Accolades galore as British Farmers mark 10th Fine Farm Produce Awards at Selfridges

Sixty-two products were bestowed with one of the food and farming industry’s highest honours, a National Trust Fine Farm Produce Award, at a ceremony in London last night.

It was the first time – and fitting for the 10th anniversary – that so many products met or exceeded the strict judging criteria of the conservation charity’s food and farming awards.

Three producers excelled to be crowned overall food and overall drinks winner and a special award, for producer of the decade, was announced.  Continue reading

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Fine Farm Produce Awards to be announced this evening

The National Trust’s Fine Farm Produce Award winners will be announced at an exclusive event at Selfridges in London this evening.

This year is the 10th anniversary of these prestigious awards which recognise the very best of the conservation charity’s 1,500 tenant farmers and producers.

We go behind the scenes of the judging process with Helen Beer, deputy editor of the National Trust magazine, who gives a behind the scenes glimpse of what happens during the ‘taste test’ element of the rigorous judging process.

The National Trust's Fine Farm Produce Awards will be held at Selfridges in London tonight

The National Trust’s Fine Farm Produce Awards will be held at Selfridges in London tonight

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Beef and beer come out top at the Fine Farm Produce Awards

Two producers have risen to the top to be crowned overall food and overall drinks winner at this year’s Fine Farm Produce Awards.

Neil and Sally Grigg from Burrow Farm in Devon - overall food winner at the Fine Farm Produce Awards 2014

Neil and Sally Grigg from Burrow Farm in Devon – overall food winner at the Fine Farm Produce Awards 2014

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Producers meet the ‘trusted’ grade in annual awards

Forty-two products from 27 producers from across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are celebrating winning a prestigious National Trust Fine Farm Produce Award this year.

The awards, supported by Freedom Food and now in their eighth year, celebrate the breadth and quality of produce grown, reared or made on special places owned or managed by the National Trust, including tenant farms, orchards and gardens.

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Record number of products win coveted food award

Forty-three products from 27 food and drink producers from across England and Wales are celebrating winning a prestigious National Trust Fine Farm Produce Award, the highest number of products to ever receive this much sought after ‘stamp’ of quality [1].

The awards, supported by Freedom Food [2] and now in their seventh year, celebrate the breadth and quality of produce grown, reared or made on special places owned or managed by the National Trust, including tenant farms, orchards and gardens.

Winners this year include stoneground flour, dark ale, apple juice, North Devon beef, venison, red wine and onion sausages and dressed brown crab.  They will all now be able to use the coveted Fine Farm Produce Award marque to help market their products.

Five new producers won awards and a total of 18 new products received the coveted ‘stamp’ for the first time, including pork chipolata sausages from Chyvarloe Farm in Cornwall and Wild Venison and Hazelnut Terrine from cnwd (pronounced Can-old) in south-west Wales.

This year’s overall winner – as voted by the team of seven judges [3] – was cooked salt beef, made from Sussex-cross cattle raised on the National Trust’s Polesden Lacey Estate in Surrey.

Farmer and butcher Steve Conisbee said: “We’ve been entering the awards for the past six years for various different products as we find it really helps give us a point of difference with customers.

“Customers can buy with confidence knowing that they are buying a quality product – which not only tastes good, thanks to the high quality pasture land on which it is bred – but has met various standards including high animal welfare.

“We take great pride in what we do and winning the award is really important to us and makes a real difference to our business.”

Umami Seasoning from The Mushroom Garden in North Wales won this year’s most innovative product award.

The Umami is made from dried shiitake mushroom powder grown in specially adapted growing rooms on National Trust land in the foothills of Snowdonia, dried seaweed and Anglesey sea-salt.  The seasoning is used as a meat tenderiser, or to enhance mushroom flavour in any mushroom based dishes.

Judges were impressed with both its taste and the innovation behind the product development.

Cynan Jones, owner of The Mushroom Garden, said: “We’re one of the National Trust’s smallest tenanted rural businesses, yet this year we have won one of the key awards!  We grow our shiitake and oyster mushrooms in four growing rooms and use other Welsh, local ingredients wherever possible in both the maim and the mushroom caviar, which also won an award this year, to give our products a unique and regional taste.”

