As climate change accelerates ever faster, we’re aware of the need to make consumption of animal protein more sustainable, whether that’s through keeping animals on pasture, closely managing what they’re fed when they’re indoors, swapping ruminant meats such as beef, lamb, goat for chicken or pork and even eating less but better quality meat when we do. But defining what makes better meat ‘better’ is a complicated job. There is a multitude of animal welfare and meat quality certifications and different animals have different welfare needs. But what should you look for?
We believe that a collective approach, from producer to consumer, is needed to ensure that every element of the farm to fork process is as sustainable as possible.
We work directly with local farmers, like Cameron and Muriel Naughton in Bishops Cannings. The Naughtons have a 500-strong herd of sows and grow their own wheat and barley to feed them, minimising emissions from imports and improving the traceability of their product. They also grow oilseed rape which is sold to make cooking oil and margarine – the rape-meal is bought back from the processors and it’s fed it to the pigs, along with yoghurt washings and yeast from a local dairy and brewery respectively.
Nothing is wasted in the process and as Cameron says “All the good stuff from the back end of the pig goes back out onto the land, reducing the need for chemical fertilizer”. The Naughton’s pork boasts RSPCA Assured certification, a testament to their efforts – it’s high welfare meat, produced in a careful way.
Our philosophy of animal husbandry extends to everything we do. Much like our pork, our beef is locally reared and fed exclusively with grass and cereals grown on farm. Tim, the farmer, has installed a bio-digester to generate renewable electricity from slurry and other organic waste on the farm. The by-product of this process is called digestate and can be sprayed back onto the fields as a natural fertiliser. Along with a small solar array, the Johnson’s farm produces more electricity than it uses, minimising their carbon footprint and strengthening renewable infrastructure in the UK.
It’s about far more than the meat on the plate, the way the animals live, what they eat and the scale of the farmer. When you step back and look at the whole system, from farm to fork or pasture to plate, that’s when you can start to understand what ‘better’ looks like.
I was at school with Remi Williams, Chef Patron of Smoke & Salt in London, and formerly of The Shed and has bought beef hearts from us since day one “Walter Rose makes beef easy for our work and demonstrates an excellent understanding of beef. The product speaks for itself in terms of quality and flavour and we receive compliments all the time as standard”.
I couldn’t finish this article without talking about plastic! Whilst it will always have a place in managing food safety and reducing food waste, we made the switch to WoolCool delivery packaging a few years back – we’ve eliminated expanded polystyrene boxes and we take back all of our crates for reuse.
Just like the SRA, we try to look at sustainability holistically, making every step of the journey a little bit better, one step at a time.
Whilst the meat industry won’t change overnight, it’s important to support farmers that are producing better meat – meat raised on pasture, with minimal inputs and restorative processes in place.
By Jack Cook, Director at Walter Rose & Son.