A Dogs Life!

Waste not, want not!  Here at Farmer’s Choice we don’t like to waste anything.  When we receive the whole carcass we don’t want there to be anything left.

After all the orders have been taken and the meat has been cut, sometimes the only thing left is inedible bits and pieces (which get minced for petfood) and the bones.

DogsTrust Logo

Back in May 2013 we contacted the Dogs Trust and asked if they could take the bones and the mince – answer was obviously ‘yes please’. Since then we have been sending 4 boxes of bones and 25 packs of petfood mince a week to the Dogs Trust in Shoreham. We did consider sending it to other Dogs Trust centres but it didn’t make sense to send a courier when there was a Dogs Trust centre within our catchment area.

I think he likes it

I think he likes it

The Dogs Trust told us the advantages to the dogs when they eat the bones are:

  • Chewing is a very natural behaviour for a dog,
  • A kennel environment can be stressful for dogs, so chewing on a raw bone releases feel good chemicals which is great for helping them cope.
  • “Chilling out” with a raw bone is a great past time.
  • It helps to keep their teeth nice and clean.
  • They really look forward to their bones and it make them genuinely happy.
  • So to sum it up – the dogs LOVE them!
Some guests enjoying their treats

Some guests enjoying their treats

Founded in 1891, Dogs Trust (formerly the National Canine Defence League) is the largest dog welfare charity in the UK.  Here’s what they do in a nutshell…

  • Each year they care for around 16,000 dogs at a nationwide network of 20 Rehoming Centres.
  • Their Education Officers give thousands of classroom presentations every year. Free teaching resources are made available to all schools in the UK.
  • Their FREEDOM Project helps pet owners who are fleeing domestic violence by fostering their animals while they start a new life.
  • The HOPE Project gives preventative veterinary care to dogs belonging to homeless people.
  • They advise government on any matters concerning dog ownership.
  • They assist overseas animal welfare charities by training their staff in best practice.

Concerns…”Surely bones splinter and are dangerous.” Yes is the answer to that but ONLY if they are cooked, not if the bones are raw. Raw chicken carcasses are so soft they can be broken them with bare hands. You can purchase bones and petfood mince direct from Farmer’s Choice.

Boo enjoying his bone

Boo enjoying his bone

Our bones used to be collected in the “bone bins” and sent off to make SOAP of all things and candles. The history of soap dates back to almost six thousand years. Around 2800 B C E, excavations of ancient Babylon revealed cylinders with inscriptions of making soap. Later, in 1500 B C E, records from Egypt revealed how animal and vegetable oils were mixed with alkaline salts to prepare soap. No one really knows how the soap was actually discovered, however there are many legends surrounding the invention of soap. According to the Romans, soap gets its name from Mount Sapo. Animals were sacrificed on Mount Sapo. Rains washed the fat of the sacrificed animals along with the alkaline wooden ashes from the sacrificial fires into the Tiber River. This mixture helped people in cleaning their clothes.

 

Christmas Colouring Competition

Colouring Competition

We have been running a colouring competition, through social media, to give away a Christmas Turkey worth £68.

Free Range Christmas Turkey

Free Range Christmas Turkey

The competition was open to under 12’s and we had entrants aged from 2 – 12.

They were ALL very good but we couldn’t pick just one so … the winners are Jo’elle (aged 7) and Sophia (aged 11).

Competition Winners

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those budding  young artists for giving up their time to colour and to all the mums and dads for entering them. Your turkeys will be despatched very soon, have a Merry Christmas.

Some entries from the Colouring Competition

Some entries from the Colouring Competition

Look out for more competitions in 2015 for more giveaways.

 

Keep Warm This Winter!

There is nothing worse than getting home on a winters evening to a house that is full of drafts and colder inside than out. It’s a time of year when you want your house to feel all cosy and draught free.

colder inside than out

when it’s colder inside than out

You can whack up the heating (expensive) or you can also try the greener approach.

Draught excluders can help in a big way to keep the heat in the room without putting strain on the boiler. Simple to make and you probably already have all the materials you need to pull it together – an old cardigan, jumper or blanket.

Home Made Draught Excluders

Home Made Draught Excluders

Let’s imagine, like me, you don’t have a sewing machine….not a problem, all you need is a needle and cotton.

