Where Exactly Does Our Meat Come From?
Our Beef supplier raises some of the highest quality, healthy herds of cattle in the UK. The Farm is a 360 acre farm and is run by a family farmer who is responsible for the 600 cattle that are made up of excellent examples of Limousin, Simmental and Charolais Cross
Limousin cattle are known for their muscular build, providing lean cuts of beef that have become popular with the modern market. British Simmental cattle have grown to be the 4th largest beef breed in the UK and are a “dual” purpose breed that can be crossed successfully with any other breed. Charolais cattle are often crossed with other breeds to produce a lean weighted finished product.
Characteristics of these animals include a quiet temperament, highly adaptable to climate changes and excellent confirmation and muscle.
These cattle are well cared for and fed on grasses and other crops that are grown right there on the farm. When it comes to moving the cattle on to market the area is blessed with a number of cattle markets that are held weekly. The close proximity of these markets helps reduce stress to the animals.
Want to know EVEN MORE about our Beef then keep reading our quickfire FAQ is here to answer any other questions you may have…
QUESTION: What do you feed your cattle in the winter? Do you supplement with any grain during cold weather?
We are often asked this question! Technically, almost all cattle are “grass fed” and “free range” for a portion of their lives. However, the majority are “finished” in feedlots where they are raised in confinement and switched to a grain-based diet for fast weight gain. Most supermarket cattle are treated with feed additives and antibiotics to boost their productivity levels and to minimize the health problems that come from eating an unnatural diet in stressful conditions. Cleverly worded phrases like “finished with minimal grain” sound benign and it is important to inquire as to the management protocol used by any producer.
We are always glad to share how we raise our cattle. Like most grass farmers we finish the majority of our beef within the growing season of our native grasses. The weather can be changeable to say the least so our farmer try and have at least 8 weeks of grass supply for our finishing herd in the winter. Our farmers attempt to have animals finishing at the times of the year when the native grasses are producing. We try to finish as many as possible before the native grass is gone and we move our herd to winter pasture. Here at www.athleat.co.uk, we want to supply our beef direct to you all year long and not just the beef that is finished during the growing periods.
As a result, our farmers plant winter pastures for our finishing herd that allows us to continue transporting our beef directly from green pasture to the processor. Rotational management of the fields ensures that the animals grazing area each day are large enough to meet their nutritional needs. Each day the farmers rotate the herd to new fresh area. By the time we rotate through all the grazing areas, the first areas will have had adequate rest and will have grown again to the optimal nutritional height. This process keeps our finishing herd fed through the winter until the cool season grasses begins growing again in the spring.
None of our cows in our beef program are supplemented with grains. The hay we feed them in winter maintains 90% of the nutrition of fresh grass and much of the natural moisture.
QUESTION: How are your cows processed and butchered?
We are lucky to have a small family run slaughterhouse that is very close to the farms therefore the animals have minimum stress for the journey. There is a full time vet in the facility but because the slaughterhouse only processes approx 250 animals per week it is a much “happier” place to be than the large ones most other suppliers use. Once the carcasses are delivered to us we have 4 generations of Butchery experience when our forefathers opened their first ever Butchers shop. This experience means we can maintain the quality of the beef whilst we freshly butcher your order. Quality Butchery is very important in the pursuit of cutting you the perfect grass fed 28 day aged steak!
QUESTION: Are your cattle ever fed grain?
No, our cattle are grass fed!
QUESTION: Is your grass fed beef organic?
Our beef is not certified organic. However, our cattle eat nothing but grasses, supplemented by hay in the winter. Since organic beef can be grain-fed in confinement, we maintain that eating our beef, raised humanely in open pastures, is a healthier choice.
QUESTION: Is your product “free range”?
Yes, our cattle are never confined to a feedlot.
QUESTION: What does your beef taste like?
Our beef has a distinct “pure” and really beefy taste. It is different than grain fed; we think it tastes better without all the chemicals. Our Beef has a lovely marbling and the fat is a light yellow colour which is a key indicator of the grass fed nature of beef.
QUESTION: Do you use any antibiotics or hormones in the rearing of your cattle?
There are no prophylactic antibiotics used in the rearing of our cattle and no hormones to accelerate the growth of the cattle.
QUESTION: What age are the cattle at slaughter?
This can vary throughout the year and across different species but our Cattle have a maximum slaughter age of 48 months, with the average being approximately 36 Months. This age means that the cattle can develop naturally and without any stress.
QUESTION: Is the slaughterhouse a long distance from the Farm?
No. Both the farms and the slaughterhouse are all in the same county and the distance travelled is very small to help with the reduction of animal stress.
QUESTION: Are the cows kept in confined feedlots?
