Rother Valley Organics is justifiably proud of the traceability and provenance of its meat.
Each of its 400-strong herd of Aberdeen Angus has its own passport and eartag and, says manager Sam Gaunt, “if you give me five minutes, I can even tell you which field the cow was grazing in.”
It would have been a field somewhere within the 1,400 acres farmed by Rother Valley Organics in Rogate, on the edge of the beautiful South Downs National Park.
The cattle are grazed on a variety of organic grasses, including hillside clover in the winter and lush riverside pasture in the warmer months. Such care produces some of the finest organic beef available to buy online.
“It is as high welfare as we can make it,” says Sam, who explains the quality of the beef is enhanced by careful ageing, all done in the farm’s onsite butchery.
Brothers Shon and Simon Sprackling launched Rother Valley Organics 20 years ago with the aim of delivering organic beef to people’s doors, so handling the entire process from pasture to plate.
Since then, they have expanded by forming partnerships with other local farmers, enabling them to offer a range of organic meats, such as lamb from the Goodwood Estate, fed on the calcium-rich chalk downs. They also offer free range pork, wild venison and much more, all kept separately from the organic meat within the butchery, but still fully traceable.
“Public demand swings from organic to local, but with our range, we tick both boxes,” says Sam.
Farmers’ markets are often the starting point for regular online orders and Rother Valley Organics attends several, including three in Sussex. It is a chance to showcase the meat and educate shoppers on the difference between organic, well-aged beef and ordinary supermarket vacuum-packs.
“We are always up against today’s public perception of what meat should look like,” says Sam. “People think beef should look bright red to be fresh because that’s what the supermarkets produce, but organic, aged meat is darker. It is the same with organic and free-range chicken - because it has been wandering about in a field, the texture of the meat is different which often surprise people.”
Rother Valley is starting that education with children, regularly welcoming school parties to the farm to learn where food comes from.
“We love having the kids in. They don’t have a filter and ask great questions,” says Sam. “It’s amazing as they see a side of beef hanging in the cutting plant but there is no correlation between that and the animals in the fields.”
While fresh meat is the core business, a new venture is a south African favourite – biltong. Launched under the Bad Boys label, it is not organic, but does use locally-sourced beef which is marinated and spiced at the farm.
“We are getting some good pick up in local pubs as it is great with a pint, and goes along with the `carbohydrate bad for you, protein good for you’ trend,” adds Sam. Next meat challenge for Rother Valley Organics will be producing biltong using wild venison and even ostrich.