This article by Angus D. Birditt was produced for Pasture Fed Livestock Association
Paul Martin runs Garlic Wood Butchery, an online butchery that sells ‘Pasture For Life’ certified meat sourced from local farms including Brightleigh Farm and Limden Brook Organic. Paul is a member of the PFLA and only sources his produce from producers that work to the highest levels of animal welfare. Paul discusses how he set up the butchery and why he sells ‘Pasture For Life’ certified meat.
Angus D. Birditt: How and when did you start Garlic Wood Butchery?
Paul Martin: Before becoming a butcher, I was a farmer with a smallholding, and before that, worked in the world of advertising in London. After 10 years of working and living in London, I decided to fulfil my passion and rear a small number of livestock on land in Sussex. My family and I have always been into farming and appreciating wildlife so when it was time to transition from advertising into agriculture it wasn’t such a shock.
The move to Garlic Wood Farm was great. We were rearing our own livestock and producing our own food. The first animals we had on our little bit of land were a few native breeds like Gloucester Old Spots and Tamworth pigs, plus a small herd of Highland cattle. As well as our own land, we rented some land off the National Trust, which we used to place our Highland cattle on and graze them as part of a conservation management programme. Our ethos was to produce quality meat, reared ethically and improve the environment around us.
What we were doing at Garlic Wood Farm soon caught on and our family and friends – and their family and friends – wanted to buy our produce. We started hand-delivering packets of sausages and cuts of beef, which was brilliant. We had tapped into a growing desire from people wanting to know exactly where and how their meat was produced.
Very soon, however, we found that we were at our limits with multiple pre-orders piling up. So, in 2012, we took a leap of faith and changed course into the world of butchery, working under the name ‘Garlic Wood Butchery’. We sought out farmers and producers who had the same high food and farming standards and ethos to us. Soon after, we opened a high street butchers shop in Steyning and developed our online business.
Over the years thereafter, we found that our online business was booming, so decided to focus completely on that. We still work with the same brilliant farmers and producers, selling quality meat that was reared ethically and in harmony with nature, now online. We sell meat from ‘Pasture For Life’ certified farmers including Nigel and Penny Franklin at Brightleigh Farm and Sam Newington from Limden Brook Organic.
Although we don’t have the shop any more, a big part of our business is to have direct contact with the customers, running butchery courses generally once a week or sometimes twice a week. The courses are a great way of teaching the customers how the animal was reared and which cut comes from where on the animal. We do a variety of courses like a full day working with lamb and pork or a half-day sausage making (https://www.garlicwoodfarm.co.uk/butchery-courses/).
ADB: Why is it important to question the narrative of our meat?
PM: It’s incredibly important. We all have some sort of responsibility to try and eat food that doesn’t harm the environment. Take industrial-scale factory-farmed meat, for example. It is ethically unjustifiable, environmentally damaging and potentially detrimental to the health of our population. It is simply not a viable option for a sustainable future. By establishing Garlic Wood Butchery, we want to promote good eating, encouraging our customers to know exactly what they’re eating, where and how it was farmed, and to really appreciate the whole ‘field to fork’ journey.
I agree with those people who say we should all eat less meat, but we should be eating meat that has been produced in a way that is ethical, meat that supports our local farming communities. I am very passionate about supporting farmers who share our ethos and farming principles, helping to put ethical, high welfare farming at the heart of thriving local rural economies.
We have close relationships with the farmers we buy our meat from, often visiting their farms and seeing their farming practices first-hand. This is really important in building a relationship with your supplier, both on a business level but on a personal one as well. A great example is Nigel and Penny Franklin at Brightleigh Farm. We know them well and love to sell their meat, as we know exactly how the animals are reared. They are ‘Pasture For Life’ certified farmers so we have great confidence when we buy from them. When we do want to buy a farmer’s produce, we agree quantities, prices and delivery details directly with them. We believe that a small-scale network of direct relationships allows us to keep the supply chain as short and transparent as possible. It allows us to be confident in the quality and sustainability of the meat we are selling.
We also focus on supplying traditional, native breeds that are bred specifically to make the most of the environment in which they were being farmed. Breeds developed in order to maximize grazing and overcome deficiencies in the terrain on which they were reared. They were slower growing and lower yielding than many of the modern breeds but they represent a sustainable harmony between landscape and livestock that we believe is important.
ADB: Why did you become a PFLA member, and why sell ‘Pasture For Life’ meat?
PM: We became PFLA members because we completely support the organisation’s principles. Joining up as a PFLA member was really simple and I advise anyone to do the same if they want to learn more about regenerative agriculture and connect with like-minded people, producers or not.
It’s tricky enough to find ‘Pasture For Life’ certified meat, so we cannot be fully certified. For us retailers, it is all about getting that critical mass of ‘Pasture For Life’ meat through our doors to sell to our customers. That’s why we need more farms to become ‘Pasture For Life’ certified, so we as a retailer can have enough certified produce to become certified ourselves. At the moment we have ‘Pasture For Life’ certified meat from two/three farms, but we cannot create a business on selling from a couple of small farms, especially from farmers who finish their livestock much later being pasture-fed. That would be the dream, having more ‘Pasture For Life’ certified farmers so we could sell 100% ‘Pasture For Life’ certified meat. Having said that, we only source meat from farmers we believe farm to high levels of farming standards, certified or not at the moment.
And in terms of buying meat that is ‘Pasture For Life’ certified, it’s a great way to differentiate between the types of meat on offer in the marketplace. The PFLA principles fit in really well with the ethos of our business, especially their ethical and environmental principles. Anything that is ‘Pasture For Life’ certified, gives us confidence that what we are selling is better meat reared on the best standards.
And that goes for the customer as well who wants to buy meat produced to the best standards. More and more I am seeing the customer doing their research, knowing that by having the ‘Pasture For Life’ stamp on the meat, it gives the customer a set of defining principles, which, compared to a lot of other meat that has misleading labelling, will give them real confidence in what they are buying and therefore eating.
One of the most important aspects for the customer when buying meat is the health benefit. I know the PFLA is researching more and more into how it helps our nutrition, which is great.
ADB: What’s your favourite recipe using your ‘Pasture For Life’ certified meat?
PM: Sourcing from either Sam Newington at Limden Brook Organic or Nigel and Penny Franklin at Brightleigh Farm (both ‘Pasture For Life’ certified farmers), it would have to be a beef recipe. Perhaps a 35-day aged rib-eye steak, not cut into individual steak but whole and carved to share. If you were not doing it on a barbecue, I would season it first and sear it in a hot oven-proof cast-iron pan. Then place the whole thing in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Take it out and make sure you rest it for a good 10 minutes. (https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/276096/dry-aged-prime-rib/)