May 19, 2022
From Farm to Fork
Read it in 5 minutes
‘From farm to fork’ is a phrase that has been thrown around for years, but what does it truly mean?
At its core, ‘farm to fork’ is a waying of measuring the life cycle of a product, be it an animal, vegetable, or crop, from its initial conception to the moment it is served on a plate to an eagerly awaiting diner. It aims to hold accountable the way that product has been reared or grown and the farming processes that take place to get it to harvest or slaughter. It’s the way in which a processer manages the transition from farm to plate and the standards with which they operate. Fundamentally, it’s how that product is treated at its final stages and before cooking. However, it’s the meaning behind ‘Farm to Fork’ that holds so much importance, why the phrase’s improper use could be seen as sacrilege, and why we must strive to do things the right way. Transparency is key, building lasting relationships and trust with our customers and suppliers. As a company, we want the chefs and customers we supply to know exactly HOW their meat has arrived at their plate, WHERE it has come from and that the methods involved in its rearing, its handling and its delivery have adhered to the highest standards.
The relationship between farmer and butcher has been a key link in the food supply chain for millennia and continues to be to this today. It’s crucial that we know exactly where our meat comes from, and we do so by maintaining those strong and longstanding relationships. The same goes for the relationships we have with our customers, some of whom have been with us from the very beginning. Ensuring we continue to operate with trust and transparency ensures the strength of these relationships prevails and we work at our highest level to produce a quality product.
Last summer we paid a visit to Youngmans Farm in Cley-next-the-sea on the Norfolk coast, where farming father and son duo Tom and John Youngman have perfected the art of cattle farming over the last 50 years, rearing their Aberdeen Angus herds to the highest standard. Their farm stretches 100 acres across the coastal marshlands, where at high tide, the sea rises and floods the pastures, killing off weeds and regenerating the soil. This creates an oasis for the cattle and allows the Youngmans to practise low intervention farming methods that don’t rely on pesticides or any of the other chemicals so frequently found in mass farming productions around the world. As Tom Youngman, the youngest generation of farmer at Youngmans’ puts it, ‘… good quality produce is what we are doing now, and we are striving to be better every day. If people have an interest in where their meat comes from, we will still be here, continuing farming the way we are, which we think is the right way.'
At Youngmans farm, like so many of the farms we source our meat from around the UK, there is a real emphasis on regenerative, local farming in harmony with nature. Employing herd rotation as a farming mechanism gives pastures time to replenish and allows their soil to act as nature’s greatest carbon capturer. If every field is filled, grass growth is impacted and the land can’t recover, so for John and Tom, this method of farming was the only route to go down. Furthermore, insects, wildflowers, and other creatures reside in the replenished grasslands, encouraging a biodiverse environment to take route. Ultimately, less human intervention works wonders for nature, and the Youngman family are leading the way with their regenerative farming practises.
‘We’ve never wanted to be the biggest, but we do strive to be the best’. HG Walter’s director Adam Heanen is one of four of the Heanen siblings, who head up the company that their father Peter Heanen started in 1972. Since then, HG Walter has grown to become London’s top butcher, supplying some of the country’s top rated and Michelin starred restaurants and chefs with their meat. When we moved to our processing unit in 2017, we made it our company’s mission to continue to put quality and consistency first, ahead of growth and economy. That means quality and consistency of not only our product, but our service too. We’ve always paid great attention to treating our produce with the same care with which they were reared, respecting the life of the animal as well as the farmers’ time. Our practise of whole carcass, zero-waste butchery means we use up every part of the animal and ensures we’re doing things the proper way. As a result, we are able to make outstanding handmade products in house. From our bacon and sausages to our burgers, we utilise every cut. We take the time to dry age our beef to achieve the fantastic flavour it is so well known for, not rushing the process, and honouring the farmers way of slow rearing their herd. In return we have a premium product that is so popular amongst our customers, from home cooks to Michelin-starred chefs.
When talking about the latter, it’s hard not to think of Phil Howard, chef proprietor of Michelin starred Elystan Street. Phil is a chef who has extolled the virtues of cooking seasonal, quality products for years and has been a longstanding customer and friend of the HG Walter family. ‘You either have to spend time, or money, and nine times out of ten I choose a cracking piece of meat, or fish, and cook it simply.’ Simply put, that’s the beauty of quality cooking and that’s why our product is so popular. When we look back to Tom Youngman’s point about people having an interest in where their meat comes from, we’re reminded of why. Not only is a more biodiverse, regenerative way of farming better for our planet, but that care and effort that goes into bringing a steak from the field to the plate can be proved in the taste of the final dish, where the quality of the product speaks for itself.