salami it is best to cut the fat from the meat you use and add pork fat instead. It gives a far better cure. You also have to consider the curing salts, spices and casings (like sausage skins either natural intestine or man made). We have decided, despite the cost, to go for organic pork fat, organic approved curing salt with a maximum of 0.6% concentration of sodium nitrite, organic beef casings and micro-ground purified spices to eliminate any risk of the cure failing.

I think this guarantees the “honesty” of the product and gives people confidence that we do really care about the food they buy from us and then eat.

In the mean time I am looking into sourcing some beef casings from people I know keep their cattle on grass year round.


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Demand for Organic food is falling

I was at a Heart of England Fine Foods event last night about product pricing – more interesting than it sounds. The discussion turned to the plight of the organic brand in the downturn.




Most of the market research shows that people are eating out less and buying quality food to cook and eat/entertain at home. HEFF have some great research on this sort of thing.

These market conditions ought to be helping organic but seem not to be. The demand for local and artisan produce is still rising despite the recession.

Could the problem be the umbrella market placement of the “Organic” brand? Organic food now covers everything from well produced commodities to high-end artisan food. However, it is not specific to any one point in the market. So if Mrs. Blogs is buying a roast chicken for the family suddenly organic is too expensive but if its a rib of beef for the dinner party then organic on its own is not enough of a story. It’s the same with the RSPCA freedom foods now. I recently read about a pig farmer with a great welfare friendly system rearing 16,000 porkers a year. Great production system but it’s hardly artisan food.

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Is Sarah Brown right about Veal?

Sarah Brown has tweeted about not eating Italian Veal. Leaving aside the wife of our Prime Minister offending the entire population of italian Veal farmers. I think she has a point.

Do you really want to eat veal reared in a crate and kept out of daylight to prevent pigmentation of the meat?

I featured John and Vicky Brown in a couple of articles this week. I turn on the TV this morning and they are all over the BBC news. As I have said before thier Veal has top notch welfare standards and tastes amazing.

I wonder if Sarah Brown makes a distinction between the continental veal and great stuff that we produce over here in the UK????



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Mutton Dressed as Lamb

Believe it or not Mutton is not always what it seems.

We are part of Prince Charles’ Mutton Rennaisance campaign. The campaign rightly draws the destintion between hogget lamb (over a year old) and Mutton (over 2 years old), but that is about it.

What about wether mutton? What about an old yow? There is an important difference in both taste and texture and therefore a difference in how you should cook them.

I know some people who sell hogget lamb as mutton (just plain dishonest) as it does take a long time to produce quality 3-4 year old mutton. But as far as I’m concerend it has to be over 3 to have the depth of flavour we all love so much.

In times when wool was worth something, wethers (castrated male sheep) were kept in numbers just for their wool. At the end of their working life they were killed for meat. As they were not produced especially for this purpose they were a scarcity and in great demand by the great and the good. Often used as a sunday best joint or for prime mutton chops.

As Mrs Beeton said:

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