Angus has been rearing animals for 6 years now still wants something very simple! To be able to eat food which tastes really good, local food which doesn't cost the earth, food which is reared naturally by local farmers; maybe the way it was in the old days? This is not as simple as Angus first thought. It is still difficult to buy food that is good for us, food with a provenance we can trust, without a million air miles to its credit and without needing a degree in chemistry to translate the ingredients, codes and labels.
Our initial five acres has grown in the last 6 years to a total of 125 acres. We put our animals on other peoples land and repay the favour by keeping their land in good condition and helping maintain their fences.
For Angus and myself, the way forward for great taste continues to be traditional good farming methods using the Norfolk Four rotation system. This means sustainable farming in natural balance with nature – healthy soil, healthy GM-free crops, healthy animals free to live full lives free range - all of which makes food that just tastes different, with real flavour and additional health benefits such as lower cholesterol levels in the meat.
Why does our pork taste so good?
Our own herd of British saddleback pigs are allowed to fully mature in the fields and woods at Waterloo Cottage, reared to the highest welfare standard which means exceptional flavoured succulent pork with crispy crackling. As we develop products in the shop we have altered the type of pigs we rear. The British Saddlebacksand Gloucestershire Old Spots are great for bacon, gammons and charcuterie products. These breeds carry more fat which is essential for really great charcuterie and bacon products. Petrain, British Lop and Middle Whites are great for leaner pork which is used for roasts and steaks. All our sausages are made using fresh natural ingredients, no artificial colours, no artificial flavours, no monosodium glutamate and low in salt. We also produce gluten free varieties.
We are working hard to get our pigs diet grain free. At present they have some pig nuts that contain soya. It is virtually impossible to get any soya that hasn't come from or contains traces of Argentinian soya, which could have been genetically modified. All pig producers are experinecing this problem. We have moved our pigs into large areas with fewer animals per acre. This means that the pigs can display their natural behaviours and root for food.
We supply over 90% fo all our pork for the shop. Occasionally we run out of pork when we are curing gammons for the Christmas season or when the sows don't come into season when they are supposed to. This quite often happens in the winter months when the weather is not so good. Pigs like being clean, dry and with new straw for their beds. This can be a challenge in the winter months.
Our Lamb and Hogget
Thrive on the variety of grazing on the farm including wild grasses, lucerne, San Foi, herbs and Red Clover. We are able supply 100% of the shops lamb, hogget and mutton needs.
The flock is up to 120 ewes, they are just about to start lambing. Last year we changed the way in which we manage lambing which we will be trying to emulate this year. The use of two barns and the lean too meant that we had the new born lambs under close observation until we were sure they were able to cope outside full time and the lambs were under cover during the late snow of last spring.
The sheep grazing also helps maintain the area as a good habitat for plants, wildlife and birds. The lamb and hogget are full of sweet flavours and great for roasting, curries and casseroles. Their meat being lower in cholesterol than animals fed on grain.
Farmyard Chickens, Ducks and Geese
Our chickens come from Fossemeadow farm, they are Cotswold White and Yellows. Less than 12 miles away these chickens are a slow growing breed allowed to run around in fields. They have been voted 9 0ut of 10 by the Independent newspaper. Our chicken breasts are barn raised, free range from Fossmeadow are available if ordered. We have found that most people will not pay for free range chicken breasts.
We sell increasing numbers of Fossemeadow ducks and geese at Christmas. The depth of flavour is so different to supermarket bought birds.
All our beef is selected from local farms by our master butcher; we use traditional old breeds such as Black Angus, Hereford, Longhorn and Galloway. The rolling hills and natural pastures in the Welland Valley provide ideal grazing conditions to raise high quality cattle. A natural diet of grass, silage and root crops produce some of the best beef in the world. Our beef is from farms that have been independently audited to conform to the EBLEX standards for care and welfare. We condition our beef on the bone in temperature controlled rooms for up to 36 days to ensure maximum flavour and guaranteed tenderness.
We now have 12 Highland cattle and are growing our herd as we get the chance. Summer 2013 saw two of our cows have female calves, who will be grown to become breeding cows. This obviously is a slow process, we are using about 1 beast a week now which means we need 52 beast a year. it will be a few years before we can service the shops total needs.
Local wild game
Venison, partridge both english and french, pheasants, rabbit and the occasional hare is stocked when in season. We have Duncan and Louise, of The Ruddy Muddy Gamekeeper from Kelmarch supplying all our game. Gamekeeper Days prove popular in the shop, with customers able to have a go at skinning rabbits and deer and then butchering them.
It has taken us two years to rear two Boer goat kids. We continue to look for a ready to eat supply of goats. Good goat meat is really sought after. We now have 3 milking goats that we are hoping will provide us with fresh goats milk.
Matt and Sarah Abbott, of Blaston, rear some bull calves for us. These animals were born from dairy stock and would historically have been shot at birth. When they leave their mothers they are fed milk and allowed to eat grass and roam fields. Great meat, with a pale colour and delicat flavour.
I believe that gets us up to date for the moment. In the meantime, we look forward to welcoming you at Waterloo Cottage Farm to take a fresh look at food and animal husbandry.