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Farmer says selling whole cows directly to chefs is the ‘responsible way’ to trade

Farmer Luke Paterson and chef Alex Firman at Hall Farm in Dilham. Picture: Chris Hill

Farmer Luke Paterson and chef Alex Firman at Hall Farm in Dilham. Picture: Chris Hill

Chris Hill

A Norfolk farmer has started selling whole cows to restaurant chefs – a move to shorten the food chain, enhance the provenance story and gain full value from the animal.

Beef cattle at Hall Farm in Dilham. Picture: Chris HillBeef cattle at Hall Farm in Dilham. Picture: Chris Hill

Luke Paterson keeps his grass-reared Red Poll beef cattle at Hall Farm in Dilham, near North Walsham.

He said selling an entire animal directly to the end user was the responsible way to trade, rather than cherry-picking the premium cuts, and it also gave consumers a clearer view of the provenance of the food chain.

His first whole-carcass customer was chef Alex Firman, who hand-picked his favourite animal before it was slaughtered, and will now use every part of it to make beef dishes at the Garden Kitchen Café, in Hoveton Hall gardens.

Mr Paterson said: “I want to commend Alex for putting his money where his mouth is – buying a whole carcass is a very responsible way of sourcing his produce. He is not just cherry-picking the easy cuts that sell. By buying the whole carcass it is going to be a challenge for a chef, but one he is willing to take on.

Chef Alex Firman at the Garden Kitchen Caf� in Hovetn Hall gardens, with a dish he made using the beef from Hall Farm in Dilham.Picture: Wendy Willis-BestChef Alex Firman at the Garden Kitchen Caf� in Hovetn Hall gardens, with a dish he made using the beef from Hall Farm in Dilham.Picture: Wendy Willis-Best

“Also, I get direct feedback on my produce, which I don’t get when I send animals to an abattoir. I am in a position where I should be able to promote and educate people about farming and agriculture. By supplying a whole carcass to Alex, or supplying my wheat to a bakery, it is all about engaging the public, and getting them to understand where their food comes from.”

Mr Firman said local provenance was important, and he enjoyed the challenge of making lesser-known beef cuts and offal into delicacies for his customers when the Garden Kitchen Café reopens for the summer from Good Friday.

“It is a really good selling point if we can be as local as possible,” he said. “As a chef the dream is to have someone knocking on your back door with the fish he has just caught, or the wild mushrooms he has just picked.

“That does not really happen any more, but this is the next best thing. I can see the cow I am going to cook, and that’s great for a chef and anyone who is into food. That link is really important.

“This is a way I can guarantee quality and know that ethically it is better. It is a lot more work for me, and it is a challenge, but I like a challenge.

“After the prime cuts you can make the offal into faggots. Everything can get minced up, so I am thinking about the offal, the heart is slow braised with butter mash and onion gravy, and the liver is great. It is delicious stuff. The sweetbreads are my favourite.”

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