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By Rosewood Farm, Apr 1 2017 11:40PM


It's not so long ago that I blogged about Sainsbury’s and how if they really want people to eat less meat, they should stop selling it. Well, this week I decided to compare our prices with Tesco, as we’ve always strived to keep in line with the cost of the supermarket mid-range level. However, I stumbled in the low-end section and was utterly shocked by what I saw!



Rosewood Price - 100% traceable
Rosewood Price - 100% traceable

Here at Rosewood our prices are maintained at a level that is fair - we don’t want to charge too much and exclude people on a low income from eating good food. Nor do we want to charge too little so that we have to cut corners and let down our animals or destroy the environment in the process. Our Grassfed Dexter beef mince costs £9.20 per kg, and for that price we make a lot of promises. Our prices also include the cost of delivery so they are bound to be a little more but I don’t just want to compare Tesco with Rosewood, as when it comes to tasty beef, there is no comparison.


You will likely have heard all about Tesco and the controversy over their fake farms scandal, branding generic produce as if it came from a single, identifiable source has increased their profits. Well, they got away with it and are still selling products such as Boswell Farms “beef” mince (pictured below). The price looks amazing at just £3.38 per kg, and if you know anything about cattle pricing it’s even more unbelievable.




'Boswell Farms' - produced somewhere, by someone
'Boswell Farms' - produced somewhere, by someone

In days gone by supermarkets, wholesalers and butchers all had to compete for the best animals available at live auction markets. The cattle taken to market could be sold on the day or brought home if they didn’t make enough money, then returned the following week. Numerous factors changed this, a big one being ‘biosecurity’ - there were concerns over disease being spread between animals from different farms when they met at market, with unsold animals returning to the farm.


The supermarkets seized upon this and ‘sold’ it as an advantage to the farmer if his/her cattle could only move onto to an abattoir and avoid the risk of bringing back disease. Of course it also meant that the farmer has lost market discretion - you must accept the price, whatever it may be, and therefore the decision to sell must be made based upon the market prices from the previous week, which made selling even more of a gamble.


To take the gamble out of selling the supermarkets offered an olive branch - sell direct to them, delivering the animals to the supermarkets own abattoirs and you will receive a pre-determined price, providing the animals were of the right ‘specification’ (see below). The trouble was that the price offered was based upon the ‘market price’ and with direct contracts supermarkets no longer had to bid at the auctions. With fewer buyers available at the market, the price reduced further as at the same time supermarkets were outcompeting traditional butchers who couldn’t offer the cling-wrapped all-under-one-roof convenient shopping experience that shoppers now demanded.


Pricing for cattle that were no longer bought and sold while still alive had to be by the ‘deadweight’. That is the price for the carcass only, minus the head, feet, skin and insides, etc. which represents 45 - 50% of the live bodyweight. The carcass specification is determined by its on its conformation (shape) and fatness, with higher prices paid for animals that better match the buyer's demands. The deadweight system eliminates risk for the buyers as they are no longer have to pay for the bits they don’t want, although the price is usually higher than the ‘liveweight’ price to compensate.



Deadweight Cattle Price - something doesn't add up
Deadweight Cattle Price - something doesn't add up

As you can see from the current average cattle pricing, taken from Farmers Weekly today (02/04/2017) the highest price paid (the one for carcasses that will yield the most saleable weight for the supermarket) is 324p per kg, or in other words just 14p less than ‘Boswell Farms’ beef mince. That’s not to say that Tesco has made 14p per kg, as they will have to pay to run the abattoir, package and transport the product. Also, a carcass still contains a lot of extra weight in the form of bone and excess fat, which can represent a third of the deadweight giving an actual cost of 486p per kg of saleable meat.


At that price what Tesco, or ‘Boswell Farms’, are selling must be, essentially, a waste product of meat processing. The online information states that the animal was slaughtered in United Kingdom, Ireland (one of the two, I guess) and by investigating the UK code (5416) it turns out that the Hilton Food Group plc in Cambridgeshire was responsible for mincing it. We have no idea where exactly the animal was born or raised, where it was slaughtered or how far it travelled. All we do know is that the meat has travelled at least 530 miles before it reaches the York Tesco store. Even if you live in Penzance and order from Rosewood you still save at least 342 food miles!


Pricing is a little more complicated, as some cuts are more expensive than others, but mince is also the cut that requires the most work to produce, de-boning, cutting and mincing. It is the most convenient way to cook and eat grassfed beef though, and remains one of our most popular choicess. The advantage of eating beef from Rosewood Farm is that you know that it was grown in the Lower Derwent Valley in Yorkshire. If you check out the slaughter/cutting code on every pack we sell, you can also trace it back to the abattoir, which you will find is also located in the LDV. We include the individual animal ID code too, so you can get in touch with us for the full life history of the animal, including which fields it grazed in, for total peace of mind.



