Frequently Asked Questions

Shouldn’t we all be eating more plant-based food and less meat?2023-05-31T11:41:43+00:00

The answer to this question is complicated and multi-faceted but we believe that the right approach for our health and the environment is to eat a predominantly plant-based diet and good quality organic, grass-fed meat that has not damaged the environment (for those that want it).

We think The Soil Association sums it up neatly with their phrase ‘it’s the how, not the cow’ (or sheep) that causes most of the problems.  The environmental impact of meat that is produced using organic and sustainable methods is very different to that produced by feeding livestock on damaging commodity crops or in other unsustainable ways. You can read more about the benefits of organic farming here.

A purely plant-based diet can in fact impact negatively on the environment.  For example, a soya burger needs soya – which does not naturally grow in the UK – and sunflower oil, both crops which will have been grown using fossil fuel-driven machinery. Both these crops also involve regular cultivation of the soil, causing damage to its structure and causing it to release its carbon.

You can read more about this complex issue in our blog here and in the following questions and answers.

Why can’t you grow crops and other plants on your land rather than farming animals?  Surely that’s better for the environment?2023-03-01T09:02:20+00:00

With a finite amount of land available to us in the world, we believe that it is vital that the right food is produced on the right land.  
Not all land is suitable for growing crops. Our river meadows, for example, cannot be ploughed up and used for arable farming – they must remain under permanent grass or the soil will wash into the river and cause problems.  Alternatively, if land is simply rewilded, it may not produce any food at all, leading to food being brought in from abroad or leading to more intensive food production somewhere else.
Feeding livestock purely on grass and plants (i.e. pasture-fed) is a great way to produce nutritious, protein-rich food from land without needing to plough and cultivate it with tractors. In addition, leaving soil undisturbed under long term plantings like grass is a good way to help the soil regain its organic matter and act as a carbon sink, helping to combat climate change. Our fields of herbal leys will be drawing carbon down from the atmosphere each year and recharging the organic matter in the soil, boosting its life and fertility.

How do organic, 100% pasture fed livestock like cows and sheep contribute positively to the environment?2023-03-01T09:02:07+00:00

People don’t realise that herbivorous animals (who are naturally raised on grassy pastures) cycle carbon and fertilise the soil, helping to increase biodiversity and environmental health.
When properly farmed, livestock actually inject life back into tired soils and reinvigorate it. They can also help tackle the huge loss of biodiversity now found on most non organic farms due to their use of chemicals such as pesticides and fertilisers.
In addition, all the carbon that  livestock produce has actually come from the carbon dioxide in the air which has been captured by plants (during photosynthesis) and turned into sugars which are used by plants. Some of the carbon made by plants is also pumped into the soil in exchange for the nutrients the plant needs from the soil life and some of the carbon in the plants is eaten by the cow.
Well-managed, periodic grazing actually stimulates extra plant growth and therefore photosynthesis. Thus, grazing livestock can increase carbon levels in the soil, leading to greater carbon capture, often in stable carbon compounds that can be stored in the soil for a very long time. In this way, the carbon is locked up and the soil acts as a carbon sink. In contrast, fossil fuel use is a one-way process causing release of CO2 which is a gas that lasts for hundreds of years in the atmosphere.

I thought cows emitted a lot of methane which contributes to climate change?2023-03-01T09:01:54+00:00

It is true that all cows (including grass fed cows) do emit methane in their burps (which contributes to climate change).  However, it is our view that they have been unfairly blamed for the increase in methane levels around the world and replacing these fossil-fuel efficient animals that produce nutritious food with more fossil fuel use is not going to stop climate change. 
Methane is emitted from a wide range of sources. Much of it can now be seen from new satellite data to arise predominantly from fossil fuel industries themselves. Methane also comes from rice fields, melting permafrost (caused by rising temperatures due to long term  fossil fuel use and rising CO2) and landfills.  Methane emitted by ruminants grazing on pasture is naturally broken down by methanotrophs – bacteria which feed on methane and tend to live in habitats such as wetlands, soils and other aquatic systems.  The methane is part of the natural carbon cycle and is all recycled, lasting only about 12 years in the atmosphere.
On conventional farms (i.e. non organic), cattle and sheep are often put into barns, away from grass fields and fed on grains and other manufactured foods because that is more convenient and they can be fattened and managed more easily leading to cost efficiency. However, this sort of animal husbandry relies on fossil fuels causing more CO2 emissions.
Although it is important we do not increase methane production unnecessarily, pasture-fed ruminants play a significant role in providing us with nutritious protein and fat without necessitating much CO2 release in that they can eat grass – which is a perennial crop that grows with little intervention – particularly when the animal walks to the grass itself and artificial fertilisers are not used to increase grass growth.

Why is organic meat more expensive?2023-03-01T09:01:40+00:00

Organic meat does tend to be more expensive than meat that is farmed conventionally but many people do not realise the true cost of non-organic food to people and the planet (for example due to the use of harmful chemicals in fertilisers and pesticides).
It is more expensive because production is lower and slower as artificial fertilisers are not used to boost production. Also, it takes more time to raise 100% grass-fed cattle, so they have to be fed and looked after for longer.
Organic food producers also have to pay for certification and keep detailed records to prove that the meat has been produced by them alone and without any chemicals. This is to ensure the customer gets what they pay for, but it makes the administration and production of the food more expensive. We also use a small, traditional abattoir and a small local butcher so our animals do not travel too far. Large scale production may be cheaper but the hidden costs of extra travel and loss of short supply chains are not considered.

Why are you using plastic packaging for your meat? Surely that’s not very eco-friendly?2023-03-01T09:01:24+00:00

We recognise that this is not ideal and if a plant- based ‘plastic’ can be found, we would like to use it. However, our vacuum packs are very good for avoiding food waste allowing for efficient storage of the meat in fridges and freezers.

What are the sustainable and regenerative initiatives you are currently doing on the farm?2023-03-08T12:49:19+00:00

We have many sustainable and regenerative farming initiatives in progress, including developing our river meadows to create wetlands for wildlife, making annual hay cuts to improve grassland biodiversity and planting native shrubs, trees and hedges. Click here to find out more.

Can we really feed the world with organic food – don’t we need to use fertilisers and pesticides?2023-05-11T15:41:37+00:00

This is a fixed mindset which is stopping us coming up with solutions to the crisis in our soil health and biodiversity loss. It is also stopping us addressing the challenge of climate change in our agriculture.
Firstly, we have far more food than we need. At present, around a third of food produced worldwide is wasted – waste food in landfill is a very significant cause of methane emissions. As a result of modern food production and farming practices, many people eat low-nutrient, poor-quality food or more food than they need, causing an increase in diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
What we need is healthy, high-quality nutrition which enables people to stay fit and well. Over-processed and artificially-produced foods are often expensive, over-packaged and unhealthy. The strawberry that does not smell or taste has obviously not got the same nutritious value as a real, sun-ripened strawberry grown in healthy soil in the summer.
Using livestock and crop rotations and farming with nature, soil fertility can be restored ending the need for artificial fertilisers and pesticides. They are a waste of money and they damage the soil, the very thing we rely on for our healthy food.
The transition requires bravery and resilience but, in the end, the soil and the environment and the people who need healthy nourishment now and in the future will thank us.


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