How important is the quality and provenance of the meat you eat to you? I must admit it extremely important to me, not only from a welfare point of view, but taste, too. Eating cheap, poorly produced meat is really not a pleasant experience. I’m not alone in this respect, with celebrity supporters of high-welfare meat including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Elizabeth Hurley.
This is all well and good, but how do you know your meat has been produced according to the standards you expect? This is something I was keen to learn more about, so I recently spent the day on Paul and Kirsty Westaway’s farm in Gloucestershire to find out more about how good meat is produced and where you can buy it.
Gamage Hall Farm, home to Paul and Kirsty, is situated on the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire borders, surrounded by rolling hills and lush green fields. As soon as we arrived, we donned our wellington boots and headed out to meet their cattle. The farm is spread over 170 acres which provides plenty of space for the cattle to graze and for them to grow their own feed, which is a mix of maize and Red Clover, which is crucial in terms of giving the meat the best flavour possible. Paul’s cattle are a mix of Aberdeen Angus, Holstein and Hereford breeds, all of which have different qualities, but the aim in rearing the cattle is to produce the best quality meat possible. First up, we met Gareth, their Aberdeen Angus bull, who is ranked as the best bull in Europe. A mighty and powerful creature, he is the father of much of the cattle on the farm. It was great to walk around the farm and see the cattle. They were genuinely well cared for and seemed contented. Look at these gorgeous bulls being fed!
Walking around the farm really got me thinking that this is exactly where I expect my meat to come from. I want my meat to have been reared on a farm which gives the animal a lovely life. Here, every animal has its own passport. Every time it is moved, it has to be logged in the passport, meaning every move it makes can be fully traced. The experience at the abbatoir for the animal is as pleasant as it can possibly be, and the meat is hung long enough and prepared well enough for the best results.
The beef and lamb reared on farms like Paul and Kirsty’s is sold in supermarkets and butchers, and is marked with the Quality Standard Mark and Red Tractor symbol on the packaging, which guarantee that the meat you’re buying, be it from the supermarket or butchers has been reared and slaughtered to the highest of standards. It means the welfare of the animals is paramount and they have been well looked after. There is full provenance and traceability for the meat, and that it will be delicious to eat. That’s exactly the kind of meat I want to enjoy.
For more information and recipes, please see www.simplybeefandlamb.co.uk.