Rob Macklin, national agriculture and food adviser at the National Trust and chair of the judging panel, said:  “This year’s award winning foods have really captured the essence of the special place where they have been grown, bred or produced.  It is our aim to really connect customers to where their food comes from and these awards are a great way for us to do this.

“Each award winner goes through a tough judging process.  Even before judging begins, all products have to meet provenance, environmental and animal welfare standards, and all primary ingredients must meet high production assurance [4].

“Products that successfully pass this check are subjected to a vigorous blind taste test by a panel of judges.

“The appearance, preparation, colour, aroma, texture and taste all have to be at least as good as a high quality, commercially available alternative, to win an award.  Judging is therefore harsh but fair.”

The National Trust cares for half a million acres of farmland across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  It works closely with its properties and tenants to help them develop high quality products.

Rob continued: “Since 2006, over 200 products have received a Fine Farm Produce Award and this year’s winners will join a group of some of the very best producers that the country has to offer.”

This year’s judging panel included Henrietta Green, food writer, broadcaster and founder of FoodLoversBritain.com; Lizzie Kamenetsky, food editor of delicious. magazine and Richard McGeown, chef patron at Couch’s Great House Restaurant in Cornwall.

A full list of the award winners and details of their produce can be found online at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/finefarmproduceawards

[1] The following National Trust tenants and in-hand producers have received a Fine Farm Produce Award for 2012.  Case studies for each winner are available on our FTP site – details above.

  • Aberdaron Seafood, Dressed Brown Crab, Gwynedd
  • Ashclyst Farm Dairy, Organic Whole Milk, Organic Semi-Skinned Milk and Organic Clotted Cream, Devon New producer and first time wins for all products
  • Barrington Court Estate, South Somerset Blended Apple Juice, Medium Farmhouse Cider, Dry Farmhouse Cider Somerset
  • Beef into Booths, Traditional Dry Aged Beef, North West and Yorkshire
  • Belton Estate, Fallow Deer Venison, Lincolnshire
  • Beningbrough Home Farm, Aberdeen Angus Beef, Yorkshire
  • Brockhampton Estate, Damson chutney, Worcestershire chutney wins for the first time
  • Burrow Farm, Red Devon Beef Topside Devon
  • Charlecote Park, Venison and Honey, Warwickshire New producer and first time wins for both products
  • Chyvarloe Farm, Pork Chipolata Sausages, Cornwall– New producer and first time win
  • Clyston Mill, Stoneground Flour, Devon
  • F Conisbee & Son Farming Partnership, Cooked Salt Beef, Pave Rump Medallions and Turkey Breast, Surrey– cooked salt beef – overall winner and first time entered. Rump medallions and turkey breast also win for the first time
  • cnwd Towy Valley Wild Venison and Hazelnut Terrine, CarmarthenshireNew producer and first time winner
  • Cwmcerrig Farm Shop – Dinefwr Venison and Dinefwr Venison, Red Wine and Onion Sausages, CarmarthenshireNew producer and first time wins for both products
  • Dolaucothi Estate, Lamb, Carmarthenshire
  • Home Farm, Red Devon Beef, Cornwall
  • Jacobi Brewery, Dark Ale, Carmarthenshire – first time win for dark ale
  • Killerton Estate, Apple Juice, Medium Dry Cider, Charcoal, Devon
  • Killerton Kitchen, Apple Chutney, Devon
  • Ochr Cefn Isa, Free-Range Eggs, Conwy, North Wales
  • Parke Farm, Apple Juice, Devon
  • Tanwood Products, Damson Chutney, Worcestershire first time win for this chutney
  • Trehill Farm, Pembrokeshire New Potatoes, Pembrokeshire
  • The Mushroom Garden, Mushroom Caviar and Umami Seasoning, Gwynedd – Umami wins most innovative product award and first time win for mushroom caviar
  • The Westerham Brewery Company, British Bulldog, Scotney Pale Ale, Scotney Best Bitter and William Wilberforce Freedom Ale, Kent – British Bulldog wins for the first time
  • Wimpole Home Farm, Pork Sausages, Organic Duck Eggs and Organic Chicken Eggs, Cambridgeshire
  • Yew Tree Farm, Herdwick Hogget, Cumbria

[2] Freedom Food is an arm of the RSPCA dedicated to farm animal welfare.  When you see the freedom Food logo you know that animals have been kept to strict RSPCA welfare standards.  Freedom Food is one of the key requirements for meat and dairy products entered into the Fine Farm Produce Awards to demonstrate higher welfare standards for farm animals.  See www.freedomfood.co.uk for more information.