No. They have full access to the pastures at all times.
QUESTION: Are the cattle stunned prior to slaughter?
Yes. The slaughterhouse conforms with all guidelines and uses a captive bolt gun that stuns the animal and renders it completely unconscious and without the ability to feel any pain whatsoever.
QUESTION: Are the cattle graded?
Yes they are graded at the slaughterhouse once on the way to the hanging rooms. We only utilise “A” grade carcasses
QUESTION: What does organic beef mean and is that better for me?
Organic is a term that can be misused. Being “certified Organic” means that a variety of organisations (soil association being one) have been to the farm that the animal has been reared on and if the land conforms to their criteria they can call their product Organic. There is a membership fee for using the title, and we have made the conscious decision to use pastured beef rather than pay a premium for this service.
QUESTION: Are the cattle fed on fields that are rotated to save over grazing?
In a word, yes. Because the cattle aren’t intensively farmed overcrowding is less of an issue which means that the fields can be used sparingly. With a 30-45 day rest period between grazing the farmers can allow for the pasture to recover fully. The Farms we utilise are also large so there is less of a chance of overgrazing. This vastly reduces any soil erosion problems too.
Our Poultry is born raised and slaughtered in very close proximity. The small farm owns their own milling site which produces top quality GMO free animal feed for their flocks to supplement the natural grazing and they have some of the lowest food miles in the industry. The majority of rearing farms are within 30 minutes travelling time of the hatchery and within one hour of the production site.
They are very proud of the fact that they are not only ECO friendly but welfare conscious with stress free short journeys for the live birds. They produce the finest that are British Farm Standard (Red Tractor)
The farmers care for the birds and provide them with the highest quality living environment to ensure that they are ethically treated throughout their lives. They are provided with access to open-air runs and can go outside whenever they want during the day.
These runs are covered with vegetation and the birds spend on average at least half of their life outside roaming, and eating what they find there. Our free-range birds are moved to fresh pasture every 24 hours to ensure that the majority of their diet is grass, clover, insects and worms.
The bird’s diet is supplemented with that home grown GM & grain free, high quality chicken feed we spoke about earlier. This supplemental feed contains a kelp meal-based vitamin-mineral mix with probiotics, and coquina (seashells for calcium and grit).
There are never any prophylactic antibiotics or hormones given to the birds which means they are reared as naturally as possible throughout their lives.
All rearing farms are within 1 hours travelling, use feed from their own category A mill, bred from eggs from their own breeding farms and chicks from their own hatchery. Finally they use Chicken from their own rearing farms that are finally slaughtered on site. All meaning that our poultry supplier has complete quality control and has animal welfare at the heart of its operation
Our team of butchers hand bone every single whole bird meaning we can offer a full range of products, all produced directly in our butchery
QUESTION: How do the Chickens you supply live?
Chickens are given access to open-air runs continuously throughout the day, they are not forced to stay indoors at any time and they spend on average at least half their life outside roaming on herb and clover enriched meadows among woodland strips to encourage them to range, forage and dust bath as they would in their natural forest floor habitat.
QUESTION: How are the chickens processed and butchered?
The Chickens are processed on the farmers processing site which is in close proximity of the rearing sheds. The birds are not slaughtered as halal.
QUESTION: Are they fed grains when in the sheds?
All Athleat chickens are never fed grain or corn when in the sheds. The feed is GM free, with extracts of rapeseed oil, kelp, and a vitamin/mineral complex that contains probiotics and coquina
QUESTION: Are they given hormones or antibiotics?
There are no prophylactic antibiotics or hormones given at any stage of their development
QUESTION: Other suppliers online sell in bulk trays of 5kg, why dont you do that?
We bone our whole birds specifically to order so the chicken is as fresh as it can be. Companies that are selling in bulk trays are usually selling Dutch or EU graded chicken fillets that will come into their facility already cut and packed in gas flushed trays etc. We ONLY sell Chicken from UK farms as we always like to maintain the quality and the provenance of the animals. Visiting and speaking to the farmers also means we can ensure that the animals have led a happy life.
When it comes to buying livestock we do things a little differently…We actually attend Farmers markets to purchase our livestock (every Wednesday in case you are wondering!). This means we have full control over the quality and provenance of the Lambs and get the opportunity to talk to the farmers about all things meat!
The lambs we have specifically selected as being of a high enough quality, size temperament etc are then sent away (to the small family run slaughterhouse) to be killed humanely. The Lambs will then come into our butchery unit to be expertly cut down to whatever products have been ordered that day! From Lamb Neck Fillets all the way down to Lamb Shanks – we can supply “nose to tail eating”
The market we attend can be traced back to the 15th century and one of the main reasons we decide to purchase from there is down to the excellent selection of Chiltern Farm lambs. Breeds you will typically see at the market include; The Oxford or Oxford Down, Southdown, Texel, Romney Marsh (Kent cross Southdown), Suffolk Black Face and the Welsh Beulah Speckled Face.
