Riverford

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As the evidence mounts that many of us eat more meat than is good for us and the planet, we want to find the best balance of meat and veg in our diet. But what is the right amount? At Riverford we’ve always made veg the star of the dish, with a little bit of good (organic) meat as a treat. Less and better is our guide.

 

Watch our How Much Meat? debate

We gathered together animal welfare charities, political influencers, media, food NGOs and the public for a debate on how much meat we should all be eating. Watch the highlights in our 2 minute video below, or you can see the full length uncut debate here.

Organic is different

Organic farming standards are a world apart from those of conventional farming; we think organic is the best show in town when it comes to protecting the environment, wildlife and farm animals. We also believe that it makes for much better food, both in terms and flavour and our health. Read more about what makes organic food different here.

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How much meat?

Watch our campaign video


FAQs

Should we all be vegetarians?

There is little doubt that in the developed world we eat more animal products than is good for our health, for the environment and for the wellbeing of the less affluent. Pigs, poultry and intensively produced (grain fed) cows compete with the world’s poor for grain produced on fertile arable land. In turn this increases the pressure for deforestation and intensification of production on existing land.

  • For forage eating ruminants (cows, sheep, goats and grass-fed cows) the argument is much more complex for several reasons:
  • They can graze on land that is unsuitable for growing crops for human consumption; as such it could be argued that they produce some food where there would have been none.
  • By eating grass and clover they are an important part of a balanced rotation, allowing fertility to be maintained without using energy-consuming fertilizers. On our land (and all but the very best land in this country) it would be very difficult to farm organically without growing forage legumes and using the manure from the livestock that eat them.
  • Ruminants belch and fart, releasing large quantities of methane (about 20%) of the world total. As methane is 21 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide it has been argued that ruminants contribute substantially to global warming. Indeed it has been calculated that a staggering 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions are the result of farm livestock, compared to 13% for transport, so this is obviously a huge issue. Furthermore it also seems to be true that extensive, grass fed animals (such as we like to promote, for reasons of health, animal welfare and flavour) cause higher emissions per litre of milk or kg of meat than intensive ones, though personally I think some of the calculations used to argue this are flawed.
  • The calculation is made even more complex by the fact that the cultivations (e.g ploughing) needed to grow arable crops promote the breakdown of organic matter in the soil, releasing CO2. Under grassland, carbon is normally sequestrated, locking up CO2 from the atmosphere as soil organic matter. It could therefore be argued that maintaining grassland for animals to graze has the effect of reducing global warming.

Confused? There are no simple or authoritative answers to this question. We certainly do not feel qualified to give a definitive answer but there seem to be a lot of reasons for eating fewer animal products, making sure that we use all the animal (offal and all) and treating them with the respect that they deserve, both when alive and in the kitchen, rather than just wanting them to be cheap.

What is organic meat?

Organic is the gold stamp for animal welfare – the highest standards around. Organically farmed animals are truly free range, with plenty of access to outdoor space and appropriate housing and shelter. They enjoy a natural diet free from GMOs and live in small herd/flock sizes. The animals reach maturity naturally, rather than being pushed on with growth stimulants. In short, organic promotes healthy, happy animals reared with respect.

Riverford’s meat is 100% organic, from family farms in the Westcountry. The RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming have given us awards for our ethical sourcing. We have our own Riverford butchery, where the meat is properly hung, carefully matured and skilfully butchered. All this works together to give exceptional flavour.

What is free range meat?

There has been a lot of talk in the media around the welfare standards of the meat we eat. Free range is often seen as the standard to aspire to. But organic goes significantly further – it’s the gold stamp for animal welfare.

There are some very real differences between free range and organic meat. In chicken farming, many birds labelled ‘free range’ are kept in houses of thousands, which are never moved and as a result are surrounded by mud. In theory the birds have the option to go out, but very few do. By contrast, Soil Association approved organic flock sizes cannot exceed 500 and the houses are moved between each flock. This encourages the birds to go outdoors and exhibit their natural behaviours of roaming and scratching.

Beak trimming is also permitted under free range standards, to try to prevent stressed animals from injuring each other. Organic farming forbids this practice, and stress levels of the animals are reduced thanks to the increased space to roam, as well as the lower stocking densities.

Free range animals are fed a grain-based diet, in comparison to organic farming which encourages a more natural diet largely made up of grass and silage. Antibiotics and GMOs are permitted in free range animals, but antiobiotics are not used routinely and GMOs are banned in organic farming.

All Riverford’s meat is 100% organic, British and certified by the Soil Association.

Why is organic meat better?

For those who care about animal welfare, organic is the best choice. Organic is the gold stamp for animal welfare – the highest standards around. Organically farmed animals are truly free range, with plenty of access to outdoor space and appropriate housing and shelter. They enjoy a natural diet free from GMOs and live in small herd/flock sizes. The animals reach maturity naturally, rather than being pushed on with growth stimulants. In short, organic promotes healthy, happy animals reared with respect.

Riverford’s meat is 100% organic, from family farms in the Westcountry. The RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming have given us awards for our ethical sourcing. We have our own Riverford butchery, where the meat is properly hung, carefully matured and skilfully butchered. All this works together to give exceptional flavour.

Why does Riverford sell meat?

Guy Watson built Riverford on his obsession for veg. We have always put vegetables centre plate because we love them but never catered only for vegetarians, seeing eating meat as a personal choice and a privilege.

As the evidence mounts that many of us eat more meat than is good for us and for the planet, we want to make it easier to eat meat the right way. We live by the rule that veg should be the star of the plate, with a little bit of good (organic) meat as a treat. Less and better is our guide.

Sourcing is important and we work with local Westcountry farmers over the long term. Our meat is 100% organic, from animals reared the traditional way: outdoors in fields where they have the freedom to roam and graze. They reach maturity naturally and enjoy the highest welfare standards around. We wear our Soil Association badge of approval with pride. To ensure the meat gets the respect it deserves, we have our own Riverford butchery, where the meat is properly hung, carefully matured and skilfully butchered. All this works together to give exceptional flavour.

In short: we believe that if we’re going to eat meat, let it be better quality, eaten less often, in smaller quantities and with complete confidence that the animal has been treated respectfully. And above all, let the veg be the star of the show.

How much meat?

Debating the balance