Swillington Farm Delivery Scheme
Having grown up with parents for whom organic food was big on the agenda, I am no stranger to the fact that organic farming is less damaging to the environment, and is most likely, better for our health. My parents grew many of their own vegetables (Bob Flowerdew was something of a hero of theirs) and were members of the Soil Association from the late 70s onwards (long before organic became mainstream) and bizarrely, we also had a family that sold organic vegetables from their garage who lived around the corner from us! Eating meat was never a huge deal in my family; only consuming it about once or twice a week. Part of the reason for this was financial; we certainly couldn't afford to eat vast quantities of meat, and as my mother always liked to keep her finger on the pulse when it came to nutrition and food awareness, she has long been aware of the raised health risks of eating too much meat. Additionally, organic meat was much harder to come by than
organic vegetables, therefore some of their meat purchases did come from the supermarket, with the odd joint of beef or lamb from a farm several miles away. Overall, however, most of our family meals were meat free.
The idea that a meal doesn’t need to revolve around meat has always stuck with me. I would only buy and eat meat very infrequently at university and beyond, with many of my meals being vegetarian – and they still are to this day. As I’ve gotten older, my interest in the origin of my food has grown – in particular, concerns about where my meat comes from. It worries me that there are some people who eat meat every day, who delight in buying 3 packs for £10 at the supermarket, and give no thought to a) where it has come from or b) how it was raised.
More than ever is the health of our food an issue for us. One of the most recent and most worrying issues is the practice of regularly giving livestock antibiotics – a practice necessitated by the prevalence for farming on a massive scale. Animals are bred on an increasingly vast scale and kept in such close proximity that the introduction of any sort of disease to a herd would potentially be devastating, sweeping through it like wildfire. See Johann Hari’s recent article in the Independent on this issue: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-cheap-meat-mrsa-and-deadly-greed-2298567.html. Fortunately, the introduction of so-called ‘mega-farms’ has so far been vetoed in this country, but elsewhere in the world this worrying trend exists. It is a terrifying thought that antibiotics could soon be rendered useless in fighting bacteria, as more and more bacteria adapt and become immune to them.
When I met @RachATheMachine, nearly 3 years ago, she was a pescetarian and had been for many years. Despite me technically being a carnivore, we had a shared pleasure and interest in cooking, in particular fish and vegetarian Asian food. Early on in our relationship we discussed the reasons why she had rejected eating meat and she admitted that she was open to the idea of eating meat again, as long as she knew the origin of the meat and that it had been raised organically and could be bought locally. Imagine our delight when a few words typed into Google led us to discover the existence of Swillington Farm. An organic farm, practically on our doorstep! Low impact farming, minimal food miles and the ability to visit the farm and see the livestock we would be eating, to see for ourselves the conditions in which they were raised became a reality.
We’ve been customers of Swillington Farm for about 2 years now, with the occasional trip to the farm shop and fairly regular collections from the various Farmers Markets around Leeds. I was really thrilled to discover they were planning on starting a delivery service. For me it seemed the easiest way to budget the monthly household grocery bill, together with the convenience of having it delivered right to your door.
The ordering process was very simple. There are 3 different sizes of box, based on the size of your household + one medium sized box for those that have a gluten free requirement. Being a household of just 2 we opted for the smallest box costing £49.95 including delivery. You select your box, create an account at checkout, and I opted to pay via Paypal as this was easiest for me. The date of delivery is based on your Leeds postcode. Being a resident of LS10 I could easily find out on the website that this would be on the evening of the 3rd Thursday of the month. Deliveries are always on a Thursday, this being the day they do their butchering – this ensures that the meat is as fresh as possible. And deliveries are on an evening for convenience.
So, I spent the next few weeks getting excited about our forthcoming delivery, mentioning it on Twitter a couple of times, leading to @ComedinewitRach asking me to write a guest blog on the experience. Having never written a blog post before, I agreed with some trepidation being somewhat out of the habit of writing anything of any length, or coherence!
Our delivery arrived soon after 6pm on Thursday 16th. The box was of white folded cardboard; of the kind we refer to as a ‘cat box’ at work (we use them for transporting books!).
My first thought on receipt of the box was “Blimey! That’s heavy!” With excitement, R and I emptied out the contents onto the kitchen table. On top of all the packing material was a free copy of book about local food called “Yorkshire’s Own Kitchen”, a lovely addition to the whole package (although I was concerned to discover that this book on local food didn’t mention Swillington Farm anywhere in it!) and some leaflets about Swillington Farm.
Delving deeper into the box, we found nestled amongst the environmentally friendly packing insulation and an ice pack was a delightful selection of meats.
1 x pack of organic beef mince
1 x pack dry cured back bacon
3 x organic beef frying steak
2 x free range pork chops
1 x rare breed pork and herb sausages
1 x pack of organic diced lamb
It was exciting to receive a more unusual cut of meat. On this occasion it was the beef brisket.
Apparently a more unusual cut will be included with every box, to encourage people to sample a wider range of meat cuts. I’m unsure as yet what we’ll be cooking with this – possibly some sort of pot roast. If anyone has any suggestions I’d love to hear them!
After taking a few pictures for the blog, we loaded up the freezer. Our tiny freezer compartment was soon jam packed full of meat, with little room for much else! As there was no chance that the chicken would fit in the freezer, we decided to have that at the weekend. As I’m completely clueless when it comes to jointing a chicken (I am determined to learn this skill at some point however) we opted to cook a whole roast chicken. I can safely say that it was one of the best roast chicken dinners I’ve ever eaten. The bird was juicy and flavoursome and the skin crisped up a treat. There was adequate meat to have fed 4 people. As there were just the 2 of us partaking we managed to make the meat stretch to 3 meals by adding it to a Thai green curry the next day which yielded 4 portions.
As we’re thrilled with the service we’ve received this first time round, we are more than likely going to order a meat box on a monthly basis. We’ve worked out that the box scheme enables us to eat meat roughly twice a week. This for us is more than enough. I’d say for us we consider eating meat to be something of a luxury, certainly not a necessity – and without a doubt, not an entitlement.
Huge thanks to Elizabeth for this blogpost. If you'd like to find out more about Swillington Farm they have a website, and are also on Twitter.
If you'd like to do a guest post on something foodie you're passionate about then I'd love to hear from you!
After reading the blog post Swillington Farm told Elizabeth they aren't featured in the book because they weren't part of Deliciously Yorkshire at the time of publishing, but will be featured in the next one!