Why more farms should sell their own meat

I was recently talking to butchery and charcuterie expert Rich Summers, who will soon be teaching a new five-day charcuterie-making course at The School of Artisan Food in Welbeck, north Nottinghamshire.

Rich – along with every food-loving British carnivore – wants to see more top quality, locally reared meat available in the UK. He believes the best way to attain this is for higher numbers of livestock farmers to become retailers. By raising and selling their own meat, farmers take control of the whole field-to-fork process and reduce food miles. They increase their profit margins too.

“One farmer told me he’s currently losing £7-10 per pig when he sells at the livestock market,” said Rich. “If he took the animal to the abattoir himself, butchered the meat and turned it into a saleable product, he would dramatically increase profitability. Charcuterie, for example, can give up to an 80% profit margin, plus it extends shelf life.”

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Rich (left) at the School of Artisan Food, Welbeck

And Rich knows a lot about charcuterie. He was instrumental in the launch of The Rutland Charcuterie Company and key to its product development work.

Of course, the farmer doesn’t literally need to become a butcher. They just need to oversee the process. And freelance butcher Rich can help. “I can show them how to do it – how to process their meat and create products from it,” he says. He currently performs this role for local producer Betty’s Farm Shop in Willington and has experience of doing the same for Tori & Ben’s Farm in Melbourne.

If more UK farmers took the jump to retailers then quality would improve across the board. Currently, says Rich, around 60% of all pork we eat in Britain comes from Europe. The reason is price. Most European countries have been slow to implement high-welfare farming methods that British farmers have taken on board. The result is cheaper European pork, which naturally most supermarkets are keen to exploit.

Wouldn’t you prefer to spend slightly more money on better quality, higher-welfare British meat that was raised locally than buy lower-quality, lower-welfare cuts from Europe? If so it’s time to put your money where your mouth is, so more UK farmers choose to take the leap into butchery and retail.

To contact Rich, visit his website or call 07847 417237

Matt Wright
The author:

Matt lives in Leicestershire with his wife, two kids and dog. He is passionate about British pubs, slow food and home brewing. He founded Great Food Club (originally as Great Food Magazine) in 2010 after being inspired by local producers near his home town of Melton Mowbray - Britain's 'Rural Capital of Food'.