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 buying poultry from them for many years. Nestled on the Lincolnshire/Leicestershire border, on a patch of the beautiful Belvoir Estate, Richard Botterill and his small team rear our 100-day chickens throughout the year, our ducks, and our turkeys and geese for Christmas.
All of their birds are from traditional breeds allowed to grow to full maturity. 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. The Botterills dry-pluck and game-hang all of their birds, which makes for spectacularly flavoursome meat, and we sell all of their birds with their giblets included.
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 worthwile 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 run around 25 cows and, including the follow on stock, the farm has around 70 animals in total. 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 and then are finished on home grown barley. The Russells are well known for their wildlife conservation work, winning a number of awards. They also work with local schools and community projects to arrange educational visits to their farm. One of their prize bulls is also something of a celebrity! Settrington Quest starred in the recent Dad’s Army film.
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.
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.
Caroline Wheatley-Hubbard - Boyton Farm
Joshua Hurst Wheatley lived and farmed at Berkswell in Warwickshire at the turn of the century. He had reared pigs for many years, but in 1921 he bought his first pedigree Tamworth, called Jemima, and she was to be the start of the pedigree herd. Over 90 years later, Caroline Wheatley-Hubbard and her son Christopher, Joshua’s great-great-grandson, farm in Wiltshire rearing Jemima’s direct descendants. The Berkswell herd is now the oldest herd of Tamworths in the country comprising over 20 sows from all the bloodlines and three boar bloodlines. It will celebrate its centenary in 2022.
Berkswell Tamworths have been in the show-rings since Joshua Wheatley first showed in 1925. In 1926 Joshua’s son Charles won the Tamworth Championship at the Royal Show with Berkswell Red Cap, and the herd now has many Show Championships to its credit including latterly the Royal Bath and West of England.
Jim Farrington - Beechwood Herd - North Yorkshire
Jim started rearing pigs when he was 21 with his father. They bought their first Tamworths 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.
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.