First, you will need your material to be slightly longer than the door frame and roughly 35 cm wide (just longer than a standard ruler).

Fold your fabric in half lengthways.  At this point your might want to pick a side you want on show and make sure that is on the inside of the fold.

Now, sew along one end and the long seam (if you have pins, pin it to stop the fabric moving around whilst you sew). Sew as close to the corners as you can, you want them to look neat and tidy.

Turn your tube inside out (you should now see the side of fabric you want on show).

Now grab your stuffing – this is something you probably have already, we line our delivery boxes with Woolcool, a fantastic product that is so versatile. Wool is one of the most sustainable natural materials but it just gets better…stuffing draught excluders, lagging pipes or keeping picnics cool (very hard to think about right now….).

When your tube is full, sew up the end being as neat as possible – this will be on show.

That’s it….you are now done and have a toasty warm room with no draughts. Time to cuddle up in front of the fire with a winter meal.

cosy winters night

cosy winter nights in

Farmer’s Choice Christmas Colouring Competition

Colouring Competition

With just under four weeks left till the big day why not take this opportunity to enter our competition to Win a Free Range Turkey worth £68.

Turkey competition

Turkey competition

All you have to do is colour in the Farmer’s Choice Tractor (colouring in between lines is optional!!) take a photo and upload it to the Farmer’s Choice Facebook page.  Our only stipulation is, you have to be under 12 – it’s that simple!

Turkey Competition

Turkey Competition

There is only one week left in this competition, the winner will be picked at random and announced on Friday 12th December and your turkey will be with you in time for Christmas Day.

Entries must be posted before Friday 5th December.

Get colouring and good luck.

Use the following instructions on cooking the turkey at your own discretion

Wine Lovers guide to Cooking the Turkey

Wine Lovers guide to Cooking the Turkey

Colouring Competition

Farmer’s Choice Deli-cious Charcuterie

It was more than twenty years ago that I first tasted “uncooked” meat on a hill top in the South Tyrol, Austria. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to try it but everyone else seemed to be tucking in so …in it went. Soft, spicy, strong and most definitely morish! It was simply served on a piece of wood with lots of mountain cheese, and flatbread. They cured the meat in an old shepherds hut, not something they can get away with today with all the regulations, and wine but it was a memorable meal nun the less.

Austrian Smorgasboard

Austrian Smorgasboard

The word for Charcuterie is translated to “pork butcher”. This has led to a mistaken belief that charcuterie can only involve pork.  It actually refers to products particularly, not limited to, pork specialities such as pâte. These products are usually found in the deli areas of shops or delicatessen-style shops called a charcuterie!

The history behind this way of preparing meat goes back to the first century AD. Intended as a way to preserve meat before the advent of refrigeration. Today it is prepared for the flavours derived from the preservation processes.

This meat is now produced almost everywhere, even here in the UK – I know, I was surprised too. Here at Farmer’s Choice we have a fantastic range of this style of prepared meat.

Our Pork comes from Scott Free Range Farm in West Sussex. The pigs are born and reared outdoors and are Free Range Quality Assured pigs that enjoy the fresh air, freedom and a natural, additive free diet throughout their lives. Richard, our farmer, has carefully developed a style of husbandry that means the pigs live a healthy, unstressful life. The pigs are free to roam and can get onto to do what they do best – eat, sleep and dig!

Scott Free Range Farm in West Sussex

Scott Free Range Farm in West Sussex

The Beef products come from the MACDUFF, a family of Scottish farms who have joined together to set themselves a uniquely high standard of beef production. The cattle are reared naturally and fed only on grass and grass-based products. This natural diet ensure the full, rich flavour of beef as it used to taste before the introduction of intensive farming techniques. MACDUFF beef gains further richness and succulence from being matured the traditional way, on the bone.

Cattle from the MACDUFF family of Scottish Farms

Cattle from the MACDUFF family of Scottish Farms

Our pork and beef is delivered to The Dorset Charcuterie Company in Lytchett Minster in Dorset. The Dorset Charcuterie Company was started in 2010, with the help from the Princes Trust, they have firmly cemented themselves as producers of fine, local, seasonal and ethically sourced British charcuterie.

They season, cure, dry, smoke and mature all the products from start to finish, coupling age old traditional methods with state of the art modern techniques in their purpose built on farm charcuterie.

