(I normally like to do these posts as soon as possible after the event, but due to having taken very ill within a few days of attending this event, I am rather late in doing so. I hope that I am able to do justice to the very fine day that was had by both the Toddster and myself. )
Several weeks back Todd and I were well pleased to have received an invitation to a Field to Fork Day experience being held at Gamage Hall Farm, in Dymock, Gloucestershire. Having been sponsored by EBLEX we were keen to go. Todd was a cow-man once upon a time ago and we both have a keen interest in how what we choose to eat and put into our bodies is farmed and produced.
EBLEX is a part of the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board for the UK, working independantly of the British Government, but liasing closely with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It is their mandate to help to promote consumer confidence towards Beef and Lamb products here in the UK. The Quality Standard Mark scheme champions eating quality, provenance, food safety, animal welfare and care for the environment.
The recent crisis in the meat industry with horse-meat having found it's way onto our supermarket shelves and in frozen ready meals and other beef products, has only served to highlight how very important traceability and provenance are when it comes to what we, as consumers want to eat, and what we expect to be provided with when we hand over our hard earned cash. Let's face it. Meat is expensive.
We were treated to a day on a lovely farm, Gamage Hall Farm, owned by the Westaway family, which is situated on 170 acres of beautiful farm land in the county of Gloucestershire.
They had the cutest Jack Russell dog named Spot, who I think was the official greeter of the day. He had personality plus!
We were treated to a wonderful tour of the farm by Paul Westaway and his family. We learned a lot about what is involved in producing quality beef for the table. The farm was clean. The animals were clean and well cared for. It was clear every step of the way that they were much more than simply stock.
This is Gareth. He is the highest ranked Angus young Bull in Europe today and amongst the top 1% of the breed globally. He was a beautiful animal.
IN order to be a part of the EBLEX Quality standard mark scheme a producer of beef or lamb has to meet some very high specifications and quality assurances, which cover everything from the age of the animal, to carcase specifications, maturation, eating quality and care for the environment. All things each of us, as consumers, should be concerned about.
The quality standard mark highlights where your beef and lamb was born, raised and slaughtered, and the flag on the label should show you which country it originated in. ie. British (Scotland, Wales, etc.) with the Union Jack or English (England) with St Georges Flag.
Great care was taken throughout our day to make sure we were as informed as possible about ever aspect of the process our quality standard red meats go through to get them from the field to our plate.
There was a fabulous lecture given which showed us in great depth what all goes into the production of our meat. It's not as simple as growing a steer . . . there are very strict specifications to adhere to, which I found very informative and reassuring. You can read more about that on their page, here. I think you would find it very interesting. We both certainly did.
After that we had a butchering class, which was held outside. Here we got to see several different joints of meat and how they would be broken down for sale.
I found this part fascinating. I learned the difference between aged meat and un-aged meat and why one might taste better than another.
And why something which has been aged and hung for a longer time might cost more and have a greater depth of flavour. The longer a piece of meat is hung and aged, the more concentrated the flavour becomes as moisture is lost. It also loses size and weight, which means that a more mature steak which is the same size as a less mature one, might have started out as a much larger piece of meat. It only makes sense that it would cost more to purchase. I never quite understood that before, but now I do! (and I probably haven't explained it right, but I hope you get the idea!)
There are right ways and wrong ways to cut meat. It always really annoys me when we go to a Carvery and the chef serving the meat, slices it with the grain instead of against it. Don't they know the difference?? It also annoys me when I buy a steak and it's very clear that whoever has butchered it has simply cut it across the joint, without having taken any notice of the different muscles contained in the piece. You can see when that has happened when you pick up a steak and it immediately begins to fall apart, none of the connecting tissue holding it together. That's just poor butchering non stop.
Anyways, we were shown a few different cuts of beef and lamb . . . and the difference between a nice piece of meat and a poor one.
It was all very, very informative, and we couldn't have been treated better.
The day ended with a delicious barbeque . . .
We were treated to all of the different cuts of beef and lamb which had been butchered and barbequed skillfully and a delicious assortment of salads, which unfortunately I didn't get any photos of as my camera was acting up at that point. (I have since had to buy a new one!) Before we knew it we were back on the train and on our way home and the day was over.
But I have to say we were very well treated by everyone involved in this event. We were well informed about everything anyone could ever want to know about how their beef and lamb gets from the Field to their Fork. We got to see some beautiful animals being reared in excellent conditions and with high integrity and humanity. We got to rub elbows with other like minded foodies and we got to eat some really decent food.
I don't think anyone can ask for any more than that.
but wait . . . it gets even better . . .
These beautiful flowers arrived about a week later, and really made my day. By then I was in the process of recovering from that terrible tummy bug and they were just about the most welcome sight ever!
Many thanks to the people at EBLEX and Gamage Farm for having provided us with this fab day, and also to Gemma and the people at Good Relations for having invited us along. We really, REALLY enjoyed the day and could not have been treated better by anyone.