Celebrating British Food

We have just come to the end of British Food Fortnight, the biggest annual celebration of British Food and Drink.
Buy British Food FortnightEvery year, since 2002, British Food Fortnight has become an opportunity to promote the benefits of buying and eating from our home produced British Larder.

Britain has so much to offer but it sometimes gets overshadowed by the supermarket giants and their ability to showcase ripe strawberries at the end of September! But with new labelling laws, we can now see where the food has come from – Peru, South Africa, Kenya, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Spain and the list goes on. Have we all forgotten how to eat seasonally?

Choosing British means you will be supporting the local farmer/producer.

Take Charlotte Brown’s Handmade, Catch, Wild Island, Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil, Hampshire Honey, Hampshire Chutney Co – all products are produced locally from produce collected within Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Charlotte Browns Handmade

Catch Isle of Wight

Fruit and vegetables always seem to taste better when you know it has just been picked! It is also cheaper if bought in season than out of season. This also affects the carbon footprint.  Seasonal food = Local = little or no carbon footprint, Out of Season Food = more expensive to cover the cost of transportation and freezing or chilling = large carbon footprint.

Wild Island Dressing from Isle of Wight

Cold Pressed Oil Company Ltd

Farmer’s Choice has teamed up with local farmers and producers to bring you the best Britain has to offer. A very high percentage of our products come from Hampshire/The Isle of Wight/the South Downs, and all our meat is British Free Range, reinforcing our ethos of Supporting the British Farmer!

Eat Seasonably Chart

Eating British fruits and vegetables in season is better for your health and your pocket. Foods in season contain the nutrients and minerals that our bodies need at particular times of the year.

British beef and sheep industries are the envy of the world; sometimes exporting our breeding livestock as they are much sought after by farmers in other countries. Our British chicken is the safest chicken meat in Europe!

British pig farmers operate by UK law to standards of welfare that are higher than those of nearly every other EU member state. “Buying pork that is not British means there is a 70% chance that it comes from a farming system that would be illegal in Britain” – extract taken from Love British Food. Farmer’s Choice make sure that not only is all our meat British but it is ALL CERTIFIED FREE RANGE.

Enjoy your Delivery

Mother Nature shows us that at the moment, apples, courgettes, cabbage, cauliflower, plums and squash are all in season.  With the change in temperatures comes the change to our diet, it’s time to dust off the slow cookers and build up that immune system ready for the temperature drops.

We have lots of seasonal recipes online for you to cook your local, seasonal produce, delivered by Farmer’s Choice, direct to your door!

Farmer's Choice Free Range Ltd

Visit to Adlington Turkey Farm

With just a little over 10 weeks till Christmas it seemed the right time of year to go visit Rod at Pheasant Oak Farm to see how our Turkeys are getting on.

Rod’s grandparents originally started farming turkeys back in 1956 and the long-established traditional turkey farming methods learned and passed down shines through at their farm in Warwickshire. The office is a nice mix of the old and the new – the girls are in the old milking shed, a nice touch.

office at adlington

After a quick catch-up and coffee, we donned our welly boots and Rod took us on a guided tour of the farm.  En route Rod explained that the turkeys are free to roam now, and that only reason they were kept in the barn previously, and it’s not rocket science, before they reach nine weeks old they can fit through the wire fences!  They can also fly, a couple of turkeys were hanging around outside their paddocks so Rob gave them a helping hand back in.

These turkeys get 5* accommodation with a level of care that is unrivalled. The turkeys are all raised by hand using techniques that Adlington has perfected over two generations.  They seem very content in their open air abodes with access to water and food at all times.

adlington award winning turkeys

free range adlington award-winning turkeys

Inquisitive little guys to, they didn’t think twice about surrounding us and trying to get a taste of the welly boots, not nearly as tasty as the ingredients in their diet; cereals plus whole and natural crushed oats from neighbouring farmers (keeping it local). Rod explained that the combination offers high health benefits to the flock with their slow burn fats ensuring the highest quality and flavoursome meat.  Combine this with traditional game hanging and low stress production methods and you will definitely look forward to a succulent and juicy bird this Christmas.

