CATTLE, TURKEYS & CHICKENS, BRISTOL: George is a sixth-generation farmer and farms with his wife and parents overlooking Somerset’s Yeo valley. After taking over the farm he decided to turn his back on intensive animal rearing systems in favour of regenerative ones. He stopped rearing pigs intensively and now rears native-breed cattle, turkeys and meat chickens extensively on pasture with the aim of producing nutrient-dense food and nourishing the farm’s soils rather than depleting them.
The farm is home to a small suckler herd of cattle, which means the calves are reared on their mothers. When George arrived back on the farm, the cows were continental breeds selected for their lean meat and fast growth, but George swapped those for native breeds such as Angus and Hereford which can survive purely on grass year-round. They are grazed rotationally to give them fresh forage and to ensure the soil structure is preserved. George believes strongly that this method of cattle farming will help save our planet, rather than destroy it.
In 2017 he inherited a turkey business from a relative. He started off with barn-reared English White turkeys, but soon switched to a more traditional, slower growing bronze breed which are free (Avian Influenza allowing) to range outdoors over the farm’s lush diverse pastures.
After three years of rearing quality turkeys, George read about the research of American farmer Joel Salatin and his model of ‘pasture-raised chicken.’ He decided to give it a go, and hasn’t looked back. The chickens have mobile shelters and are moved onto fresh pasture every day, which provides them with fresh grass and bugs and enables them to express their natural behaviour. The dung they leave behind is broken down by insects, feeding the soil and producing more grass for the cattle to feed on.
The chickens live until they are 10 to 12 weeks old, nearly twice the age of ‘standard’ chicken. Their slow growth and pasture foraging gives an amazing flavour and texture to their meat, and a golden, yellow colour to their skin. In fact the golden yellow skin comes from the beta carotene found in chlorophyll in grass, and it’s for the same reason that 100 percent pasture-fed beef has yellow fat. The yellower the fat the better!
George sells the chicken, turkey and beef direct to consumers via the website, which George finds both enjoyable and profitable. “There is something incredibly rewarding about eating and selling your own meat, meat that you know has had a good life and contributed to our farm ecosystem. I love engaging with customers and getting them out on farm reconnecting with the food they eat. Producing a product rather than a commodity item is much more fulfilling and rewarding, although it doesn’t come without its challenges.”
He adds: “I can’t express how much more I enjoy farming now compared to 5 years ago. The work is far more diverse - and diversity is key!"
George believes plant-based diets will not save our planet. He has developed a keen interest in regenerative agriculture and improving soil health as he sees their impact on the entire ecosystem and their importance in producing nutrient dense food. He believes a lot more can be done to improve the environmental impact of human behaviour and human health by looking closely at how soils are managed.
Though the media often accuse beef farming of having a negative environmental impact, George believes that rearing cattle on well managed grazing actually allows for the sequestration of large quantities of carbon and produces the most nutrient dense food on earth. It’s not the cow it’s the how!
National and local radio, podcasts, local newspapers.