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The Beef’s a Winner

3:07 pm, September 8, 2012

I feel under the cosh. Cattle farming and eating beef has taken a caning lately, from the health police & the unthinking environmentalists. We’ve also had our annual round of organic bashing in the press recently. What is a beef farming, meat loving, chemical shy woman to do?

Well, answer back of course! And not by meeting dogma with dogma on the statistical battle ground, but rather, with common sense and a request for tolerance.

Eating less meat in a week is not really the end of the world, you could have one less meat meal in a week without going hungry. So I agree, eat less meat, & if you do make sure its of the best quality you can afford & always aim for a higher standard of animal welfare. It really does make a difference.

Eating less meat ties in with the scary statistics about large amounts of grain being diverted from making bread to making small amounts of beef. These are misleading stats and can only be applied to beef farming systems where cattle are kept indoors and fed grain. In this country we are blessed with a mild (yes) climate, with plenty of rain. You need rain to grow grass & in Scotland its one of our finest crops. As organic farmers are obsessed with it. Growing clover grasses are the cornerstone of our organic farming system because it locks nutrients into our soil. These nutrients are then available in our soil for the other crops we want to grow.

We also have marginal quality farming land which we can only leave as permanent grassland. Our cattle graze that permanent grassland and produce beef. If they didn’t do that those fields would be barren. Permanent grassland captures carbon and locks it into our soil (plants absorb carbon when they grow) making beef grown on that land as close to a carbon neutral food as it gets. Cattle are supposed to eat grass outdoors all year round, it’s how their guts have evolved, so let them do it, and support that process by buying grass fed beef. You can tell beef is grass fed by the colour of its fat, it will a lovely yellowy colour, not white.

So finally I come to my organic defence. We are part of a small minority of farmers in the UK who don’t want to use chemicals on their land. Er, thats it. I’m not telling anyone else how to farm. No way. We like doing it this way and we are not harming anyone else by doing so. However we are doing some good stuff, and I will not keep quiet about that, like increasing the biodiversity on our land, and employing more people here than on a conventional farm of similar size in the UK. All of you, our customers, will judge us by buying our produce on its taste, provenance and farming methods, and we will sink or swim by those standards.

And you know what we’ve won an award: Highly Commended in the Soil Association UK organic food awards for our Pure Bred Aberdeen Angus Beef. We have also been Commended by Consumers, the ultimate judge. Thank you to whoever nominated us. We’re pleased and humbled, it’s the cattle really and the hard working crew here at Newmiln who make it happen.

On the back of that success and as part of Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight, we are hosting a Beef Masterclass with some of our chef Customers: these guys know food, they buy produce because it’s good to eat. Locals Graeme Pallister of 63 Tay St in Perth and Tim Dover from The Roost in Bridge of Earn, and from further away, Neil Forbes, and 2 of his team, Ian Thomson & Jo Simpson from Cafe St Honore in Edinburgh, and Andew Rees from the Waterside Bistro in Haddington, are coming here on Mon 17th September. We’ll take them for a Beef tour (standing in a field of cows admiring Hugh’s bulls) and some hands on knife work in our butchery to uncover some hidden beauties in the forequarter of beef.

In the evening at 7pm if you’re moved by what I’ve said or you just want a very good value meal in a lovely Edinburgh restaurant, Neil is hosting a supper at Cafe St Honore. We’ll have a chat about Neil’s knifework and Hugh’s bulls, and you get to have a plate of that very beef and a glass of wine for £10. Book direct: 0131 226 2211.

I can’t believe it, I’ve chanced my luck, those chefs are going to do our butchery work for us for a morning! That’s a wheeze, the least I can do is offer my thanks in the traditional way, by feeding them lunch. I wonder what I’ll cook…