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Starters Q


No Dexters or Friesians here; it’s Anguses all the way


So, Ed, you’re wearing the obligatory stripy apron, you’re storing a hunking great big slab of meat about your person, and you’re telling us you’re a butcher. But what does the role actually involve? A butcher’s job starts with sourcing the best-quality, most well-cared-for livestock from farms, then


deciding how and when carcasses and cuts should be butchered and prepared, and always ensuring that the meat is of the best quality possible. Displaying and selling the meat is the


final part, and all the while we’re trying to look after our customers as best as possible too. Keeping an eye on seasons and weather forecasts is a huge part of my job, and one that people probably wouldn’t have imagined. These have a real effect on what’s


in demand, particularly in the café at Hartley Farm, which is – naturally – one of my biggest customers.


What’s the difference with buying meat from a farm or butcher directly? Buying straight from a farm, rather than a supermarket, brings with it a high


level of confidence. As the livestock that we use for our meat is all reared and butchered at the farm, we are able to monitor and control every step of the process, from the way in which it is reared onwards, and this helps ensure the best-quality joint or steak on your plate. Producing in this way means that we know our product very well, and we are able to help when it comes to selecting and preparing cuts and giving advice on how to cook them.


It all sounds well and good, Ed, but we’re slightly scared. Will this translate into us needing to spend more dollar? Being relatively small in the agriculture and retail world means we cannot benefit from the economies of scale that the larger organisations have, but we can offset this – at least partly – by the simple fact that everything is done locally, with very low food miles. We also do things very ‘slowly’.


Livestock is left to grow at a natural rate, and allowed to put on a good quality of meat. This means that it can be slightly more expensive than a supermarket’s lower, budget ranges, but we are generally no more expensive than their fresh, in-store butcher’s counter prices.


That sounds like a fair deal to us! Tell us about the cattle grown at Hartley Farm. What makes them so special? We currently run a herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle that is moved around the farm, depending on the grazing. As it is a relatively small herd, it only supplies the shop. We produce around 50 cattle a year,


which is perfect, as the smaller groups mean we are able to have a good spread of ages to select from on a weekly basis, making sure that we get just the right carcase for the shop.


Does the breed of the cattle affect the flavour of the meat? Oh, yes. Different breeds grow in quite different ways. Big, continental cattle – such as Limousine and Charolais – grow quickly and tend to put on lots of lean muscle. Native British breeds, like Aberdeen Angus and Hereford, are slower growing and mature smaller, with a little more intramuscular (marbled) fat. These native breeds will produce beef


that is richer, and that will remain juicy while cooking because of that much- discussed fat – something which splits opinion hugely, of course, but in mine is very important!


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