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Meat boxes: How to support local businesses and get top-quality produce delivered straight to your door

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If you cast your eye locally, there are some small businesses doing big things having adapted to provide quality meat at the touch of a button.

Everyone loves receiving a delivery but, for me, the excitement is greater if the parcel takes the form of food or drink – or both.

I recently took a look at the work fish distributors Fishbox, Amity Fish Company and a whole host of others are doing delivering fish from market to customers’ homes in 48 hours.

They were forced to change their entire business models during lockdown when almost all of their traditional customer base, hotels and restaurants for instance, closed overnight.

Along with farm shops and fruit and vegetable distributors, these companies became real heroes during lockdown and are continuing to provide a fantastic service now.

However, it isn’t only fish or fruit and veg you can have delivered straight to your door, there are also a number of companies delivering top quality beef, pork, chicken and lamb.

McEwan family from Arbroath

Producing quality-assured Scotch Beef to a high standard and utilising homegrown feeds is a system the McEwan family from Arbroath has been working successfully for a number of years.

McEwan Farms is a family-run business based at West Mains of Colliston and is home to 1,000 acres of owned land and 1,600 acres of contract farmed land nearby.

The family grows 700 acres of potatoes and 2,000 acres of cereals including oilseed rape, spring barely, winter barley and wheat, while the beef enterprise comprises 150 Simmental cross suckler cows.

All progeny is finished on farm, as well as an additional 1,000 head of store cattle bought in each year from Stirling, Thainstone, Forfar and Dingwall auction marts.

Three generations are involved in the running of the business – grandfather William, his sons Graham and Gavin, and Graham’s three sons, Guthrie, Murray and Fraser.

It’s Fraser who has shown a real passion for the beef enterprise and he now buys in all of the family’s store cattle as well as establishing an additional market for selling their beef.

Jodie Jackson, Beef Box Company.

The Beef Box Company

Fraser and his partner, Jodie Jackson, founded The Beef Box Company last December to sell home-reared beef direct to the customer’s door.

Keen to promote the agricultural industry to the general public, while making extra income from the farm, the young couple have enjoyed an extremely successful 10 months in business and have been particularly busy since the coronavirus pandemic began.

“The agricultural industry has received a lot of bad press recently and the general public seem to have a lack of farming knowledge and understanding,” said Jodie, who was born and brought up on a beef and sheep farm.

“Our new business is not only a diversification project but has also been set-up to make people realise where food comes from and give customers the chance to buy direct from the producer.”

Fraser buys in mainly continental store cattle, aged 16 to 24 months, with an aim to source well-grown cattle which already have frame and can be finished at 90 to 100 days.

“We have found that the Aberdeen-Angus steers are finishing just as good as the Charolais, if not better,” said Fraser.

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Fortunately, the McEwan family has a regular supply of beef and Fraser and Jodie are able to select suitable cattle from home for butchering and selling on to customers.

With Jodie particularly keen on the sheep, the duo now have home-reared Scotch Lamb available for sale.

They buy in store lambs for finishing and own a flock of Suffolk cross and Texel cross ewes which are tupped to the Texel.

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During lockdown, Jodie has been busy doing cooking demonstrations on The Beef Box Company Facebook page which has encouraged followers to get involved and try out the Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb recipes at home.

Meet The Meat

Meet The Meat, based in Cove, Aberdeen, pride themselves on offering the best products at the best prices.

Formed by a small team with a real passion for meat and with a background in butchery, food preparation and retailing, they are also extremely aware of food intolerance issues and have developed many “free from” lines.

And it’s not just meat you can get from them, they also offer meal packages, groceries and veg packs to supplement your order.

Meet The Meat deliver all over Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen or you can pick up from their shops in Cove and a new branch in Banchory that opened last week.

Managing director Ian King explained how their system works – and revealed there is much more to Meet The Meat than simply that.

He said: “You can order online and either pick it up in one of our shops or we will deliver it, almost anywhere in Aberdeen and the Shire, so we go as far north as Ellon, Balmeddie, as far south as Laurencekirk and as far west as Ballater.

“We put the best of gear in them and price them quite thin as you are passing on the economy of scale to the customer if you like. In our packs we can be quite structured about what goes in, but on the production side we can be a little bit smarter. You get the best of gear at the best of prices.

“You’ll get everything from your cooking basics – chicken fillets, mince, beef olives, things like that. We also do packs such as a ‘feed the family for a week pack’ in which you get five meals’ worth of protein, mince chicken, sausages, meat balls and stuff, but you also get a family-sized veg box as well.”

And if you fancy something special to enjoy at the weekend, then Meet The Meat’s in-shop chef might have the answer.

Ian added: “It’s not just meat that we sell and that ranges right through to three-course meals for a Saturday night.

“We have a chef on the books who will put a starter together and the butchers will prepare a main and it’s almost like a full three-course takeaway to have at home, but it’s not takeaway prices, it’s butcher’s prices, it’s shop prices.

“The chef also does everything through to a ‘Fine Dine In’ box which is food he has developed and he’s prepped ready for people to warm up or flash in the pan at home. Real sort of five-star quality, high-end chef-prepared food. It’s the kind of food you would expected to get in a fine restaurant. So we have covered the whole spectrum.”

