For many years, we farmed our own pasture and moorland in North Yorkshire and it is this experience that has given us such a close connection with and understanding of this precious industry. Over the years, in order to continue as a sustainable business and to support the livelihood of small farms around the country, Tim has worked to develop a network of small, like-minded producers to carry on the good work and supply our shops. We work closely with our farmers to produce the highest quality, highest welfare meat sold in the UK today.
Not all farmers are created equal, and the bar was set inimitably high with the Botterill family. They've been farming for over 70 years, and we've been working with them since the very first years of The Ginger Pig. Tim met Gerald and Richard at a local Midlands fine food fair and the rest is history. They have a shared passion for traditional chicken farming and producing proper free range birds. Together, they have created the 100 Day Chicken - a cross between a Cornish Game cockerel and a Sussex or Dorking hen. The Cornish Game is an old fighting breed, and so these chickens move around a lot making them quite slow growing – they’re killed at around 100 days, where most commercial birds go at 60. This ensures that the birds are grown to full maturity meaning that they have a good layer of fat under the skin for spectacularly flavoursome meat. Nestled on the Lincolnshire/Leicestershire border, on a patch of the beautiful Belvoir Estate, the Botterills also rear our 100 day ducks and our turkeys and geese for Christmas. All birds are dry-plucked by hand, giving them soft, dry skin and prolonging shelf life. They are then game hung to intensify the flavour before they reach our counters.
They're fed a natural cereal diet and left free to roam over grass and herbage - the geese being driven across the village in Autumn has become quite the local spectacle.
Although our main focus is always on British meat, cooking and farming, we buy a small range of produce from Rungis Market, Paris, each week. We're the only British butcher to do so and the sole with full access and a buying card. We go to Rungis for the meat that France does exceptionally well; Label Rouge poultry such as Poulet de Landes, Poulet de Bresse and Poulet Noir, as well as Limousin milk-fed veal.
Our founder, Tim Wilson, made the decision a long time ago that the quality of French veal was much higher than English rose veal and that the welfare standards are often higher. Rose veal is a very worthwhile and necessary use of bull calves from the dairy industry but Limousin is specifically reared for its eating quality. Calves are reared outside with their mother until slaughter, so their meat benefits from both their mother's milk and pasture grazing.
Ruth Russell - Duggleby High Barn Farm
The Russell family have been producing Longhorn cattle since 1996 on their farm on the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds. They have around 25 cows and, including the follow on stock, the farm has relatively small herd of around 70 animals. They keep their best heifers to go back into the herd as breeding stock and rear all others for The Ginger Pig. Their cattle graze the Yorkshire pastureland for two to two and a half years and then are finished on home grown barley for good fat coverage. The Russells are well-known for their conservation work, winning a number of awards over the years. Their cattle graze areas that are considered unsuitable for arable production, due to rocky ground and steep inclines. As a result of the cows grazing, the fields are teeming with wildlife, especially swallows in the summer, which are drawn in by the many insects and worms that feed on the manure. They also pull the nutrients into the soil as they move around, making it rich and fertile.
The farm is 600 feet above sea level on the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds and during the winter when the weather is windy, wet and cold, the cattle are rather keen to come inside into warm sheds and soft cushiony straw. The subsequent manure produced in the yards is vital. It is spread over the grazing land, which attracts invertebrates, feeding many varieties of bird, including lapwings and skylarks. They have beetle banks dividing fields and acting as wildlife corridors, full of voles and used by hunting barn owls. They also grow birdseed areas on the farm, which feed many species and act as shelter for wild mammals too.
Operating at the highest levels of animal welfare and sustainability, the Russells are a fine example of the quality of farmer we work with at The Ginger Pig and that can be found across the UK today. Ruth is currently campaigning to make people aware of the quality of meat that we have in our country, how little proper high welfare meat travels and how much our farmers are doing to produce it in an environmentally friendly way. Home bred meat like the Russells' is among the most sustainably produced in the world.
Ray Thornby - Sunnyside Farm
Ray and his wife Kay started farming together over forty years ago. They specialise in rearing Sussex cattle, a favourite breed of Ray's. They have grown their herd to around 200 cattle and it is a true family operation, with their son Roo helping to run the farm. Their cattle are grazed on the beautiful Kent countryside and are then finished on locally sourced maize to help with the all-important fat coverage and dry-ageing process.
