As a nation of animal lovers and avid meat eaters how can we best ensure we are purchasing produce from trusted suppliers, where the animal has had a good standard of life, free from discomfort and the ability to express natural behavior?
Compassion in World Farming (www.ciwf.org.uk) produces a useful downloadable guide explaining the various labels such as Soil Association’s Organic and RSCPA’s Freedom Food, which denote higher animal welfare. However, by far the best way to guarantee the provenance of your meat and dairy is to support your local farm shop.
Most small producers choose slow growing specialist breeds, which can be more resistant to the health problems that mass farmed animals suffer from. As they are passionate about their animals, they ensure access to pasture and house them in lower densities. Where possible stock is sent to a local abattoir so journeys are kept to an absolute minimum, reducing stress and food miles.
The benefits of eating ‘happy meat’ go beyond the care of the animals themselves as it is proven to be healthier and of superior taste. Pasture grazed dairy and free-range eggs are higher in Omega 3 fatty acids, whilst meat has more vitamin E and up to 55 per cent less fat. The age of slaughter is typically higher and meat is hung on the bone for longer, resulting in a more intense flavour.
By supporting your local independent farm shops you are doing your bit to raise the welfare of our meat and dairy animals. The added bonus is that they also often sell seasonal vegetables and artisan produce.
Here’s our pick of the best local and online suppliers:
Owls Barn Organic Farm Shop Sopley, Christchurch, Dorset
Free range meat, fed naturally. No artificial fertilisers, synthetic pesticides, hormones or prophylactic drugs. Their pork comes from pigs that forage for acorns in the New Forest.
Danestream Farm Shop – New Milton,
Run by a Master Butcher, Danestream supply free-range local meat, poultry and dairy from a range of high quality producers.
Hyden Farm, Hampshire www.hydenoriginals.co.uk
Proud producers of traditional rare breed Long Horn Cattle, reputedly to be the finest you can eat. All of their poultry is free range and completely traceable.
Allington Farm Shop Chippenham, Wiltshire
Family run deli offering a varied range of local meat including rose veal and fresh goat.
Laverstock Park Farm Shop – Near Basingstoke Hampshire www.laverstokepark.co.uk – Famous for its Buffalo Mozzarella, this award-winning organic and biodynamic farm has a fantastic selection of produce.
Rother Valley Organics, Petersfield, Hants
Suppliers of chipolatas to Qantas First Class, Rother Valley Organics are online retailers of the finest quality organic meat.
All photos courtesy of Hyden Farm, Clanfield, Hampshire.