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In common with many businesses during lockdown, Meet The Meat saw a huge increase in sales – in fact it was 10-fold.

“Our online sales were up about 1,000% during lockdown, in fact it could have been more than that,” revealed Ian.

“Our shops were very busy right the way through and saw an increase as well. It has fallen away a wee bit now as people are out and about a bit more, but during the lockdown itself we had to take on about six more people just to keep up with demand. We are still trading more than double where we were last year.”

And with people being confined to their homes for long periods, the one-stop shop that the business offered was utilised in different ways.

Ian added: “We had people phoning asking, ‘If I want to do this how do I do it?’ So they could speak to chef and learn from us as well. If people phone us up with a recipe, we can put a pack together for them.

“Without a doubt people were cooking at home most nights, if not every night because it wasn’t so easy to get your convenience foods and no one was eating out. It wasn’t really an option.”

Butchery at Bowhouse

Rare breed beef from a herd recently introduced to Balcaskie Estate in Fife is now available from Butchery at Bowhouse.

Lincoln Red is an ancient breed of cattle that, in the face of increasing demand for fast-growing more commercial breeds, is now endangered.

A small herd of cattle was introduced to the organic Fife estate in 2019 and the on-site butcher, Sophie Cumber has worked closely with the farm to make this available to customers.

Sophie Cumber, butcher at Bowhouse.

Developing and expanding the herd is made sustainable through meat sales and Sophie’s whole-carcass approach means that there’s no waste.

The boxes will be available periodically throughout the year as the pure-breed Lincoln Red cattle go through the butchery and the meat is matured for six weeks in the on-site hanging room.

Sophie said: “I think the pandemic has made people think more about where their meat is coming from and look for sources closer to home, and it has pushed more farmers to think about selling their own meat ‘from the farm gate’ or through a butcher they trust.

“This is great for everyone, so much more information is available on a the product and the farmers know their produce has been looked after and cared for and used to its full potential.

“I feel really honoured to be bringing people such fantastic grass fed, organic meat during this time, knowing that as well as tasting amazing the farming practices are on point.

“Farming in a sustainable way is so important for the future and building local food networks where businesses are supporting each other is key. Of course we are incredibly lucky to have such amazing produce in Scotland, using online sales helps people access this and know they are getting something that is fully traceable back to the farm.”

The Butchery at Bowhouse shop opened in April. Initially open only as an online shop because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the shop is now open Thursday to Saturday.

The butchery also sells a range of carefully matured, organic beef, free-range pork, wild venison and organic lamb and mutton from the fields nearby on Balcaskie Estate.

Lincoln Red cattle are distinctively cherry-red in colour and well equipped to thrive in our climate. They thrive on grass and will happily follow the stockmen around as they are moved to fresh grass every day in keeping with the mob-grazing technique now being implemented on the organic estate.

The beef is Pasture For Life assured, which guarantees that cattle have been fed only on varied pasture throughout their life, rather than processed feed. There is evidence to show that these farming practices produce meat that is healthier, as well as reducing methane emissions from the cattle.

Lincoln Red cattle.

Lincoln Red beef is renowned for its marbling and flavour, with each box containing a selection of cuts.

Orders can be placed at the Butchery at Bowhouse online shop or via butchery@bowhousefife.com and delivered across the UK in sustainable Woolcool boxes. Collections can be made from the Butchery at Bowhouse shop.

The box will include: one rolled roasting joint, one rolled slow roasting joint, one bone in prime steak for sharing, selection of boneless prime steaks, selection of ‘Butcher’s Cut’ steaks, beef on the bone for slow cooking, stewing beef, mince, selection of sausages and bone marrow beef burgers.

Contents of the beef box.

The Butchery at Bowhouse is based within Bowhouse on Balcaskie Estate. Bowhouse is a centre for food and drink producers in the East Neuk of Fife, providing artisan makers with support and acting as the missing link between farm and plate.

Bowhouse opens monthly for Market Weekends, giving visitors the opportunity to meet, discuss and taste food and drink from Scotland’s best artisan producers.

The remaining Bowhouse Market Weekends this year take place on Saturday November 14 and 15, and Saturday and Sunday December 12 and 13. Further details can be found at bowhousefife.com

Balgove Larder

Balgove Larder is based on the Strathtyrum Estate near St Andrews.

Head butcher James Lothian and his highly skilled team work directly with farms on the estate to source beef, lamb and pork. They take a pride in their traditional butchery skills to prepare meat for the Balgove Larder farm shop, Steak Barn and café.

The online shop has a selection of butchery products for home delivery but customers can also purchase beef, pork or lamb packs from the farm which contain roasting joints, burgers, mince and chops or sausages.

Will Docker, founder of Balgove Larder, said: “We have been so pleased with the response to our home-reared butchery offering over this difficult time. The quality of the meat really speaks for itself and our single link supply chain ensures we’re able to tightly control quality and supply really well.”

Orders can be made by visiting www.balgove.com

Read more …

Fish distributors forced to adapt their business model and go straight to the consumer – with a little help from celebrity chef James Martin

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