For the last 18 months I have been banging my drum about conscientious meat consumption. I’m hardly the first person to have talked about it, nor am I the most influential. So see me as an average member of the Joe Public who made a pledge and stuck to it – and it’s time you did too.
The horsemeat scandal has uncovered just a fraction of – let’s be honest – what we deep down knew about food supply and economics. That if you expect to pay next to nothing for cheap meat, you will pay with consequences, both short and long term. That you can’t expect to trust the executives who run the big supermarkets to have your best interests at heart. How can they? Have you ever met them, or spoken to them? Have they provided answers to their customers thus far?
We the conscientious meat eating public shouldn’t just play the passive victim – we have every means to make a change and be in control of what we eat. Yes that’s right, if you thought you controlled what you ate prior to now, perhaps the horsemeat scandal has indicated otherwise. Who knows what goes in our cereals, fruit juices and frozen fish fingers? Have I been watching too much Utopia?
I emailed the founders of meat box companies who I’ve sampled thus far on this blog, and within a day most of them had gotten back to me with a personal email – you just cannot imagine having a relationship with any other producer on such an intimate level. Even my mum is harder to get hold of. They could not have put their thoughts on the horsemeat scandal more succintly below, and I’m proud to lend them a soapbox to shout from. The same themes come out of all their responses: they value a fundamental moral and ethical principal, they value the intimacy of a three-man food chain (it’s been estimated that in a normal supermarket food chain there are 450 points at which integrity can be compromised!!), and they value the importance of building relationships – both with customers and suppliers.
If you’re still not convinced, I’ll let the farmers do the talking…
Will Pearson, founder of Dunwood Farm
For me the recent scandal has been a complete revelation, and find it extremely disconcerting that even when consumers are clearly so interested in the provenance of their food, the big four still have such poor control over what is on their shelves. The complexity of the modern supply chain, with meat shipped between countries and being handled by numerous middle men goes to highlight the key benefit of buying from an independent, trusted supplier, where our chain is only 3 people – me, the butcher, and you.
For Dunwood, we know absolutely everything about the meat we sell, the abattoir we use is only 12miles away, and we have a great relationship with our butcher. Unlike the supermarkets, quality is at the heart of everything we do, and we strive to have a personal relationship with our customers. This means we have a responsibility to provide absolute transparency of our production methods, and tell our customers with pride the story behind their meat box.
Clearly there is a great benefit to the convenience of supermarket shopping, which we cannot rival. But for the truly discerning foodie, buying from an indy has to be the way to go. We’ve had a real surge of interest, and for a small growing company we’re extremely pleased with this.
James Mansfield, co-founder of Field & Flower
We established FAF values on being able to name the field in which our animals have been raised, provenance is a basic principle. We are lucky that there are a growing number of people that really value the traceability of independent meat box businesses. We are trying to keep things really simple, local farm, local farmer, local butchery, in a box. It isn’t surprising that the horsemeat scandal has come about, there is a massive pressure on the supply chain from supermarkets to provide burgers at low prices. Somewhere along the line someone has turned a blind eye and focused on profits over provenance.
Guy Watson, founder of Riverford
Riverford has always pursued the highest possible standards of ethical business and animal welfare, both on our own farms and with our network of partners. The alternative pursuit of cheap produce comes at a high cost to the animal, environment and as seen in the news recently, the consumer. Provenance and trust are greatly valued at Riverford. We take a long time developing relationships with our producers – it’s not about ticking boxes or cutting corners. Our customers can rest assured that our products are marketed honestly and our animals live a fairer and happier life – tasting all the better for it.
Lee Simmonds, co-founder of Farmison
Farmison & Co was founded by myself and John Pallagi to address simple principles in our frustration at the lack of transparency in the food industry, and choice available in the major supermarkets. We back small British farmers, encourage sustainable husbandry and traditional techniques, and are safe in the knowledge that our customers get prime, fresh, and free range meat. Every consumer should have the right to know exactly what it is they are eating, exactly where it came from, what it ate, and the life it has lived.
The results of our ethics are pretty tasty, and very nutritious. Sadly, but understandably, much of the wider public puts cost before other concerns when buying food for family consumption. This is a false economy and simply has to change and that is what we are striving to do. Why not give your money to small British suppliers? Our farmers care for and preserve our landscapes and traditions. Their herds are allowed to mature slowly, and butchered by specialists who know their trade, and more importantly know where the meat is coming from. This alternative route from pasture to plate is a happier and a healthier one for all.