When we got a call a few weeks ago from Lucy Ashby at Nortons Farm telling us about her plans to rear dairy bull-calves for rose veal, we were very excited. Why? Well, in so many ways their story and the end product is exactly the reason we launched Ten Mile Menu.
There has been both recent good and bad press regarding the production of rose veal (or 'young beef', as it may well be more accurate to refer to it in the UK) - you may remember Jimmy Doherty campaigning the supermarkets to sell the meat, hoping to create a genuine market in the UK that will result in a much better life for our dairy bull-calves that currently go to waste, in more than one sense of the term. Remind yourself of his campaign here.
I'm sure over the coming months we'll talk more on the topic, but whatever your historic feelings regarding veal raised on the continent, it is worth making the effort to familiarise yourself with the 'rose' (or 'young beef') variation and it's farming methods.
Like us at Ten Mile, hopefully you'll get behind another one of our local farmers taking the risk and doing the right thing by their animals. This is Lucy's story;
My parents bought our little Chiltern farm in 1980, it was dilapidated but we all fell in love. We raised a few lambs that went to the local butcher and some store cattle that went on to the local market. My mother was the driving force behind the farm and taught me the most important lesson, farm animals are destined for the table, it is how you raise them that matters.
Times changed and the local market and butcher disappeared, as did all the small farms around us. We ourselves took a break as we had no outlet for our small amount of produce.
2008 our son was born and I wanted him to learn as I did the pride of growing your own food, so we bought some dairy sheep for meat & milk, this triggered a love of all things dairy in me!
I attended some cheese-making courses which cemented the future course for the farm.... In my endeavors to absorb all things milky, I hijacked a local organic dairy farmer, and harassed him almost daily with a barrage of questions and generally made a nuisance of myself, clumsily attempting to put the cups on a never ending stream of very patient cows!
But it came to my attention that much to the sadness of the farmer, there was still a high percentage of bull calves being disposed of at birth, jersey bull calves unlike the bigger Holsteins have no value commercially at all....... So in Feb this year our cow Nessa calved a jersey bull and this week (in May ’13) we took our first two jersey bull calves to rear "young beef" (also known as rosé veal) I am reluctant to use the term veal, as our steers are raised like beef cattle.
They are fed milk (our dear house cow violet contributes) have free access to hay/grass, they run with the cows and calves who in turn teach them manners, what to eat, where to get shelter etc. They run, play, sleep in sun and generally get up to mischief! At night all the calves are put in the barn for two purposes, first to give the cows a break and eat their dairy feed in peace(!) and so the calves can eat their calf feed, as they eat little and often overnight and the cows would hoover their food up in minutes!
I firmly believe that to throw these calves away is senseless, they may have a shorter life but they have a good one.
Lucy Ashby runs Nortons Farm in Gt Kingshill and lives with her husband David and their 5yr old golf-star in the making, William!
Some housekeeping: The calves will typically live to 8-10 months old, although this means the first meat won't be ready for a number of months yet, we'd love to hear what you think and answer any questions you may have.