Pasture-Fed on BBC Countryfile
The concept of pasture-fed meat was promoted to 5 million viewers who tuned into a BBC Countryfile special looking at the county of Herefordshire at the end of August.
Headlining the programme was a feature about the Hereford cattle on Simon Cutter’s farm on the outskirts of Ross-on-Wye. Simon was one of the first members of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association to become an Approved Supplier. He sells meat from animals raised soley on pasture and forage crops to customers across the West Midlands.
His part of the programme focused particularly on the rejuvenation of pasture in the British countryside, and the growing recognition of its importance to the landscape and environment. Grazing cattle and sheep are an intrinsic part of maintaining species-rich grassland, and Simon talked about how the Hereford breed enables him to turn his bio-diverse pastures into great tasting, healthy meat.
John Craven then interviewed executive secretary Russ Carrington, who explained what the Pasture-Fed Livestock Organisation stands for, before demonstrating how the Pasture-Tracks QR code traceability system for Pasture-Fed meat works.
1,000 website hits/3,000 views on twitter
“This was a great opportunity for us to reach consumers and to promote the food of our growing network of pasture-fed farmers,” says Russ.
“We had a thousand visits to our website within the hour, and over 3,000 views on Twitter. Nearly all of our approved outlets reported increased and strengthened interest in their meat as a result.
“I have also received many enquiries from more farmers wanting to be involved, or to discuss how they can market their beef and lamb under the Pasture-Fed mark,” adds Russ.
Uplift in sales
Simon’s butchery business at Model Farm Shop also experienced a boost. He took three orders for beef during the programme and sales have remained strong ever since.
“It tied in nicely with us opening our new farm shop,” says Simon. “We’ve already had shoppers driving quite a distance to buy meat from us. I’ve been a firm believer in this farming system for some time, and I really enjoyed demonstrating it to a much larger audience,” says Simon.
Russ also enjoyed his experience in front of the camera, and learned a lot about how programmes like these are made. He also made some good contacts, including John Craven!
“Countryfile has a more or less equal mix of urban and rural viewers, so this episode has been a great start to our promotional campaign to consumers,” concludes Russ.
Transcript of Countryfile – Broadcast on BBC 1 Television on Sunday 24 August 2014.
Presented by John Craven.
Herefordshire – a rural paradise of rambling rivers, jutting hills and green, green grass tucked up against the border between England and Wales. Famous for its fruit and farming, it’s a county that’s been putting food on the tables of the nation for hundreds of years.
I am in the Wye Valley, near Ross-on-Wye, finding out about some of the foodie things that Herefordshire has to offer.
There’s everything here from cherries to chocolates; from hops to apples; from blackcurrants to cheese. And, of course, beef.
Hereford cattle – a classic traditional English breed. One of the most widely spread beef cattle in the world: the reason – grass. These cattle are supreme grazers; turning the roughest of pastures into the very best of meat. This ability saw the Hereford breed exported to more than 50 countries. From Australia to Russia, to the great plains of North and South America; anywhere there was grass, Herefords soon followed.
But intensive farming and the rise of breeds such as Charolais and Limousins in the UK put paid to the Herefords here at home. Grassland was ploughed up for barley to feed the new continental incomers. But the Hereford is back and so are the pastures.
Simon Cutter is leading the way. He manages 550 acres in the Wye Valley, which he’s turned back into grassland for his Herefords.
“How are you?”
“I’m good thanks, and you?”
“Well, that is the way to round up a bull, isn’t it?” (Simon was using a tractor-mounted cow catcher to catch his bull)
“Yes, it is. Yes.”
“He does seem very docile.”
“Hugely docile – I don’t think I could operate this system here without docile cattle.”
“So that’s a real trait is it, of the Herefords?”
“Well the Hereford is remarkable for the number of traits it has. It has the white face, which is famous the wide world over; it has the best and consistent beef we think we can produce. And it has the ability to forage off grass.”
“So what’s your ‘Big Idea’, with this breed now?”
“Here we are wanting them to perform off grass and grass alone.”
“And you’ve got a herd of the very best grazers. So, is your herd built up from traditional local stock?”
“Well partly, but also we’re looking around the world for traits of the Hereford to make them more suitable to this farm. So, this guy’s father lived in Australia. We’ve got bulls from New Zealand and Canada and America. And using the frozen genetics we can just go anywhere these days.”
“So here you have got a traditional Hereford herd on a Herefordshire hillside but made up from bulls’ semen from all over the world.”
“Yes, but we did send it all over the world in the beginning. So it’s all coming home now, isn’t it?”
“That’s it. Yes.”
And it wasn’t just the cattle that Simon reintroduced to this farm. He also planted the pastures for the cattle to graze on.
“Now your herd feeds only on grass – is that right?”
“Yes, everything they need is grown here. The pastures are full of minerals and we make the hay from the pastures and then we feed the hay back to the cattle in the winter.”
“And this pastureland wasn’t even here, was it, back in 2000 when you took over?”
“No. It had been farmed as a mixed arable farm; it is very, very tricky soil and it wasn’t really suited to arable. It was just crying out to go back to pastureland. And we sowed these seeds and left it to the cows now to develop the pastures. Without the cows we couldn’t have the pasture, and without the pasture we wouldn’t have the cows.”
Simon’s herd lives outdoors all-year-round, munching only on this perfect pasture. And, according to some, this makes for the best tasting meat.
Russell Carrington is from the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association.
“Why are you so passionate about pasturelands?”
“Well, it’s so important in the UK. Sixty per cent of the UK is down to pastureland and there is an awful lot of things it can offer for nature and biodiversity and it can produce great-quality pasture-fed beef.”
“But an awful lot of the meat we eat, the animals are actually being fed on corn and soya, as well as grass.”
“That’s right, yes. But what we’ve done as an organisation is developed a set of standards and a brand which specifically defines ‘pasture-fed for life’ beef and lamb.”
“So what’s so special then, about the taste of meat from animals that only eat grass?”
“Well, it’s very common to find the taste of the wildflower meadows reflected in the taste of that meat and there are proven health benefits such as the healthier balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids which are similar to those found in oily fish. Lower in total fats, much higher in essential vitamins and minerals. And we think we’ve stumbled-upon something which is demanded by the consumer.”
“And is there any way that I can tell, if I buy a piece of meat in a butchers, that it is pasture-fed meat?”
“Yes, very much so. Let me show you what we have developed. We have a barcode system on the packet of meat to trace back the history of the animal. So you can use a typical App on a smart phone or mobile device, and we can scan that barcode and that then will take us to the Pasture-Fed website where all of our farmers are listed. And so this is Simon’s farm – Model Farm.”
“It tells me exactly where this piece of meat comes from!”
“That’s right. So these fields, where we are standing now. And then you can click through to view the animal details and see the specific animal itself. See that it was a Hereford breed; when it was born; and then furthermore, the supply chain from the farm, to which abattoir it went to when it was slaughtered. Where it was butchered and when it was finally sold.”
“That’s what I call traceability!”
“Absolutely. And there’s a lot of trust in the brand we are developing as well.”
So once again the Hereford is grazing the pastures of old. And later we’ll see how wildlife also benefits this little rural revolution.