Even when things are crazy and your system is compromised by something like the snow It’s reasuring to recognise that the focus on quality pays off even now.
With all the snow all the sheep have come inside so they are not grazing the wildflower pastures at present. However, because all my conserved forage (hay and haylage) is from wildflower grasslands they are still getting great nutrition and their meat is still infused with the wild herb flavour. Sticking to a positive system seems to always lead to a positive feedback.
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.
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.