I believe passionately that organic meat should not be the preserve of a moneyed minority, and I am delighted to show customers how to eat good meat on a budget. My first piece of advice might sound a bit strange coming from a butcher. Eat less meat.
A few generations ago, a Sunday roast was a special event. Now meat is fast food, taken for granted, consumed without care. It may be cheaper but it comes at a cost. Reared industrially, in factory conditions, the animals are paying the price.
Cheap meat is also wasteful and unhealthy. Factory-farmed animals are fed cereal-based diets from grains that could be feeding people. This unnatural diet produces meat with the wrong balance of fatty acids and other essential nutrients. It’s like feeding junk food to animals, and it’s neither good for the animals’ health, nor the health of those who eat their meat.
A little meat goes a long way. You can create a health giving soup from bones, bulk out a beef and chorizo stew with chickpeas, add cooked lentils to meat lasagna, or make a curry with plenty of vegetables and rice. And when you do eat meat, make sure it’s good quality. Our cattle are traditional breeds, live in family groups on our Berkshire farm, and have rubbing posts for self-cleaning and massage. Our sheep graze on pastures sown with wild herbs so they can self-medicate. It’s as close to nature as we can get it.
Another cost-saving tip is to use your local butcher’s shop. Find those that practice whole-body traditional nose-to-tail butchery, as we do at Sheepdrove. That way you can source the cheaper cuts rarely found in supermarkets. Cuts such as scrag, blade and skirt are cheaper because they take longer to cook. These cuts usually have more fat too but the bonus is extra taste. Fat is often the tastiest part of the meat so keep the fat on for a slow cook stew, and see how it creates an unctuous flavoursome sauce with the wow factor!
Fat has a bad health rap, but not all fats are bad for you! When it comes to meat, much depends on how the animals are fed. Cattle and sheep graze on grass. Grass-fed animals produce meat which has less saturated (bad) fats and more unsaturated (good) fats. Feeding factory-farmed animals grain may be cheap, but this method produces meat with more of the ‘bad’ fats.
A recent report by Compassion in World Farming found that higher animal welfare standards produce meat with less fat and higher levels of Omega-3 and antioxidants, mainly due to being naturally-fed and slow-growing.
A few more cost cutting tips: Remember it is cheaper to buy a whole chicken than pieces. You can roast the chicken for one meal and use the left-overs to make dishes including risotto, burgers and pies. Otherwise butcher the whole chicken, and freeze the pieces for future use.
To save pennies, choose organic mutton over lamb. Mutton is a sheep over two-years-old, and needs longer to cook. But it also has more (good) fat so has a fuller flavour. A slow-roast shoulder of mutton feeds six, and costs about £12 – roughly £2 a serving.
We are passionate about organic certification because it guarantees we are using natural and biological fertiliser (not factory-made chemicals) on our soils, and feeding our farm animals natural organic feed (GM is banned under organic standards). Like many organic farmers, we use homeopathic remedies for our livestock. Organic standards, enshrined by law, guarantee respect for the animal’s natural behaviour, so you can be sure the animals are truly free-range.
Eating organic meat does cost a bit extra but maybe that is the way it should be. After all, an animal lost its life for us. Paying that bit extra encourages people to think about how the animal lived and died, to cook it carefully, and to think twice about wasting it.
The award-winning farm has butcher’s shops in both Bristol and London, and runs a nationwide mail order service www.sheepdrove.com
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