Why the best meats are coming from Essex
PUBLISHED: 12:23 10 October 2016 | UPDATED: 12:29 10 October 2016
Sourcing the right ingredients is at the heart of any good food business, and when restaurants are looking for the best cuts of meat, they often turn to Essex. Essex Life meets three people from the county who have made supplying top quality meat their business
C. Humphrey & Sons
Paul Humphrey’s grandfather started C. Humphrey & Sons in the early 1920s before, in 1937/8, the firm moved to its current home at Blixes Farm near Chelmsford. His five sons took over the business, Paul’s father being one of them. Paul has been working on the farm since 1979, when he left school, and he’s hoping the next generation will be taking over in the future, creating a fourth generation of Humphreys.
‘Well, we’re pushing on a bit now!’ says Paul, ‘but the next generation are still only in their late teens and a bit silly at the moment. They think they’ve done everything, but yes, there are couple or three of them who will take over eventually, I hope.’ The farm has its own slaughter house and shop all together on the one site and each side of the business supports the other. ‘On the farm we grow all the food, not to sell, but to feed the animals we keep. So the whole chain of our beef is kept here. Blixes Farm covers 620 acres and we have between 500 and 600 cattle here at any one time. We buy them at three months old as weaned carves and look after them and feed them through to 23 months.’
The cattle are all sourced from the same place, a farm in Somerset, and they always have the same cattle, Holstein X Belgian Blues. ‘The Holstein gives them the cover and the Blue allows them to grow the size that we want them. We’ve had the same breed for the past 15 years as it gives you consistency in the taste.’
Paul’s role is to run the farm and the livestock. ‘I also go to market to buy in the lambs and I look after and source the products for our farm shop. Our most popular product is our steaks and the beef. We cut our own chickens and cure our own bacon. We also have a new bakery now on the farm providing our own freshly made products, cooked on the premises each day using our own meats.
Andy Hyde is director of Traymoor, which supplies the food trade with quality meat, although Andy has been working off at a tangent recently.
‘We had a random phone call out of the blue asking if we would like to help as advisers on set for Stan Lee’s Lucky Man for Sky TV. We helped them with equipment and all the meat for the set and I was to act as an adviser, so that it looked like it should in the meat trade. However, when I went on set they asked me if I’d also like to take part in the episode! I can’t say too much as it’s not aired until next year, but it certainly was a whole new experience for me, including going into make-up.’
Andy’s background is as a chef, working initially at a carvery-style restaurant. ‘I noticed the meat coming in and thought, that’s a lot of meat being ordered. At the time I remember my friends were all going out on Friday and Saturday nights and I couldn’t, so I didn’t enjoy working as a chef due to all the weekends. My dad talked to a local butcher and got me a job there instead. However, I didn’t last as he told me I wasn’t cut out for the meat trade!’
Andy switched jobs again, this time becoming a slaughterman. ‘I thought, oh my goodness, what am I doing here? But my parents always taught me to work hard. So I stayed and I got promoted to more of a managerial role and was employed there for nine years.’
Andy left to start his own business in 1991 with just a van. Since those simple beginnings his business has grown into the premier catering meat suppliers for Essex and London.
‘Our first big break was Stock Brook Manor in Billericay and now we have our own factory and a regular client list of 200 to 300 restaurants, hotels, schools, colleges and care homes we supply meat for these days.’
Traymoor only source the highest quality produce from approved suppliers with full product traceability, supplying beef, veal, pork, lamb, game and poultry as well as some cooked meats too. They are also members of the Aberdeen Angus Cattle Society and the Scotch Beef Club.
Blackwells Farm Produce
Howard Blackwell is the fourth generation of his family to rear turkeys and geese. In 2004 he also launched the Rare Breed Meat Company. Working with other farmers, who all could prove good husbandry skills, Howard set about creating a network of small family farms.
‘We looked for those using free range products, ones with a low stocking rate, and those who comply with our own quality standards. It grew I suppose out of friends of mine who were young farmers with me. Some of whom found their farms had suffered due to the intensive pork farming from other countries. We used to do pigs here on the farm, but we didn’t really have the buildings or the expertise, so by doing it this way we managed to get those farmers back into farming again.
‘We supply our customers with Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs. We mainly use those because, one dreary February morning I was reading Farmers Guide magazine and there were some young Gloucester Old Spots for sale, so I brought them back and reared them myself. We sold the meat and everybody loved it. Now we also sell pork from Oxford Sandy and Blacks, Saddle Backs, Large Blacks and also Lop Eared pigs, and all are bred locally for us by four different farmers within a 20 mile radius or less of our farm.
‘One farmer provides the breeding sows and he supplies us with 20 or so pigs every other week and the others chip in once a month. We have another farmer who supplies us with large black pigs and so we get 10 or 12 from him every week. We have another couple of farmers who just have the weaners and sell them to the other farmers that we know.’
By combining all their individual skills, Howard has been able to support each of these other farms. He does all of this while still looking after his flock of turkeys and geese. Herons Farm has been rearing poultry using traditional methods since the 1930s.
‘The work is very intensive in the run up to Christmas, but the rest of the year it’s not too bad now we have a system all set up. It all works quite well really. Some weeks we sell about 40 Gloucester Old Spots and we also have some free range pigs from Blythburgh which are also popular as a good product with traceability. We have some butchers who want the rare breed and some who want the free range. All of our meat is also available in our farm shop each week.’
So now you know the people behind much of the meat which is sold in our county. Why not go out and taste the difference by supporting our farmers, producers and suppliers?
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Unit 38, Saffron Court
Southfields Business Park