By Polly Howard
Have you decided what you’re having for your Christmas feast this year? Maybe you’ve already ordered your turkey or goose, but if not, Hampshire Farmers’ Markets have got plenty of fantastic stalls selling local ethically produced meat. I popped over to see Mill Farm Organic to find out more about their fantastic beef and lamb and was blown away by their gorgeous glossy healthy and happy looking cows.
I chatted with Sam Morton, the farm manager, and he explained to me that Mill Farm is not only organically certified but its sheep are ‘pasture fed for life’, which is the highest credential you can get, and their cattle will also achieve this from next year. They are part of the growing trend for regenerative farming where the focus is on preserving the soil and land by leaving fields to grass for several years and eliminating chemical fertilising which reduces soil health. Looking to the future, not just taking for ourselves, today.
‘Pasture fed for life’ cattle have longer finishing times which means they live longer – around 25-32 months, as opposed to traditionally raised cattle, which live for 15-18 months. And because they are not being fed any grain, they produce less methane gases and have a smaller footprint and therefore less damage to the environment.
This also means that you need to choose the breeds carefully, as it is the grain that gives the cattle their fat. At Mill Farm Organic the mothers are all pedigree South Devon which is a lean breed, so they are sired by Red Angus bulls which adds more fat to the resulting calves.
The 500 sheep on the farm are all Black Welsh Mountain, as they are a hardy breed that do well just on grass.
All of the beef and lamb is sold in their wonderful farm shop, as well as pork, chicken, fish, fruit and vegetables, all locally sourced wherever possible. They also have their own honey from beehives on the farm and sell game, such as rabbit, hare and deer from the farm when available. They even sell the sheep skins and key rings made from cow hide in their endeavour to use everything and waste nothing.
I was shown around by Adam Doddington, the new farm shop manager, who was clearly passionate about the quality of the meat, and I have to say it all looked amazing. They are lucky enough to have an onsite butcher which means that they have an incredible array of different cuts of meat, some of which you wouldn’t usually come across, such as the kleftiko lamb shoulder chops, which Adam recommends braising slowly in the oven with some rosemary and mint, and the skirt steak, which is better cooked medium rare as there’s not much fat on it, and then giving it a generous dousing of olive oil, some vinegar, perhaps some garlic.
All of their beef is hung for at least 28 days, and the lamb for at least 5 days, and the beauty of the pasture fed for life accreditation is it is completely traceable. Each piece of meat has a tracking number which you can then trace precisely which farm it came from by going on the website.
And Christmas feasting? For Adam, it has to be a leg of lamb, woodpit smoked for five hours and then barbecued, whereas Sam will be tucking into a rolled sirloin of beef. Happy Christmas!