Christmas is coming…the Farmer’s Choice goose is getting fat!

George, Jane and Lucy Munns run Westmoor Farm which is part of the Cambridgeshire County Farm Estate situated in the heart of The Fens.  The Munns family have farmed here since October 1959 when George’s dad Lionel took on the tenancy of a 21 acre smallholding and an old farmhouse, funded from £100 pools win!

Jane Munns

Jane and George Munns

George now has 700 acres and the farm cropping (Potatoes, Sugar Beet, Wheat and Oilseed Rape) is still very much that of a traditional Fenland farm and has changed little since then except for a flock of free range geese.

George took over the farm in 1989 when his father retired but it wasn’t until 1999 that they started rearing Free Range Geese, with just 20 locally hatched birds.


2 days old – so cute!

George and Jane Munns Geese

Farmer’s Choice Geese

Today they have 1,300 geese. They come in as day old goslings (after being hatched in Germany) and are reared under Gas Brooders until about 2 weeks of age when they are allowed out to roam free, initially with the use of a night time shelter. If they let them out any earlier they risk being predated by hawks or foxes.

Geese and Gosling Shelters

The shelters used for the goslings

The birds are free range although they are confined to about 8 acres and surrounded by an electric fence to keep the bushy tailed predators out! They come in and go out as THEY please. Their wings are not clipped, they stay purely for the feed and relaxed environment. The geese are fed on an additive free diet (from a local supplier) and home grown wheat.

The flock get a vet check twice during the time they spend here (usually from the 18th June through to the 8th December) – George and Jane want to see their poultry cared for from start to finish.

Gaggle of Geese

Non stop noise -it’s like being surrounded by football fans, there are couple of leaders getting the rest of them all riled up!

When the time comes to cull, the birds are dry plucked then waxed to remove the fluffy down.  At this time a local group of workers are drafted in to help with the processing. After the birds have been hung, up to 10 days to enhance the flavour, they are then dressed and cleaned before being boxed and prepared for delivery to Farmer’s Choice. Everything is handled on site in purpose built buildings supervised by DEFRA vets and local Environmental Health Officers.

Hardly anything goes to waste on this farm, the unused bits of bird are boiled to produce the irresistible goose fat. The fat keeps for months in the refrigerator and up to a year in a good freezer. The feathers are sold for duvet and pillow stuffing.

Our birds will be between 5.5kg and 6kg – enough to feed around 6 people.

Roasting a goose makes a very festive meal. The goose is different to turkey because the goose meat is intensely meaty and flavourful and cloaked in that layer of unbelievably rich, crispy skin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKI-pgzBFWc  – Countess of Wessex investigates Munns Rapeseed Oil

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-RXcibnCl0 – Draining the Fens

Westmoor Farm

Westmoor Farm

George Munns Farm

Situated 1.5miles west of the historic market town of Chatteris in the Fenland area of East Anglia. The landscape here is Agricultural, one of open fields decorated with a mosaic of ditches and drainage channels. With an unrivalled open horizon and magnificent sunsets, this area is unique in the UK, an area we are immensely proud and privileged to live and work in. My own passion after farming, has always been nature and wildlife conservation. As a small boy I had a huge number of wildlife books and spent all the spare time I had exploring across the farm, looking for and identifying all the many species of flora and fauna that lived here. I had a chance in 2001 to join the prestigious Countryside Stewardship Scheme  I signed up with the enthusiasm of a small boy…!!  I immediately got to work with the help of the local drainage board building a brand new 5 acre reed bed. I specifically wanted to provide habitat for many of “the species of my childhood”, that sadly were getting endangered due to modern farming practices. Our reed bed was later to become a “Blue print” for other farmers to follow in the years to come. I wasn’t aware at the time but I was embarking on a journey that was as fruitful and rewarding as any I could imagine. – George Munns

Chalk Stream Hampshire Trout

Our Hot and Cold Smoked Trout comes from Chalk Stream Foods, based within Hampshire – on the Rivers Itchen and Test. Interesting fact: Did you know that there are only 210 chalk streams in the world and 160 of those are in England!