Michael & Yvonne Smith - Hennisfield Farm
Michael and his wife Yvonne bought their farm in Derbyshire in 2003. They originally kept and reared free-range hens for Waitrose and then ventured into sheep farming. They became interested in native breed cattle and eventually went on to buy two Longhorns, having fallen in love with the breed's good looks and docile nature. Since then they have steadily grown their magnificent herd to 140 cattle. They have also supplied a variety of other breeders around the country to help sustain the bloodlines. They believe that animals that grow slowly on a grass-fed diet, produce excellent quality matured beef. They are very proud of their breeding programme and have won several prizes on the showing circuit.
Their cattle are grazed on pastureland and finished on a small amount of locally sourced or homegrown barley before slaughter as well as bi-products from the brewing and sugar industries. The Smiths don't use any chemical fertilisers or sprays.Like all our farmers, the Smiths are always looking for ways to be more sustainable as producers. Recently, they made the decision to move away from traditional straw bedding in winter to a product called wood fines which is bi-product of turning waste wood into power station fuel. The cows love it, they are cleaner and drier it reduces waste.
Jim Farrington - Beechwood Herd - North Yorkshire
Jim started rearing pigs when he was 21 with his father. They bought their first Tamworths (our namesake breed) in 1991 and have been growing their small herd since then. They now have 12 Tamworth sows and 12 Pedigree Welshes. They use the traditional late weaning process, to keep piglets with their mothers and the pigs are fed on a diet of locally sourced cereals. They are well-known on the showing circuit and one a number of prizes in 2018, including Reserve Supreme Champion at The Royal Norfolk Show and Welsh Champion of Champions at The Great Yorkshire Show.
The Butler Family - St Margaret's Farm
One of very few proper free-range pork producers in the UK, the Butlers are well-known for both their high welfare rearing methods and the quality of their produce. They started farming outdoor-bred pigs and quickly came to understand the benefits of going fully free-range, whilst working with and producing pork for Waitrose. Jimmy Butler started the business with his wife Pauline and their sons Stuart and Alastair, who now both live nearby with their families and are working full-time for the family business.
The family are very proud of their sustainable and traditional method of rearing pigs. Not only does it make for happy, high welfare animals, it also gives back to the land. The pigs fit into and compliment the crop rotation of the farm's arable farming partners on the Hinton Estate. The Butler's pigs spend one year on a field, digging up and fertilising it as they roam and nuzzle around. Crops are then grown on this fertile land for the following two years. Pig manure is essential for developing and maintaining healthy soil. It also acts as a natural fertiliser replacing the need for chemically produced fertilisers to be used on the land. The rootling activity of the pigs also encourages local flora and fauna to grow in the fields.
Their piglets spend their first four weeks with their mother, until they are ready to be weaned. They then move from the free-range breeding herd to the finishing herd in acre-sized paddocks with large straw-filled huts for shelter. Intensively reared pigs are typically sent to slaughter at 18 to 19 weeks old, but the Butler's pigs remain on the farm until they are 25 to 26 weeks old. This extra time means that the resulting meat is much fuller in flavour and succulence.
Jimmy is something of a local hero, having been awarded ‘Pig Farmer of the Year’, the ‘Chris Brant Award’ and the East Anglian Daily Times ‘Suffolk Food Hero’, among others.
Edward Hull - Turncole Farm
Edward, his wife Ann and the whole family are involved in the running of Turncole Farm in Essex, rearing cattle and sheep, as well as growing their own cereal crops. Their lambs are grazed on the Burnham and Southminster salt marshes, as well as Edward’s father, David’s, farm in Suffolk. The saltmarsh flora and fauna in their diet, such as glasswort, samphire and sea lavender, gives the meat a deliciously rich flavour. They produce Hampshire Cross and Dorset lambs for us, as well as the odd Berkshire pig (reared by their young sons).
The Hulls farm protected Essex Wildlife Trust land and work closely to support the ongoing conservation projects, including the encouragement of ground-nesting birds on their farmland.
Stuart Maw - Thornton-Le-Dale
The Maws' family farm is nestled in the foothills of the stunning North Yorkshire moors, close to where the Ginger Pig began its story. They rear hardy, home-bred Texel x Vendeen lambs, which produce a lean meat with exceptional flavour. Lambing is in March and the animals are fully free-range and grass-fed, with a small supplement of home-grown barley to finish. Stuart has a herd of 250 sheep, as well as some suckler cows. In addition, they have a small amount of arable land from which they grow their own feed.