What was your inspiration behind setting up an organic beef farm in Northern Ireland?
As a young man, I traveled to New Zealand and saw that they were farming in a way very close to organic farming due to the climate. A group of us all had the same view that we should bring more organic farming to Northern Ireland, so that's what we did. We didn’t have much support from larger agricultural groups because it wasn’t a popular thing to do but, once we started selling, the support from customers was always there.
I also grew up on a farm and saw the way things were done and, therefore, the issues with intensive farming, degradation of the soil, and the poor animal welfare standards. With modern technology and policy we can make a better life for the animals. We believe that organic food should be available to everybody.
Who buys your organic beef?
People in all walks of life but they all have one thing in common, that they care about where their food comes from. The regular customers come on the farm and can see for themselves the animals and the systems we have in place, they like what they see. If I had to split the customers into two main groups, there would be young mothers, who care about what they are feeding their children, and retired people, who want to eat healthier to live better for longer.
What is your best selling product?
Across the board, it’s all selling well but, since the pandemic, there has been increased interest in meat on the bone to make broths and soups together with organic vegetables, all in the name of boosting the immune system. The cheaper, more fatty, cuts of meat are going so quickly. It used to be harder to sell them but now only 2 or 3 days after butchering the entire cow is gone. People have realised that fatty cuts are more flavourful and can be taken and cooked to be more delicious than cuts like sirloin and ribeye. Offal and brisket have also increased in demand, which really surprised us.
Have you noticed an increase in interest in sustainable food after the pandemic?
During 2020 our sales were up significantly, people didn’t want to go to supermarkets so were sourcing locally. There’s also been a heightened interest in boosting our immune systems and, in lockdown, people had more time to research food and benefits of organic food. This interest has stayed with us as things are opening up because covid hasn’t yet gone away.
We’ve learnt so much about ourselves as a farm in the lockdown. I think it’s been a journey of discovery for everyone. We were a wasteful nation but we have learnt there is less waste on the animal. On the farm we always knew this, but it was always hard to convince people until now. I find it really heartening. Food can be used as an elitist tool so often but now the more affluent are going away with the cheaper cuts of meat; they see that it’s tastier, healthier, and more sustainable. People are re-educating themselves, they have had time to research, come to the farm, and time to cook