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.
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.
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?
Read the rest of this entry »
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.