GOATS, CHESHIRE: Tim's family have been tenant farmers in the heart of the Cheshire Plain since 1968, and in 2016 got the chance to buy the farm. They now farm 70 acres (28 hectares). Like most of their farming neighbours the family had dairy cows, but unlike most of their neighbours they were small; they had just 140 cows, while many neighbouring farms had as many as 3,000.
Tim and his wife Marnie couldn’t compete, and realised they had a clear choice – get big or go niche. They decided to go niche and swap their cows for goats, selling the goat meat through their website.
It wasn’t an easy decision. It took Tim a full 12 months of procrastinating to finally let the cows go, and that was only after he’d already set up the goat enterprise. He says: "I am from a family of dairy farmers and that's all I ever wanted to do. To stand there and say, 'Actually no, we're going to do something different' was awful. We did it because we already had something else to go into – we'd already set up the goat business. We knew what we were trying to do."
Chestnut Meats is an unusual business model. Tim buys goats from 25 farms around the country, including male kids bred from dairy herds and milking goats which have come to the end of their productive life. He brings them back to his farm where they graze outdoors. Once the goats are ready for slaughter, Tim takes them to the abattoir himself to avoid causing them additional stress. He then butchers the carcasses on the farm and sells the meat direct to customers. The farm has up to 100 goats on farm at any one time, slaughtering around 1,500 each year.
Tim also butchers and packs meat for other farmers, helping add value to businesses which would not otherwise be able to sell direct to the consumer.
“We butcher all ages of goat, as different communities prefer different types of meat, from kid goat to mature goats,” says Tim. “I personally enjoy kid goat chops, but if I’m eating adult goat I prefer it slow cooked as a stew. The mince is superb too.”
Goat meat isn't widely consumed in the UK and rarely stocked in the supermarkets. Tim's on a mission to change this by promoting the health benefits (goat is lower in saturated fat than beef and lamb), giving out free recipes and instructions on how to cook it. “This is vital to building confidence in potential customers who have not cooked goat before,” he says. Tim sells direct to restaurants and has also tapped into a growing market among the UK's African, Indian and Caribbean communities, who often prefer goat to lamb.
Tim saw Just Farmers as an opportunity to put across a small farmer's point of view, which he thinks can get lost in the mix. He believes small family farms can be viable in a changing world, so long as they adapt and aren't afraid of change. Tim's small farm is surrounded by large scale, intensive dairy units, which he thinks proves there's room for both.
National television and press.