By Rosewood Farm, Jan 16 2017 01:54PM

I wasn’t planning to blog so soon after my last installment about Planet Earth, but then a report, revealing how birds are being cropped out of the British Countryside, dropped into my inbox. I felt it was important to share this news as so often we can easily feel like our contribution is insignificant when it comes to preventing and reversing climate change. This is different, there really are lots of things we can do to halt the decline of farmland birds and their habitat.

You may be forgiven for thinking that we are anti-arable farming here at Rosewood after years of us going on about how bad crops are for the countryside and how much better grassfed is for us, the environment and the animals. So you may be surprised to learn that we do actually like some veg with our meat, and we don’t think humans should turn into carnivores - we just think that the balance has been somewhat tipped in the wrong direction.


I don’t know any farmers who actively enjoy destroying biodiversity but the level of passion for our wildlife varies among them from apathetic to absolute dedication. The problem we face is that the market doesn’t offer many opportunities to reward farmers for having the most biodiverse farms, in fact it is largely due to the personal interest of farmers & conservationist that we have any wildlife left in the UK at all.

Sprout aficionado John Clappison produces 5% of the UK's sprout crop
Sprout aficionado John Clappison produces 5% of the UK's sprout crop

It was during a meeting with one farmer last year about our plans to graze his recreated wet grassland that the enthusiasm really hit home. John is an arable farmer with a real passion for growing brussels sprouts, but it turned out his passion also extended to taking shots (with his mobile phone's camera) of the Lapwings living in his sprout crop! But when was the last time you saw ‘Lapwing-friendly’ sprouts on the supermarket shelf?


Post-war governments & the EU have certainly played a big part in both habitat loss and restoration over the years, and opinion remains divided over whether Brexit will be good or bad for nature. At Rosewood our own experience, taking part in the EU-funded Countryside Stewardship Scheme for ten years, was a mixed bag. On the one hand the capital grants were great - they helped us to restore the hedgerows that had been lost due to years of neglect (as opposed to active destruction).

A new mixed-species hedgerow planted at Rosewood Farm
A new mixed-species hedgerow planted at Rosewood Farm

The other side of the coin was that we were farming by dates and numbers. Prescriptions were put in place to stop us grazing after x-date and not before y-date, not taking into account the weather, ground cover or alternative grazing/housing for the animals. ‘Farming by numbers’ was both practically unsustainable and took absolutely no account of whether we were achieving our wildlife objectives or not. If I could change one thing about the system it would be that any incentives are paid for results and let farmers farm in the best way they see fit to achieve those results.


Fast-forward to the present day and we can see the legacy of ‘farming by numbers’, coupled with unsustainably low prices for livestock, in the number of local farmers who are giving up grazing in the Ings. There has also been a [not so] coincidental shift in what the market is demanding from farmers too. We all know about the effect that the cheap food policy has had on farming but less often mentioned are the unrealistic specifications that farm produce has to conform to. In the good times the prices paid for produce may be reasonable, but there is virtually no demand for the produce which falls outside of the spec so it fetches a much lower price. This has shaped the countryside for years with farmers forced to produce what they can sell, not necessarily what benefits their land and biodiversity.

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) the largest member of the Plover family
Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) the largest member of the Plover family

Hugh’s War on Waste challenged us to start demanding wonky veg to cut food waste. Not only does this represent a waste of time and energy in growing and transporting food that we will never eat but that veg is taking up valuable space once inhabited by our farmland birds. As we spray and cultivate crops in pursuit of perfection we are actively wiping out the insects, seeds and nesting sites on which our farmland birds depend.


This is why at Rosewood we sell-direct, as we have always kept Dexter cattle that are much smaller than most breeds of cattle. Dexters are the ‘wonky’ veg of the beef world, so wonky that you won’t find them in the supermarkets at all. Ironically we find that our customers find that the smaller joints and steaks suit them better for home cooking, when they are given the choice. We have also found that Dexters, unlike the supermarket specification-hitting larger breeds, are ideally suited to grazing the diverse and damp grasslands of the Ings without causing damage to the soil.

Redshank (Tringa totanus) is a target species for the new wet grassland
Redshank (Tringa totanus) is a target species for the new wet grassland

So, what does this mean for the birds? Well, the other advantage of being in direct contact with you, the consumer, is that we can talk about the problem of declining bird numbers and how eating more beef really can help us to address this. Our passion has always been grassland and grazing livestock, so we’re not planning on becoming arable farmers anytime soon, and much of our land is unsuitable for cultivation anyway. Overs the years we have amassed a wealth of knowledge and experience in managing the land and livestock together for the benefit of wild birds and by working with farmers like John, we are able to spread our impact over the wider arable landscape too.


So here are a few things you can do to help us to put the birds back into the British countryside;


- Write to your MP to put birds into Brexit by letting them know that you want to end the ‘farming by numbers’ approach

- Help us to invest in new hedgerows, ponds and bird boxes with our 'Veggie' donation box

- Keep buying the wonky veg, and serve it with some wonky beef

- Take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch on the 28th - 30th January

- Share this blog with all your friends and inspire others to bring the birds back!




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