Chalk streams occur when water is filtered through chalk hills, the chalk acts as an aquifer (filtration system). Water is filtered through the chalk and re-emerges lower down the slope in springs/rivers. The temperature of the emerging surface water is fairly stable and rarely deviates from 10°C (50°F). On cold winter mornings, it can look as though steam is rising above the relatively warm river.

The Trout Farm on the Test

The Trout Farm on the Test

From the image above, you can see that the river enters the farm at the lower right corner. (Only some water is diverted, the River Test continues to run alongside and around the farm.)  The water, which is Class 1A, the highest water rating you can get, is diverted through the farm and is used like a treadmill for the fish so they are constantly on the move, making them tasty, rich and lean.

They don’t just divert the water into the farm, they oxygenate it for the fish as well to compensate for the carbon dioxide produced by the weed at night. As water flows into the farm a sensor measures the amount of oxygen and will add oxygen when the reading is below a certain level. It is hugely important to maintain constant oxygen level to create a stress free and stable environment for the fish to live in.  There are several other points throughout the farm that also measure the oxygen levels.

Chalk Stream water flows in one direction through every tank and returns to the Test on the other side of the farm (top middle). It returns to the river in the same Class 1A bracket as when it entered. This is achieved as the water from the farms goes through the settling canals that are deep and wide that act like gravity filters for suspended solids and waste products. Every couple of years the canals are dredged and the fertile silt spread on the surrounding fields.

The trout are fed on pellets that are mostly made up of protein and oils from soya and rapeseed with a small percentage of fish meal and oil that is sustainably sourced from Chili that is fully  traceable. For every kilo of fish meal and oil used in the feed the farms produce in excess of one kilo of chalk stream trout and so are a net producer of fish.

Fry Tanks

Fry Tanks

All trout stock is from UK eggs and when the fry are delivered they are placed in these tanks. Each tank holds 50,000 fry, from there they are thinned to 20,000 and moved along the farm into bigger and bigger tanks, thinning as they go.

The trout are sustainably grown in these gin clear waters and take about 2 years to get them to the 2 Kg mark. The fry are hand fed and as they get larger, are fed by machine that is always operated by the farmers to prevent over-feeding that stresses the fish causing more waste. The farmers are extremely passionate about the trout they grow, with many of them spending the majority of their working lives there – Pete, the Farm Manager, has been working here for 35 years.

Crystal Clear Waters of the Test

Crystal Clear Waters of the Test

Hampshire Chalk Stream rainbow trout is some of the tastiest, richest and leanest in the UK as a result of their unique natural habitat.


These world-famous spring-fed chalk streams with crystal water, constant water flows and excellent light and vegetation create havens for the fish, making them rich and lean with a distinctive, sensational taste.

meal suggestions

They are one of the only trout suppliers in Hampshire to fillet and smoke on-site. This guarantees freshness and taste, as well as reducing the environmental impact of operations as a result of unnecessary travel to smokeries.

The farms are long-established with sustainable operations, approved by GLOBALG.A.PFreedom Food and Quality Trout UK.

A few old photos from 1978 show that working of the farm hasn’t really changed all that much and that for over 40 years traditional trout farming produces the best tasting trout.

Not much changes.

Not much changes.

Farmer’s Choice are seeing Stars!

GT 15 3-star

The world’s most coveted blind-tasted food awards, Great Taste, has just released the Great Taste stars of 2015 and Farmer’s Choice Free Range Ltd is amongst the producers celebrating as its Rose Veal Club Roast (3 Star), Steak Mince (1 Star), Dry Cure Back Bacon (1 Star) and Slow Roasting Lamb Breast (1 Star) are now able to proudly carry the little gold and black Great Taste logo.

