When we moved from being a commercial farm that looked after the wildlife on the farm to a quality meat producer that based the whole business around managing and improving wildflower meadows and pastures, I’d like to say there was a big plan and that I knew all these positive feed-backs would materialise from the new system but to be honest we just kind of stumbled upon them.
I knew Rare hardy Breeds were ideal for less productive but flower rich pastures- but I also learned that the wildflowers contain properties that act as natural medicines – reducing my need to administer them.
I knew that Rare Breeds produced less but tasted better – but I soon learned that when they grazed wildflower pastures they took on the flavour of the orchids and wild herbs in the sward.
I soon found out that grass fed beef, lamb and mutton was nutritionally better for you but what surprised me was that corn fed or concentrate fed meat was actually harmful. Especially as I had been eating it for so long! I was then forwarded some research from a customer that had found that livestock fed on Wildflower meadows had an even better balance of essential fatty acids that just grass fed stock. More positive feed-backs.
Obviously we care about the environment and so we had been concerened about all the reports about the carbon footprint of meat so I looked into it. Common sense tells us that actually grass fed meat has to be carbon neutral. Which was another great positive feedback.
The upshot is that we have happier, healthier livestock, more marketing tools and a better and more popular product than I could ever have imagined. I can only think that having tried to start something positive there were going to be more positive outcomes than I could have foreseen.
I’ve put together this amateurish flow-chart to show the journey of discovery that we have taken. You’ll have to save the picture to enlarge it if you need to – I need some techie help otherwise.
Watching the potato wagons start to roll at this time of year you see the ruthless efficiency that the agriculture industry has become.
Three identical massive tractors in a row pulling huge potato harvesters behind. Just think of the effort taken to lift a field of potatoes before mechanisation, not to mention the labour involved.
There is something both saddending and awe inspiring about this change and about how the industry has ensured that we continue to be fed despite huge pressures in the last few decades.
This organisation are doing the important job of demonstrating just how important Omega 3s are to our nutritional requirements.
But I always wonder why the focus is on trying to remedy the situation after we have created the imbalance in our essential fatty acids. Dosing up on oily fish is fine but why put yourself in a position where you have to do this to be healthy in the first place?
A prime example of shutting the door after the horse has bolted.
Of course the real problem is that the supermarket meat we buy (organic status is irrelevant) is creating the imbalance in the first place. If we didn’t do this in the first place we would not have to worry about oily fish in our diets. Do you think cave men had Omega 3 issues? – Exactly.
Best to buy grass fed red meat from a local farmer in the first place and save yourself the worry.
I sometimes get a bit frustrated with average products being sold as “prime” or “finest” and with dishonest producers unwilling to back up their claims with explanations or information, or worse just lying. That can lead to negativity. So in the spirit of being positive here is a guide to help you find your way through the jungle of local food out there:
You are probably paying more for what you consider to be a prime product so you should get more too! If the information you are looking for is not readily available then you can always ask the farmer. If your enquiry is not important to them, you can always go elsewhere……
Essential Questions to ask the farmer and yourself:
- Are the animals raised AND fattened on natural food? “Natural food” should be the grass and natural herbs in the sward. If they have to feed concentrate food you are better off going to Tesco.
- Taste – Does it taste better – is the taste worth the extra cost? – Clearly the most important test.
- Nutrition – Does it provide adequate nutrition? This is related to the “Natural Food” one.
- Breed – Is it a native and TRADITIONAL or RARE breed of animal? Modern commercial livestock are bred to put on tasteless lean meat in high volume when fed concentrates. Less fat is less flavour and if they are commercial llivestock and fattened on corn then they will not have the right essential fatty acids and imbalance your nutrition.
- Does the product benefit the environment? Better if you can feel good about eating the food as well as enjoying the flavour.
- Are you confident that the animal welfare standards of the producer are up to scratch? Again, helps your peace of mind.
- Are you confident you can talk to and chat to the farmer about the product? One of the biggest selling points for these small businesses is that the farmer or family deliver the meat, answer the phone, pick up the emails etc. Do they see your enquiries as important?
- Is information about the product readily available – websites and leaflets. If the product is better does it tell you why?
It’s that simple! Happy shopping.
The other day I blogged of the joys of hay making.
The process is great but maintaining quality requires sacrifice and discipline. In particular sacrificing costs and discipline in not giving in to convenience.
These days it’s much easier to make hay in June. We rarely seem to get good July weather for making hay now. If we make hay in June it will still have the seeds in, so will be more calorific for the stock and will make them fatter.
However, if you don’t wait until after about mid July then the wild flowers don’t set seed. Over 4 or 5 years you lose the wildlfowers and so lose some of what makes the meadow (and the meat) special.
While it creates more worry and less yield the later option protects and produces something special – Beautiful flowers and Delicious meat.
Believe it or not we sometimes go quite a while without actually eating any of our mutton. I always seem to have extra customers come through by word of mouth and end up selling it all after each kill.
Last night we had mutton mince in a simple, proper, shepherd’s pie and it was amazing. After a few months, I forgot about the delicious smell, the texture and the fat ( I love eating the fat).
Find some mutton produced near you and make a sheherds pie the only way it’s meant to be. . . . with mutton!
We are busy hay making at present.
It’s a great time of year. Obviously if we are hay making then the sun is shining, the smell of cut hay “making” (drying) in the sun, the influx of people into the tranquility of the farm, the sudden hussle and bussle, panic when things go wrong to the final relief when next years food is in the barn. The hay smells warm in the barn, and more relaxed as we relax. A few jars of cider with the helpers on a warm sunny evening in the English countryside and I know that what ever the weather brings I can feed my stock. Harvest is over for us this year.
Is there a better job in the world?
Ask me three weeks into lambing…..