Farm’s ‘timely’ new butchery will deliver meat from rare livestock
PUBLISHED: 13:25 23 April 2020 | UPDATED: 13:25 23 April 2020
� 2020 Mark Seton
A £400,000 new butchery at a Norfolk farm will specialise in meat from rare breed livestock – and its owners hope the “very timely” development could also help meet lockdown demand for home-delivered food.
Intwood Farm, south of Norwich, has been working around the clock to complete its new butchery and launch its customer order website ahead of schedule.
It will deliver meat boxes directly to people’s homes from the farm’s own native herds of Highland, Traditional Hereford and Welsh Black cattle, its British Lop and Saddleback pigs, and its flock of Poll Dorset sheep.
Farm owner Nigel Darling hopes the facility can also help other producers of rare and native livestock to find markets for their meat, to ensure the commercial viability on which the conservation of those breeds depends.
But at a time when many farms and food suppliers are looking to shorten their supply chains or find new markets as demand shifts during the coronavirus pandemic, he said it could also fill an important role in keeping households stocked with local food supplies throughout the current crisis.
“When we planned this, we didn’t think Covid-19 was going to happen,” he said. “But now we have been pushing as hard as we can to get open and get the website running as soon as possible ahead of schedule. If we can help in these circumstances from the point of view of supplying people with food, it is a very nice thing to be able to do.
“We have always sold some of our beef from traditional breeds to friends and family and everyone kept coming back for more, so we thought we were onto something that people liked.
“The product just has more flavour and for people who want that product and that flavour there is always a market for it. It is a question of finding the right rare breeds to feed that market.
“We had always planned that it [the butchery] would use native and traditional breeds. As things progressed, there was this idea that we could help out other native and rare breed keepers who had difficult markets, that it could be a useful way forward for them.
READ MORE: Watchlist highlights native livestock successes – and the rare breeds at risk of dying out
“We have got other people in the Rare Breeds Survival Trust who would look to sell their meat as well and, with the correct stock, we could help them in having a market.
“People are becoming more attuned to not just rare breeds, but native-bred beef. It gets right into the global warming situation too. With rare breeds you feed them on grass and forage crops. You don’t pump them full of grain, and there is carbon-storing in the grass, so there is a great environmental incentive to switch to less-intensive cattle farming, which is more suitable to native breeds.”
The butchery has been built in a converted dairy shed which had been empty for 20 years. The building needed to be re-roofed and the milking parlour was ripped out to be replaced with a modern butchery and farm office including a reception, an operations room, a chilled meat storage room and a large freezer area. The £400,000 total project costs were funded with the help of a £160,000 grant from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
READ MORE: Don’t let rare breed cattle become ‘museum pieces’, says Norfolk farmer
The site currently employs one butcher, processing one beef animal per week – but Mr Darling said, depending on demand, it has the capacity to grow to three butchers processing up to four bodies of beef a week, plus associated quantities of pork and lamb.
While meat from the farm’s native and rare breeds will be sold direct to consumers via the butchery, Mr Darling said his ground-breaking three-way commercial crosses – bred by crossing pedigree Shetlands with a Simmental bull, with the resulting heifers crossed again with a Limousin bull – are sold to supermarkets. He added that it is “important to find the right balance” between commercial and rare breed livestock production.
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