Flushed with their success at the recent British Farming Awards, Andrew and Lauren Houstoun are full of plans for their fledgling business, selling home-produced beef, venison and lamb direct to the public.
Glenkilrie Larder was established less than two years ago by the young couple, who farm ten miles north of Blairgowrie on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park.
The business was one of about 40 nominated for Diversification Innovator of The Year, and they were thrilled to take the silver award at a glitzy ceremony in Birmingham last month.
Andrew farms the 2,500- acre home farm in partnership with his parents, David and Morag, where they run 1,100 Cheviot, Blackface and Aberfield cross ewes alongside 180 Aberdeen Angus cross and Limousin cross suckler cows.
In December 2018, Andrew and Lauren introduced 60 red deer to the farm as they felt they had to safeguard its future and this was one of the few diversification options which fitted well with the existing farm policy.
Andrew said: “Lauren was always keen on the idea of direct marketing venison based on the meat’s health and environmental benefits.
“Deer are also very attractive from a labour point of view, with just
two big handling days per year!”
Their first meat delivery was Christmas 2019 and the business has grown from there with 90% of customers returning for more.
Lauren said: “All our marketing has been done on social media; we started off with a few local customers but now we are selling all over Angus, Perthshire and Aberdeenshire and we also supply three local hotels.”
The farm sells most of the cattle store, but finishes two every month for the larder, while four to six lambs and two to eight deer are also required each month to make up orders.
Glenkilrie Larder is run as a separate business from the farm and buys the livestock at current market prices.
Lauren said: “We are keen to make this a viable, profitable business in its own right and not reliant on the farm.”
Cattle are slaughtered at ABP in Perth and hung for a month, while lambs and deer go straight to Downfield Abattoir at Cupar, where everything is butchered to the Houstouns’ specification, and special products such as burgers and black pudding are made.
One of their most popular products is venison black pudding, and Innis and Gunn sell this and venison burgers in all four of their Tap Room restaurants in Scotland.
Andrew said: “One of our biggest challenges is carcasse balance; demand changes on a monthly basis.
“We are lucky the three hotels mop up a lot of burgers, sausages and forequarters but we also get pies made by Jarvis Pickle at Eyemouth.”
Lauren added: “We did a lot of research into who should make our pies and found
Jarvis Pickle, who make pies for Fortnum and Mason. They use our meat for our branded pies and I meet the delivery driver in Perth every month where we swap meat for pies. This month we have over100 individual pies for delivery.”
The fresh meat is collected from Downfield during the first week of every month and Lauren delivers in Perth and Angus on the first Saturday and Aberdeenshire on the first Sunday. The remaining stock is frozen and delivered when required.
Although they can make up bespoke orders, their £50 or £100 mixed meat boxes are very popular.
Andrew said: “We tweak them every month and many of our customers buy them regularly.”
The couple, who are both just 31 and have two young children, Alasdair, 2, and Ellen (9 months) , and the couple borrowed to invest in industrial freezers, fridges and a cool box for the back of the pick-up.
There was also branding and leaflets to pay for with no grants available.
Lauren said: “Although the business is going well, there is no wage in it for us yet, so I am still working as a nurse with NHS Tayside.”
They have attended a few events, but Andrew said: “We don’t want the business to rely on standing on a stall at a farmers’ market every weekend. Eventually we want people to come to us.”
Glenkilrie sits right on the side of the A93 but the current access is dangerous, so they are in the process of changing the access and creating a new road in, which by next summer should allow the public to stop and buy from a purpose-built shop.