[3] Seven judges presided on the panel this year:

  • Henrietta Green, founder of FoodLoversBritain.com and who has helped direct the awards since they began in 2006
  • Lizzie Kamenetzky, food editor of delicioius. Magazine
  • Bob Waller, Freedom Food
  • Richard McGeown, chef patron of Couch’s Great House Restaurant in Cornwall.  Richard, who prepared all the food for tasting, has been working on the awards for the past three years
  • Lynda Brewer, catering development manager at the National Trust
  • Phillippa Green, food brand licensing manager at the National Trust
  • Debbie Schreiber, deputy editor of the National Trust Magazine

[4] The criteria that need to be met before producers can receive the Fine Farm Produce Award are:

  • Each producer from a National Trust tenant farm, National Trust managed farm or farmland will be assessed against National Trust Environment Standards for Farms by National Trust staff.
  • All farm livestock and dairy products must be certified organic or Freedom Food (RSPCA) assured.  Arable and field crops are expected to be organic or hold the Leaf Marque or Conservation Grade.
  • Food and drink products are then subject to a taste panel where the key criteria are appearance, preparation, colour, aroma, texture and flavour.

Food and Farming at the National Trust

  • The National Trust believes in using quality, local, seasonal and sustainable food.   It matters that we know where our food comes from, how the crops were grown and that animals are properly cared for.
  • The National Trust helps and encourages farmers to manage their farms to high environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards.   We work with our farmers to help them add value to the food they produce and to get a better return.
  • The National Trust is the largest non-governmental landowner in Britain, owning approximately 250,000 hectares of land across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. More than 80 per cent of the Trust’s land is farmed or is dependent upon farming for its management.
  • There are 1,500 individual farm tenants including 700 whole farms on National Trust land with a further 1,300 separate areas of land rented out to farmers. Seventy per cent of farms on Trust land participate in agri-environment schemes.
  • The Trust directly manages 25 farms itself including Wimpole Home Farm in Cambridgeshire, Hafod-y-Llan in Snowdonia and Llanerchaeron in mid-Wales along with over 300 further areas of farmland.
  • Seven per cent of farms on National Trust land are registered as organic, including the award winning Coleshill Organics in Oxfordshire (three awards in the 2004 Organic Food Awards) This compares to a national average of four per cent.
  • The Trust’s cooks and catering teams look first to their property or estate for produce, and then to their county, their region and from around the UK.

The National Trust is passionate about using local and seasonal food in its 150 tearooms and cafés.  Many of this year’s Fine Farm Produce Award winners feature on the menus at their local National Trust property as well as selling either through their own farm shop, their local National Trust shop, direct to customers or on-line.

Research reveals that grass-fed beef is better for people and the environment

Feeding cattle on grass throughout their lifecycle is the most environmentally sustainable way to rear beef, according to new research for the National Trust.

One of the biggest global challenges is how to increase food security whilst reducing the environmental impacts of food production.

Livestock – like cattle and sheep – produce high levels of methane as part of the process of digesting grass.  This has led to suggestions that intensive production methods – where cattle are fed largely on cereals, producing less methane – should be preferred over more traditional grass fed livestock farming.

However, in a report [1] issued today, research at 10 Trust farms shows that while the carbon footprint of grass-fed and conventional farms were comparable, the carbon sequestration contribution of well-managed grass pasture [2] on the less intensive systems reduced net emissions by up to 94 per cent, even resulting in a carbon ‘net gain’ in upland areas.  The farms that had recently converted to organic status showed even greater gains.

Rob Macklin, National Agriculture and Food Adviser at the National Trust, said: “The results are contrary to recent thinking that livestock farming methods must intensify further in order to lessen carbon emissions to feed an ever-increasing world population.”