We only select the premium lambs raised on grass throughout their lives. All the animals we purchase are from farm assured farms and we have full traceability. The natural rolling hills on the farms provide the grass the free range lambs are fed on.
The lamb’s welfare is very important to us. This plays an important role in ensuring stress levels are kept to a minimum when the lamb is transported. We buy whole lambs that are ideally weighing between 18-20kg and are 6-8 months old and are butchered to order on the day of despatch.
QUESTION: What do the farmers feed the Lambs in the winter? Do you supplement with any grain during cold weather?
The weather in the UK can be changeable so farmers will have at least 8 weeks of grass supply in the winter. The hay/silage we feed them in winter maintains 90% of the nutrition of fresh grass and much of the natural moisture. No grain ever passes the Lambs munching teeth…
QUESTION: How are the Lambs processed and butchered?
We buy Lamb from a very localised area and the slaughterhouse is withing close proximity to the markets we go to. This is much better for the animals! We bring in whole lambs and butcher them down to our own specification ready for despatch that same day. This makes our Lamb some of the freshest around!
As with all of our products we have based our choice of duck supplier on quality, consistency and environmental factors and after much consideration we chose our Supplier who has over 28 years of experience in this field and produces around 7000 ducks a week from his own 43 acre farm.
The new hatchlings are reared on a bed of fresh softwood shavings and in time they progress to local grown dry straw bedding, thus reducing the chances of sporal infections. The bedding is changed daily and the Ducks are fed a natural diet.
Young ducklings are kept in warm regulated housing and the older birds are able to move freely around both open housing
We also procure a Pekin duck (not to be confused with Peking duck) which is chosen for its excellent yield and great flavour. Our Ducks are bred to around 7 weeks old and reach an oven ready weight of 2+kg. While wet plucked ducks are available, our ducks are “dry plucked” with the use of hot wax at around 64C. This produces a better skin finish for a superior quality product.
As well as selling whole birds, we can butcher in house and supply products such as breasts, legs and fresh livers.
Our Pork Supplier is a friendly family business and the pork they supply is sourced from pigs produced locally.
Pigs travel for no more than 30 minutes to their abattoir where they are processed on a weekly basis to ensure continuity of freshness and quality. Most of the pork is Duroc, a common breed amongst pig farmers as they are very hardy towards our changeable weather and produce excellent flavoured lean pork.
Their farming methods have always been traditional, sustainable and in harmony with the environment. This has been achieved through using the minimum amount of inputs, extensively grazing their livestock and feeding natural foods grown on the farm.
By processing livestock on the farm they eliminate the mileage most animals have to travel; this is not only environmentally friendly but also ensures the highest welfare standards are achieved.
The farm is home to some 600 outdoor sows which are housed in single spacious huts. 23 days after giving birth the piglets are placed in outside wiener kennels that provide protection from the elements and wildlife such as badgers and foxes that can distress the animals.
The young piglets are fed an all natural diet. Once the piglets are at 22 weeks they are ready for the market. The pork farms and abattoir are all within a 60 miles radius, reducing any stress to the animals and limiting carbon emissions.
We are a specialist butchery team therefore there are some products that we cannot treat with the same expertise as the other products. This includes the Bacon we supply you. Bacon curing is a particularly difficult thing to get right and traditional methods are the best. Therefore we have teamed up with Sandridge Farm to provide us with what we think is the very best Bacon around.
The guys over at Sandridge carefully select the best whole sides of pork to ensure that once the curing process is complete we are left with a very high quality bacon.
The pigs are naturally raised on the same farm as where it is cured which is a rarity in the industry and are provided a well balanced diet free from artificial hormones, growth promoters and routine antibiotics. The pigs are fed on a totally natural diet including yoghurt, beer and cider yeast!
The sides of pork are then cured using the traditional Wiltshire immersion method, Sandridge Farmhouse Bacon do not add ANY water to the bacon like the majority of highly manufactured “pumped” Bacon. They like to say that after salt, time is the most important ingredient.
What Roger Keen of Sandridge Farmhouse Bacon says:
“The first question a customer asks of our bacon is often ‘does it have any added water?’ The answer is no! I guarantee it will sizzle, not drizzle in your frying pan. It takes three weeks to cure our bacon, Our Wiltshire Cure has a sweet flavour, mellowed by time. Our Golden Rind Bacon is naturally smoked over oak and beech for two days.”