The Dorset Charcuterie aren’t the only producers of fine British air-dried meats but are amongst a growing number of artisan curers and smokers that are, together helping put Britain firmly on the Charcuterie map. Not in the past noted for our Charcuterie, we do in Britain produce some of the finest meat in the world to the highest of welfare standards and so there is no reason why we shouldn’t also produce unique world beating Charcuterie.

A selection of Farmer's Choice Charcuterie products

A selection of Farmer’s Choice Charcuterie products

At Farmer’s Choice we have a selection of Charcuterie meats. All of our British air-dried charcuterie is made with prime cuts of free range meat and preserved in a number of ways, including salting, smoking, drying and cooking, with extra care taken to ensure that our charcuterie products have the correct level of maturity, texture and flavour.

How about something special for the festive season, our Free Range Reserve Whole Ham…a fantastic centrepiece.

Farmer's Choice Free Range Reserve Whole Ham

Farmer’s Choice Free Range Reserve Whole Ham

Our range of seasoned olives, including garlic stuffed olives, paprika chilli olives and sweet basil olives are prepared using a savoury blend of spices and herbs and are a perfect accompaniment our free range charcuterie meat. So supplement the cheeseboard at your next dinner party with some of our selection of tasty olives and local smoked and air-dried meat products such as free range pork chorizo, Dorset coppa, salami and Dorset air-dried ham.

Silver & Green Olive Selection from Farmer's Choice

Silver & Green Olive Selection from Farmer’s Choice

Storage Advice

In the fridge in a tupperware type container or wrapped in paper or muslin. Slices are best eaten straight away as they tend to dry out quite quickly – not that there will be much left once you open and start snacking! Our meats are vacuum packed to keep them fresh 30 days when kept refrigerated.

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

George and Jane 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.

Goslings

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 free-range, initially with night time shelter. If they let them out any earlier they risk being predated by hawks or foxes. After a further 2 weeks they take shelter at their own choice.

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 gang 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 merry festive meal. It’s different to turkey because the goose meat is intensely meaty and flavourful and cloaked in that layer of unbelievably rich, crispy skin.

Westmoor Farm also bottle Pure Suffolk Honey and Delicious Golden Syrup. Their very own Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil is bottled here – a healthy choice cooking oil or dressing beneficial in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats omega 3, 6 and 9.

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

Devonshire Daytrip to Merrifield Farm

Nestled down in a Devonshire Valley, just outside Crediton, is Merrifield Farm – home to Peter and James (Creedy Carver) our Chicken and Duck farmers. Peter and his wife Sue have been involved in barn reared chicken for over twenty years, eight years ago they started to produce free range chickens in response to local demand. Their youngest son (James) joined them and quickly developed a reputation for producing ducks to a very high standard.

freerange chickens

Freerange chicken huts

We were taken on a tour of the farm to see how our poultry were getting on. We were shown the brooder units where day old chicks are initially reared, until 28 days old when they are moved to free range units. These are either straw bale shacks or special chicken arks. The arks are four metres wide and pop holes along the full length of each side so no bird is more than two meters from the range areas. Here they are allowed to roam grassy fields yet have the protection from predators and the elements in their specialist housing. Peter and James’ standards are based on Soil Association criteria, although Peter tells us that Merrifield Farm is not organic. Their poultry are fed an additive free diet.

Free Range ducks

Freerange ducklings and ducks

Both Chicken and Ducks are reared in small flocks to reduce stress and increase freedom. A simple diet, greater maturity and a natural environment produces a happier, better tasting chicken.

Freerange Chicken Shelter

Outdoor Chickens

The free range ducklings get plenty of space to waddle around, they are reared at a maximum of two square feet per duck in the special field arks that they have constructed. A bathing trough is provided to keep the birds healthy.  They do everything possible to encourage the birds to range and take advantage of the healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise. These girls will only come out if they want to. On hot days the chickens prefer to come out early in the morning and late in the afternoon when the sun is not so hot.

Peter is not just involved in the rearing of his barn/free range chickens he is also an avid breeder of rare ducks/geese/birds, you name it, it will probably be in his back garden!

ducks, geese, birds

Peter’s Rare Breeds

Peter is also in the process of creating a natural spring/nature reserve on the farm, a tranquil spot in an already beautiful setting.

Tranquil spot

Natural Spring