Foods

Down on the farm with Hook and Son this very wet Autumn!

In the month between the 22nd September, and the 22nd October, we’ve had eight inches of rain, a quarter of our annual rainfall! It has had quite an impact on the farm.

Hooks and Sons give an update for The Wealden Eye magazine…

Our cows don’t normally come in for the winter until the first or second week in November. This year, we had to keep the cows in day and nights, on the 17th October; three weeks earlier than usual. This means we have also had to start feeding our cows their winter silage three weeks earlier than normal. This is worrying, as we were hoping to harvest a second cut of grass silage at the end of September, but that hasn’t happened due to the rain, so we’re uncertain if we will have enough feed for our cows this winter!

A great deal of our customers are increasingly asking whether our organic milk and dairy beef is grass fed. Whilst it may seem obvious that cows eat grass, increasingly dairy cows and beef cattle are kept indoors all year round, so that they can be fed a higher level of nutrition provided mainly by maize and soya, that grass cannot provide. This will support a higher level of milk production, or in the case of beef cattle, they grow faster. In the face of these increasingly intensive farming methods, there is a growing demand for more traditional ‘grass fed’ dairy and beef, mainly for perceived health benefits, and taste, as well as for environmental reasons too.

Grass fed dairy beef is certainly becoming popular. What is dairy beef? Over the centuries, there have on the whole been two types of cattle that have been bred on farms, dairy cattle that are good at converting the food they eat into producing milk, and beef cattle that are good at converting their food into putting on muscle. Some modern beef breeds are the equivalent of the Arnold Schwarzeneggers of the cattle world, putting on kilos of muscle very quickly, which provide the fast grown beef you see on supermarket shelves. However, dairy cattle as mentioned, are good at converting the grass they eat into producing milk, and only grow their muscle very slowly, purely for their own locomotion. As a result, the texture and taste is better than ‘beef’ beef. The chef Rick Stein once did a blind tasting test with ‘dairy’ beef and ‘beef’ beef. The taste test came out with a 100% preference for dairy beef. It is wonderful beef!

Since we started producing our own organic grass-fed dairy beef over a year ago, we have seen demand increase. Instead of selling our cows that have come to the end of their milk producing lives to a meat processor, we retire them on the Pevensey Levels where after a few months, they put on a bit of weight. The mixture of old traditional grasses and other herbage on the marsh is great grazing for these cows. Our organic grass-fed dairy beef is hung for four weeks, so that it is 28-day aged beef. This helps to tenderise the meat, by gravity breaking down the collagen that holds muscle fibres together. If this isn’t done, then it is more likely the beef will be tough.
We have all your favourite cuts, and if we haven’t, our butcher will do bespoke orders. We have minced beef, casseroling beef, joints, and steaks, as well as the offal, such as ox cheek, ox tail, ox liver etc. Do contact our office on 01323 449494 if you would like to try some of our grass-fed dairy beef, or indeed, would like to book your beef for Christmas! We’ve only got a certain amount, so make sure you get your orders in!

Wishing you the seasons greetings, from us all at Longleys Farm

To find out more about our doorstep delivery and the way we farm, do visit our website www.hookandson.co.uk

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