Capra Products - goat meat and dairy products from Preston
PUBLISHED: 09:26 03 September 2015 | UPDATED: 10:34 03 September 2015
Meet the farmers who turned a change of lifestyle into a successful business. Emma Mayoh reports
Gill and Martin McManoman love their life in Whittingham, near Preston. Their morning wake-ups are spent watching the wildlife in the fields on their farm, Miramar, taking in the tranquillity. When it comes to work, there is plenty of kidding around.
The couple, who have been married for 38 years, spend their days dedicated to looking after their more than 100-strong herd of goats. They use milk from the herd to produce a range of goats’ cheeses including a plain variety, Dee’s Delight, named after the woman who taught Gill to make it as well as lime and ginger, lemon and black pepper and herb and garlic. They are snapped up by customers at farmers’ markets and food festivals as well as top restaurants including the award-winning La Locanda in Gisburn.
They first got two goats more than 20 years ago when one of their three daughters had childhood eczema. They decided to start using goats’ milk as an alternative to cow’s milk.
Gill, 61, explained: ‘Cow’s milk aggravates kids’ eczema. A friend suggested we try goats’ milk. We got a couple of goats to milk ourselves and the eczema improved vastly. It was incredible. Using it became a way of life for us.
‘But goats’ milk is altogether a gentler product. It is much easier to digest. People are put off because if you get a bad quality milk, or cheese, it prevents the better quality ones from being tried. But there is a huge difference.’
Gill made cheeses using goats’ milk at home as well as using the goats’ coats for wool. But it was after encouragement from Chris Johnson, formerly of the multi award-winning Ramsons restaurant in Ramsbottom, that Gill started to produce goats’ cheese from the milk the herd produced. Over time the herd grew and they launched Capra Products in 1999. Gill used to make it all by hand on the farm but five years ago they built a small unit on site. Their efforts have attracted attention from several well known chefs including Simon Rimmer and Matt Tebbutt.
All of the cheeses are fresh with a short shelf life which can present come challenges. But it also ensures a top quality cheese.
Martin, 65, said: ‘We would love to sell in more retails places but the short life puts people off. But we want to help show people that fresh goats’ cheese is the best and it is worth the short use-by date.
‘People don’t question it with bread so why should they with cheese. It is about making people more aware of its qualities. Goats’ milk is really tasty but I think often people just have a bad experience if they don’t have a good quality one. If is smells like goats then it will taste like goat. But good quality ones, like ours, don’t. We want our products to be more a part of people’s way of life.’
As well as cheeses, goats’ milk from Gill and Martin’s herd is also used by people in the beauty industry including Signature Soaps. They are produced in Bolton and sold in top stores around the country including London boutiques.
A smaller, but just as booming side of the business is goat meat. Although the UK is only just started to embrace the idea of eating goat meat, it is regularly enjoyed by more than 70 per cent of the world’s population and is part of the staple diet in several countries places including Asia, Africa and South and Central America.
It is considered healthier than other traditional red meats as it is low in fat, calories and cholesterol as well as having high levels of protein. It is also significantly lower in fat than white meats, including chicken, and has a great taste.
It works particularly well when it is cooked slowly on a low heat making it an ideal meat for casseroles, curries or a great Sunday roast. Gillian and Martin have it available in leg and shoulder, chops, mince, diced or as burgers and sausages.
Gill said: ‘We were one of the first to go into the meat side of things and now we’re known as much for the meat as we are the cheese. We have got quite a following and people seek us out.
‘It is fabulous meat which is much leaner and generally considered much better for you than other red meats. I call it posh lamb.’
Gill, with Martin’s help, works tirelessly to keep the herd and her customers happy. But there is nothing she would rather do.
She said: ‘Goats are just amazing they all have their own characters. It is such good fun seeing them around the farm. It gives us a real buzz.
‘Customers keep coming back which is fantastic. People search us out because they want out products. We would love to be in more restaurants and shops and that is something we want to work on. But we love what we do.’