Rose Veal Club Roast

Judged by over 400 of the most demanding palates belonging to food critics, chefs, cooks, restaurateurs, producers and a host of food writers and journalists, Great Taste is widely acknowledged as the most respected food accreditation scheme for artisan and speciality food producers.  When a product wears a Great Taste label it carries a badge of honour but more importantly, the Great Taste logo is a signpost to a wonderful tasting product – hundreds of judges have worked tirelessly to discover the very best, through hours and hours of blind-tasting a total of 10,000 different foods and drinks.

We have been established for over 30 years sourcing and providing quality free range British meat to our customers.  This year we decided to enter some of our produce to see if the judges thought the same as our customers.  We couldn’t be happier with the outcome – Jason Crotty, Director.

Recognised as a stamp of excellence among consumers and retailers alike, Great Taste values taste above all else, with branding and packaging ignored. Whether it is cheese, ale, steak or chutney being judged, all products are removed from their wrapper, jar or bottle before being tasted. The judges then savour, confer and re-taste to decide which products are worthy of a 1-, 2- or 3-star award.

There were 10,000 Great Taste entries this year and of those products, 130 have been awarded a 3-star, 597 received a 2-star and 2,382 were awarded a 1-star accolade. The panel of judges included Masterchef judge and restaurant critic Charles Campion, TV presenter and cook, Aggie Mackenzie, Great British Bake Off winner, Frances Quinn, Masterchef the Professionals finalist, Adam Handling, food buyers from Harrods, Selfridges, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer, and chefs including James Golding, Chef Director of The Pig hotel group, who have together tasted and re-judged the 3-star winners to finally agree on the 2015 Top 50 Foods, the Golden Fork Trophy winners and the new 2015 Supreme Champion.

Finally, check out all our Great Taste award winning products.

just some of our award winning products

just some of our award winning products

Is it time for an oil change?

If you are looking for a healthy, light alternative to other cooking oils, rapeseed is a great choice. If you are looking for a UK grown/produced product, look no further than Rapeseed Oil.

Rapeseed Fields in Full Bloom

Rapeseed Fields in Full Bloom

Rapeseed Oil is a healthy cooking choice. It has less unhealthy saturated fats than other cooking oils – 50% less than olive oil!  It is perfect for cooking with as it has a high smoke point, which basically means that it can cook at high temperatures without the fats breaking down and burning, maintaining its flavour and character.

It can be used in a variety of different ways, drizzled over salad through to cooking (frying, roasting or baking).

Even on a comparison with Coconut Oil, overall, rapeseed oil is a healthier choice due to its lower content of saturated fats and high content of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

On a bitterly cold morning in February we drove out to Clare Park Farm, Crondall in Hampshire to see Charlie, The Cold Pressed Oil Company Ltd.

Charlie's Barn, is surrounded by rapeseed fields.

Charlie’s Barn, is surrounded by rapeseed fields.

The farm nestles within 2500 acres of arable countryside and Charlie’s business is run out of a converted barn within the farm.  The barn is surrounded by fields the seed comes from, ensuring that the food miles are kept to an absolute minimum (*the barns original use was to house the dryer).

They plant several different crops; linseed, barley and rape, in rotation to keep the nutrients within the land rather than use chemicals and when we were there, they were dressing the seed in preparation to sow.

Come harvest time, it is gathered up and stored in the working farm barns (having been dried to between 7-8% moisture). They bring up the seeds as and when they are ready to press.

cleaning processThe seeds are then fed into the press. To press a tonne of seed takes a whopping 40 hours.

Pellets left after pressing

Pellets left after pressing

There is little wastage in this process, the pellets that are left after pressing go to cattle feed (a herd of holstein friesian cross cows on the neighbouring farm). After pressing 2 tonnes of seeds, there is only about 1 kg of waste remaining.

The oil is then fed through to the clean room and collected in the first vat. It comes through initially as a dirty looking oil.

oil after the first press

oil after the first press

But, after it’s been through the filter several times it looks more like something we all recognise…a clear, clean beautiful golden colour.

Oil ready for bottling

Oil ready for bottling

This is then bottled, labelled and sent out.  Nothing is added nothing is taken away. A pure product, locally grown, locally processed.

