Coombe Farm Organic: "We need to support every producer and animal in the chain"
PUBLISHED: 09:29 16 April 2019
A pioneer of organic meat boxes is encouraging us all to start eating up every last morsel
In a day of instant consumerism, internet shopping, a detachment from the high street and shopping habits that have caused us as consumers to expect all ingredients on a year-round calendar, you would not be wrong to assume that the farming industry and small producers have suffered as a result.
But for one farm in Somerset, thrifty thinking and diversification has breathed life into its business, playing to the nation's new and convenience-based consumer habits.
Coombe Farm Organic in Roundham, just outside Crewkerne, has been pushing boundaries since 2015 when general manager, Ben White, saw both a desperate need and an innovative hole in the market for something very different.
Not only a way to play to people's convenience-led lifestyles but also a way of encouraging customers to build a closer relationship with ingredients as well as the farming industry, Ben started an organic meat box delivery service which would be one of the first in the country.
In the 1940s Coombe Farm was an organic dairy which was where the inspiration was grown. Bringing retiring organic dairy cows into the meat system was a natural progression for the farm and the perfect way of starting a sustainable farming initiative.
When Ben launched the project four years ago, he saw an instant gap in the market for a traceable organic meat box supplier. A convenient way to shop, paired with a growth in people wanting to understand the provenance of their food, his aim was to establish a fully traceable and completely transparent story that tells the whole journey from the field all the way to the plate.
With meat purchasing driven by large corporate companies in the last few decades, it's been difficult to navigate the world of meat production and supply in a conscious and sustainable way, and Ben's aim was to make high-welfare, good-quality meat as accessible and convenient as possible. This has become Coombe Farm Organic's sole focus, choosing to only distribute the best organic meat possible, and not diluting the brand by offering more than is manageable at such a high standard.
“At Coombe Farm Organic our ethos is centred around doing one thing well. We want to be the best of the best when it comes to how our meat is grown and prepared, and fundamentally, how it tastes, all the while giving something back to our farm, the food industry, and our surrounding terroir,” explains Ben. “We believe it will take a lifetime to fully master this, so we have concentrated our efforts solely on selling delicious meat-based products.”
Head to hoof eating is a challenging one to say the least but an ethos Coombe Farm Organic is also keen to promote. As a nation, we have become all too comfortable with tucking into recognisable cuts of meat and forgetting about the more unusual parts. Aiming for far more than just a financially profitable business but also one that was sustainably and ethically conscious too, Ben saw an immediate need to encourage customers into considering more nose to tail eating habits.
“Our fillets of beef, breast of duck and loin or leg of lamb are of course prime cuts we are proud of but it is critical that as our farm grows we find uses for all parts of the animal. Our mission is to educate and enlighten our customers as to how more unusual cuts can be just as satisfying and easy to use.”
With recent media reports focusing on the need to reduce our meat intake, it would seem more relevant than ever to consider using less conventional cuts in a bid to eat more consciously. Ben and the Coombe Farm Organic team have developed recipes to inspire those who would not naturally tuck into an ox tail, chicken leg or liver.
Coombe Farm Organic already has a considerable offal fan-base. People have come to recognise its nutrient-dense nature, particularly the organic variety - a great healthy addition to everyday meals such as burgers, chilli and bolognese.
“Eating organs has been proven to help your own organs function, and repair,” says Ben. “Per gram, organ meats are far higher in nutrients than muscle meats; for instance, beef liver is around 50 times higher in vitamin B12 than a steak.
“We are already very lucky that the demand for our organic offal is brilliant. Offal is more often than not organs – they clean up and balance all of the biological and chemical imbalances within an animal. The difference between the job an organic animal's organs have to do, and one of a non-organic animal in our opinion is quite large. They haven't needed to sift through so many toxins, haven't worked as hard, and are jam-packed with nutrients.”
When I met with Ben and quizzed him about Coombe Farm Organic's sustainable farming ethos, the most significant yet obvious point I took away was our need to consider everything with balance.
“We need to support every producer and animal in the chain - if we want to drink cows' milk in our tea or coffee, or to pour over our cereal, we need to consider buying a retired dairy cow steak.”
In an additional attempt to help people eliminate waste, Coombe Farm Organic has developed a range of products which utilise the lesser desired muscles that are simply perfect for well-flavoured cuts of meats. Burgers, sausages and pies are amongst a whole range of pre-made products that help to reduce food waste at source. Starting at grassroots with a no-waste mentality is surely the perfect way to start educating the consumer and instigate an instant change in attitude to what we eat.