Monday, 11 February 2013

A little note about food chain security

There's a good chance that if you're reading this post, you're unlikely to have come directly into contact with the beef products recently revealed to contain horse meat or pork. While it's not my place to comment on the economic and social factors wrapped up in the growing horse meat scandal, I felt I wanted to write a little bit about our produce and how it is reared, sourced and produced.

Our pork, beef and lamb comes largely from our own land, from Blansby Park, East Moor and Grange farm up in North Yorkshire. The latter is where I live; where our main butchery and offices are, and where our  stockmen and women - the people who look after our animals - come and sit at my kitchen table each day for their lunch. This meat is supplemented with animals reared from our breeding stock, by a number of farmers with whom I have worked closely to ensure that every chop, shoulder and steak is exactly as I want it to be. Each of the fields we own completes a seven-year lifecycle, from lush green grass in year one, through wheat, barley and fodderbeat, to grazing pasture for cattle and sheep. This lifecycle makes us one of the most sustainable farms in the UK; a varied mix of arable and livestock which helps to keep the land rich and fertile - without pumping it full of chemicals. 

The British poultry we sell is free range, and comes from two fantastic farms. The fourth generation Packington farm in Staffordshire provides us with a very good free range chicken, while the Botterills - old friends of mine - on the Belvoir Estate rear for us a slightly older, richer, heritage-breed bird, as well as our Christmas turkeys and geese. We are the only business to buy from the Botterills, and the father and son team continue to be an inspiration to me, such is their dedication to animal husbandry and quality.

A bit over a year ago, Askew Road butcher Tom and I started visiting Rungis market just outside of Paris each week. We'd select free range French poultry - poulet noir, poulet de Bresse, proper Barbarie ducks - and Limousin veal, because we simply haven't found products like them in the UK. While there's a lot to be said about the importance of using English dairy bulls rather than wasting them, Limousin veal attracts me because of its flavour and heritage. Limousin cattle are reared specifically for meat, and while the beef can be tough, the veal is simply superb. Calves are outdoor-reared with their mother until slaughter, and so suckle on mother's milk its entire life rather than being weaned and removed. Each body of Limousin veal carries a certificate of authenticity, and with this a promise of quality and transparency of source. We're the only British butcher who can buy directly in Rungis market, and Tom now makes these weekly trips himself -  he's becoming quite the rosbeef celebrity around the market halls.

Of the cooked things we sell - from lasagne and stews to our infamous sausage rolls - everything is made in house. The prepared meals are made in our Askew Road and Moxon street shop kitchens, with meat from the counter and fresh ingredients as you would at home. Our pies, sausage rolls, hams and terrines are made by head baker Les and his team at Grange farm, from the same meat that goes down to our London shops.

While you're not going to get the cheapest meat from the Ginger Pig, what you are getting is an assurance of quality, flavour, good animal husbandry and value - and we're not as expensive as some might think. We're never going to be able to produce a burger for 50p, but if you compare the closest a supermarket can produce to our meat in terms of quality, you might be surprised by the price. As of their website today, Tesco beef mince is £11.90/kg whereas ours is £9.50/kg; their pork escalopes are £16.06/kg where ours are £9.60/kg; their rump steak £35.44/kg where ours is £21.50/kg, and their chicken breast supremes - only supplied frozen - are £22.13/kg where ours are £13.50/kg. Like I mention above; we're never going to be cheap, but we do represent good value.

As ever, if you have any questions about what we sell or how it is produced, do get in touch.

Tim Wilson
Owner and founder of the Ginger Pig

Customer enquiries:
01751 460091

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