Amidst the rolling Dorset hills, lies the idyllic Foxholes Farm where Ian and Denise Bell devotedly practice the conscientious methods of biodynamic farming, rearing their sheep, cattle, pigs and chickens.
**Amidst the rolling Dorset hills, lies the idyllic Foxholes Farm where Ian and Denise Bell devotedly practice the conscientious methods of biodynamic farming, rearing their sheep, cattle, pigs and chickens.**
Upon arrival at Foxholes Farm, I am greeted not only by a gargantuan bull called Edward, a pack of over zealous dogs and some bashful geese but also a big pot of slow-cooked beef stew, lovingly cooked by Denise. The smell is overwhelmingly good and I can’t help but polish off three platefuls. The robust and heady taste and texture is like nothing else I have eaten before. Denise tells me that many of her loyal customers will email her every time they eat some Heritage Prime biodynamic Meat, just to rave about the taste. It's not so surprising then that top chefs including Nigella Lawson, Michel Roux, Georgio Locatelli and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall are also huge fans of Denise and Ian’s Heritage Prime biodynamic Meat. Nigella Lawson raves about their produce in fact: “Their pork is so much better than any pork that you’ve ever tasted or could ever hope to taste. To say it’s organic just tells you what isn’t in it. What they add at Heritage Prime is immense care, good feed and excellent conditions”.
So what are these ‘excellent conditions’ you may ask? Well, for a start Ian and Denise rear their animals completely free of pharmaceuticals, chemicals, pesticides and fertilisers. Instead, tailored homeopathic remedies are used as well as consulting an astronomical calendar to determine the best possible time to sow and cut vegetation, in order to retain maximum nutrients. These nutrients are then passed onto the animals, which in turn provides us, the consumers, with incredibly nourishing and flavoursome meat. “It’s all about attention to detail”, says Ian. “We choose the best moment for all our farming practices, from preparing composts and manures to making hay”. Recent press has swept the term ‘Organic’ through the dirt and back, and concerns of the future of agriculture and farming are reaching the front line. “The 20th century was dominated by pharmaceuticals and reliance on fossil fuels," says Ian. "In the 21st century, people are realising that is not sustainable and they are looking for alternatives. The pressure of supermarkets alongside the rising price of fuel, fertiliser and pesticide bills is causing farmers to seek more sustainable methods such as biodynamic. We have farmers from Hong Kong to Hertfordshire approach us for advice. Farmers who switch to biodynamics can save money by cutting out fertilisers and pesticides. It also means they will be producing meat of a far better quality that they can sell direct to the consumer".
Biodynamic Farming is certainly not a new concept. It was in fact founded in 1924 by Austrian philosopher Rudolph Steiner who was asked to present an agricultural solution at a time when the chemical approach to farming was beginning to take hold. “The chief goal of biodynamic farmers is to gain an appreciation of the effects of the sun, the constellations, the planets and the moon, on life, on Earth – and then deliver the nutritive benefits to our food” says Ian. Another factor to add to the equation of creating such high quality and beneficial meat is that the animals on Foxholes Farm are reared for much longer than on traditional farms, before slaughtering. After the slaughtering (which is done in the most stress-free manner possible), the preparation and traditional methods of hanging further enhance the taste and texture of the meat.
These patient and slow methods used by Ian and Denise are the complete antithesis to the intensive farming methods forced upon farmers by supermarkets and this is exactly why Heritage Prime Meat comes at a higher cost. Ian and Denise are keen on supplying the meat directly to the customers rather than third party retailers. Animals are not killed to order and it is not possible to buy individual small cuts. Instead if you want to get your hands on some Heritage Prime biodynamic Meat, you have to get yourself onto the ‘larder list’ with a deposit to secure your carcass. When ready, the customer will receive a box of cut selections along with slow cooking recipe cards.
Prices vary according to the weight of the animal, but roughly a quarter of a pig will cost upwards of £250, whilst a beef ‘taster' box will set you back approximately £395. These are hefty price tags, but the quantity of meat involved will feed a family of four for a good couple of months, making the cost not too dissimilar to the price of purchasing Organic meat in supermarkets. Ian believes it’s a matter of changing priorities: “What’s more important - buying the latest TV or car or investing in your health and well-being?”. He also tells me that many of their customers lower the costs and solve the ‘storage’ issue by sharing orders amongst friends. If there’s a will, there’s a way. “Biodynamic food is beyond organic and can become available to everyone” says Ian. “But first we must collectively gain the strength to source our food directly from those who grow it, and get to know exactly what they are up to”. This personable fashion of selling and sourcing is certainly becoming increasingly popular. More importantly perhaps, it ensures that you are actually eating meat that has been reared in a sustainable and ethical manner. “We can be sure that where supermarkets are concerned, the public are not told the whole truth about what goes in their food” says Ian. “Only by sourcing food direct from producers and rediscovering that knowledge of seasonal food can we control what goes into our bellies”.
The farm also receives a lot of interest from around the world. Farmers, agricultural students and general food lovers visit Foxholes Farm to learn about Biodynamic methods. So now Ian and Denise are in the process of extending their farm with an on-site abattoir and an educational centre along with rooms for visitors to stay in. On leaving the farm, I felt incredibly vitalised and I swear my stomach seemed to be purring. Denise gave me a sumptuously marbled lamb chop and some eggs to take back to London, both of which I guarded tightly all the way home, as if it were gold. I ate the lamb chop the following day and was even more dumbfounded by the remarkable flavour and texture, so much so that I wanted to shed a tear after having finished gnawing the juicy, heavenly chump of fat along the bone. If slow-rearing, lunar calendars, homeopathic remedies, ‘special’ feed, love and respect are what’s required to create such nutritional, enlivening and absurdly tasty meat, well so be it. Maybe it’s time our priorities, sourcing and price pre-conceptions did change when it comes to consuming meat. Heritage Prime: earnestly British, biodynamic meats of rare quality Foxholes Farm, Littlebredy, Dorchester, Dorset, England, DT2 9HJ. Visit www.heritageprime.co.uk for more information.
**Written by:** Leila Sarraf
**iLoveMyGrub.com** travelled to Dorchester South station on South West Trains. South West Trains also operates on routes through Hampshire, Surrey, Dorset, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Devon, Somerset, Cornwall and Greater London, serving a mixture of commuters and longer-distance travellers. For more information about services, fares and special offers visit www.southwesttrains.co.uk.