Heritage Meat - local farmers aim to bring back confidence in the food industry

PUBLISHED: 14:49 05 April 2013 | UPDATED: 21:26 05 April 2013

Herdwick cutlets

Herdwick cutlets

If anything good comes out of the horse meat scandal it is that people will start to take more notice of where the food comes from.

At first sight, a burger van at beautiful Tarn Hows could seem a little out of place. But, to paraphrase the seductive sounding lady on the television adverts, these arent just any burgers. These are Herdie-burgers.

Whats more the meat they are made from comes from Herdwick sheep grazing on the fells just over a mile away at Yew Tree Farm, near Coniston, once the property of Beatrix Potter and now in the hands of the National Trust. As well as Herdies, Yew Tree also has Belted Galloways, a native breed of cattle with a distinctive black and white stripe. You can
be 100 per cent sure that the only horse needed here is the horse-power to transport the Herdie-burger van.

Miss Potter had a passion for Herdies and helped preserve the breed. Caroline Watson, a 33-year-old farmer, has continued that tradition and is in charge of marketing the meat from both breeds under the Heritage Meat banner.

Says Caroline: If anything good comes out of the horse meat scandal it is that people will start to take more notice of where their food comes from and how its produced. Part of that process involves guided walks around the farmland.

For too long, farm gates have been closed to the public and the consumers have been oblivious to food sources. Its a fact that if you pay less for your meat something has been compromised.

The choice is simple do you want animals that have been pumped with
chemicals with little regard to their welfare or animals that have been reared on grass. I hope I can do my bit to raise awareness. Take the Herdwicks. The wonderfully tender, flavoursome marbled meat is down to the fact that they take life slowly they are slaughtered at one year old, compared to standard lamb, which is killed at four to six months.

Caroline points to the heather, bilberries and herbs that sprout from the rocks around the farm and adds: The other reason is that they graze on all of this. This mixed diet gives their flesh an incredible, almost gamey, flavour. Its high in beneficial Omega 3, too.

To emphasise the traceability of Heritage Meat, the boxes containing it and people selling it in restaurants and hotels can give customers a QR code which can be downloaded onto their mobiles to show precisely where the meat has been reared. Its the ultimate in traceability, Caroline adds. With cheap meat you dont have a clue where it has come from or how its has got to the plate.

Obviously burgers from supermarkets have come out of this recent scandal very badly. But the burgers sold from our van are handmade from Herdwick with nothing added but a little salt and pepper.

Local butchers have seen an upsurge in interest following the horse meat scandal. Award-winning John Nicholl, of Huddlestone Butchers at Windermere, says: We have seen a lot of new faces and old faces returning that we havent seen for a while. I think people have lost confidence in the big supermarkets.

Butcher Geoff Mellin, of the Roaming Rooster farm shop near Nelson, agreed. We definitely have more people coming in for their meat. We have 100 per cent traceability in fact, I can take you to the field and show you where it came from.

Caroline, who also sells meat from the farm gate, adds: If you eat meat, that means you have a responsibility to the animal that has been killed.

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