They have just produced Lemongrass & Thyme Infused Rapeseed Oil and Rosemary & Garlic Infused Rapeseed Oil along with their Chilli Infused Rapeseed Oil. If you like heat, you’ll love this! But, at 6 million scovilles, be careful!

The dressings and the chilli oil are not produced onsite, the oil is sent to a unit nearby where the products are made thus keeping the production local.

Check out all the new products online and see for yourself.

What is Rapeseed? It is the seed from the rapeseed plant, the same family (Brassica) as the health enhancing vegetables broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. The rapeseed plant flowers in the springtime, you know, those fields you drive past on the motorway that are the brightest yellow – that’s rapeseed.

Not bad for an office view

Not bad for an office view*

*Medieval origins

The earliest known references to Clare Park (or Clere as it was then known) date back to 1215, when grain was sent to Waverley Abbey, and 1246, when timbers were selected for building work in London. The origins of the name ‘Clere’ (also variously known as ‘Cleere’ and ‘Cleare’) almost certainly lie with the De Clere family who owned or rented the land from the 13th to 16th century.

The use of the area as farmland seems to have continued since then and the current house is on the site of a 15th century farm residence called Cleere Place.

Godshill Orchards – Isle of Wight

Thatched Cottages in Godshill

Godshill is a picturesque English Village with a medieval church, thatched-roofed cottages and winding main street, boasting some of the oldest architecture on the Isle of Wight.

It can justifiably feel proud that it has within its parish boundaries the only cherry orchard on the Isle of Wight.

Godshill Orchards

Back in 1992 the cherry orchard was conceived, planned and implemented by two well known, distinguished native Islanders and the following year the husbandry of the enterprise passed into the hands of the Medway Family.

The Medway Family, initially from West Wight, formed a partnership with the Pierce family and continue to improve the proud record of cherry production on the island.

Rob Medway and Stuart Pierce (with the support of their families) tend the orchard which contains about 5000 trees, varieties include Colney, Hertford, Lapins, Merton Merchant, Merton Glory, Sasha, Stella, and Sunburst.

Cherry Trees bursting with life

We initially had a flying visit to the orchard at Easter but it wasn’t until we went back in the middle of May that the trees were showing signs of the juicy fruit.


Rob and his son Simeon took us on a tour of the orchard showing us the fruits of their labour.

These little fruits come with so many old wives tales and claims. Rob has researched these and published a book on his findings – “The Compleat Cherry”.

We all know the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” but Rob’s research turned up information that cherries may be even better for us. From arthritis to inflammation, eye care to blood pressure the cherry, it would appear, is a super fruit.

Cherry Blossom

The cherry season is from the middle of June until the beginning of August, but with new varieties introduced this could extend the season by a further couple of weeks – good news for us not so much for the pickers.

Cherries need to be picked quickly and put into the cold store. They are picked in the evenings when it’s cooler then put into the cold room from where they are sold/moved to the mainland the next day – Fresh and Local.

After a very nice slice of homemade ginger cake and a cup of tea we were driven to a secret location on the Island to see their latest venture – APRICOTS. UK grown apricots. 1 of only 3 known orchards in the UK to grow apricots and the size of this orchard makes them the biggest apricot producers in the UK.

Apricot Orchard on the Isle of Wight

Back in 2010 they planted 10,000 trees but it would be a further 3 years before they saw any fruit – that’s a long time to wait to see if you’ve got it right but, with the assistance of the apricot growers in France, this year will see a harvest.

Growing Apricots

Simeon, Rob’s son, is in charge of this orchard and tells us it’s been a steep learning curve.  He had recently gone through the orchard thinning out the fruit, which would appear wasteful, especially after a few years of no fruit, but it is a necessity to produce a tasty fruit for picking this year.

Thinning out the Apricots

Apricots should be available from the 14th July and we will keep you informed as to when they arrive.

They will also be growing green gages and pluots (a cross between a plum and an apricot) – so watch this space.

Along with this delicious fruit, they also produce Coulis, JamsChutneys and Juice– each one just as tasty and moreish as the fruit.