Beef Trail in depth

  • Forty of our one hundred cattle are mother cows that each give birth to a calf every year. The rest of the herd is made up of their new calves and some of their older calves, plus our two bulls. The calves are being reared for beef, but the best of the female calves (heifers) are kept for breeding instead of being sent for slaughter.

    It takes many years to carefully build up a good herd of cattle. This is why farmers are upset if cattle have to be destroyed because of disease - the argument that these animals are going to be killed anyway is not true in the case of a long-standing member of a breeding herd.

  • Each calf born here stays with its mother until it is time for her to have a new calf. It drinks its mother's milk until it is old enough to start eating grass like its parents. The grass at West Town Farm is grown organically, which means that no chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used. Soil fertility is maintained naturally, using manure from the winter bedding and “green manure” as part of each field’s rotation.

  • The calves are fully grown when they are two and a half years old. When each one reaches this age it is driven in a trailer to the abattoir where it is humanely slaughtered for beef. The animal is first stunned. A gun fires a metal bolt into its brain. The bolt does not kill the animal (stop the heart) but causes the animal to lose consciousness immediately.

    Once an animal has been stunned, the slaughterman cuts its throat using a very sharp knife, severing the major blood vessels and ensuring rapid blood loss. Once enough blood has left the body, the heart stops beating and the animal is dead.

  • The carcass is hung for two to three weeks - this ensures that the beef is tender and it concentrates the flavour. The butcher then cuts the carcass up, and the beef is packed as steaks, roasting joints, mince, stewing beef and beefburgers. In many cases this meat is then sold on to supermarkets, but our West Town Farm meat is returned to the farm where we sell it ourselves locally. Supermarket supply chains transport food over huge distances (“food miles”) so our customers value being able to buy really local, sustainably produced meat.

    We do have a small farm shop, but the majority of our beef is sold in our home-delivered meat boxes. These are delivered monthly, to coincide with the one bullock slaughtered each month. The boxes also contain pork and sausages from our pigs, and lamb from a local organic sheep farmer.

  • Beefburgers are made by mincing beef, mixing it with chopped onions and herbs, and pressing it into rounds.

    Our beefburgers are made for us by the butcher, packaged and brought back to the farm. We sell some of the beefburgers in our meat boxes and we cook some on the barbecue at our open days.