“Maximising carbon efficiency alone is too simplistic.  Many less intensive livestock systems would be classed ‘inefficient’ on the carbon emission scale, yet are much less reliant on artificial inputs and tend to have less impacts on water quality, loss of soil organic matter and reduced biodiversity.

“We believe that optimised beef production – deliberately accommodating less than maximum output in order to secure stronger and broader ecosystem protection – is the best sustainable use for the grasslands in our care.

“The debate about climate change and food often calls for a reduction of meat consumption and a more plant based diet, but this often overlooks the fact that many grasslands are unsuitable for continuous arable cropping.

“Grasslands support a range of ecosystems services including water resources, biodiversity and carbon capture and storage.  Grazing livestock not only contributes to their maintenance but also turns grass into human-edible food.”

Other recent research [3] found that the health benefits of beef (and lamb) are greater when animals are fed totally on grass – their natural food.  Omega 3 fatty acids – recognised as essential to good physical and mental health – are higher in meat from grass and the levels of saturated fat are a third of grain fed beef.

Patrick Begg, Rural Enterprises Director at the National Trust, said: “This research is incredibly timely.  Policy makers across Europe and in the UK are having to tackle the issue of carbon-efficient food production right now.  The debate is all about bringing broader public benefits to the fore alongside food production and this research demonstrates how extensive, grass-fed beef should be at the heart of discussions.

“We need to find new market mechanisms which reward optimised rather than maximised beef production and as bodies like the Government’s Ecosystem Markets Task Force gather their thoughts we think this research demonstrates an area which is due some real focus.  Current Common Agricultural Policy reform discussions can also benefit from understanding what this research is telling us and, as the reform drives towards even stronger ‘greening’ of the payments farmers receive, we think management that delivers quality, grass-fed beef should be encouraged even more through agri-environment measures.

“We’ll be taking the findings forward with our tenants, policy makers and the industry to explore how we can develop a market advantage which supports a stronger grass-fed beef sector”.

 

[1] The research was carried out by sustainability consultants, Best Foot Forward and farm business consultants, the Laurence Gould Partnership in Autumn 2010.

The two assessors used PAS 2050 (PAS 2050 incorporates the greenhouse gas emissions potency of methane and nitrous oxide emissions using the carbon accounting unit of CO2 equivalent per live weight of beef produced) as well as developing additional scenarios to account for carbon sequestration by grassland and organic conversion and compared with other published life cycle studies on UK, US and Brazilian production methods.

They compared the carbon footprints of beef cattle raised on ten of the charity’s livestock farms in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; four organic, four conventional and two semi-intensive conventional in both upland and lowland areas.

The results show the average carbon footprint across the Trust farms was 21.5 kg CO2 equivalent per kg live weight of beef which were comparable with those from other studies in the UK.  See:

Taylor, RC et al (2010) ‘Measuring holistic carbon footprints for lamb and beef farms in the Cambrian Mountains’ Report for Countryside Council of Wales.

EBLEX (2010) ‘Test the Water – The English Beef and Sheep Production Environmental Roadmap – Phase 2.

Williams, AG Audsley E and Sandars, DL (2006) ‘Determining the environmental burdens and resource use in the production of agricultrual and horticultural commodities.  Main Report. Defra Research Project ISO 20.  Bedford: Cranfield University and Defra.

[2] Carbon sequestration is the capture of carbon dioxide (CO2).  All crops absorb CO2 during growth and release it after harvest.  The goal of agricultural carbon removal is to use the crop and its relation to the carbon cycle to permanently sequester carbon within the soil.  This is done by selecting farming methods that return biomass to the soil and enhance the conditions in which the carbon within the plants will be stored in a stable state.

[3] See: Wyness, L et al (2011) ‘Red meat in the diet: an update’ Nutrition Bulletin 36,1 pp.34-77.

Rule, DC et al (2002) ‘Comparison of muscle fatty acid profiles and cholesterol concentrations of bison, beef, cattle, elk and chicken’ J ANIM SCI 80 pp. 1202-1211.

Duckett, SK et al (1993) Effects of time on feed on beef nutrient composition J ANIM SCI 71pp. 2079-2088.