Home-grown and Happy - St Ives Beef

PUBLISHED: 12:14 06 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:49 20 February 2013

Russell's calves are born on neighbouring farms, with which he has a close working relationship, enabling him to ensure high welfare standards

Russell's calves are born on neighbouring farms, with which he has a close working relationship, enabling him to ensure high welfare standards

In this March issue we visit Trevalgan Farm, home to St Ives Beef that produces free-range beef, all of which is a locally-reared

Home-grown and Happy

Lesley Double visits St Ives Beef, a farm that produces free-range beef that is born and raised within four miles of St Ives

Although St Ives Beef was only established in 2007, it has already won over a legion of fans. Based at Trevalgan Farm, two miles from St Ives, on the beautiful and rugged north Cornish coast, the farm and business are run by Russell Osborne. Russell and his family are the third generation of Osbornes to farm this land. "I would come out on the farm with my grandfather when I was a boy and I always wanted to be a farmer," explains Russell. "After studying at college, I returned to Trevalgan. My father, Melville, gave me more and more responsibility, while gradually winding down to retirement, and then a couple of years ago he handed

over the reins."

Realising that today people care about what they eat - healthy food that is grown or reared locally - Russell decided to turn his farming expertise into building up a business that would produce the best beef in the area. Trevalgan is home to anywhere between 50 and 80 animals, all of which are free-range and have been born and raised within four miles of the farm.

"The cattle here at the moment were born at Wicca, about a mile away as the crow flies," says Russell. "They stayed with their mother until they were eight months old. When they first came here we had to keep them penned in a barn and small yard for a while until they were used to their new home. If they had been out in a field with the others they would have become confused and called for their mothers. As Wicca is so close it could have caused a stampede from one farm to another, and we certainly didn't want that!"

Once allowed outside, the animals are free to graze the fields all year round, with shelter whenever they choose. Their diet consists not just of the lush pastures found in Trevalgan's fields, but also home-grown silage and root crops. "We don't believe in routine vaccinations or force-feeding of concentrates to promote speedy growth," says Russell. "Our cattle grow at their own pace." At the end of their life, when they are between 18 and 24 months old, the cattle are taken to Trevarthen's at Stithians for slaughter. The beef is then hung for 21 days. "Large companies and supermarkets can't wait that long," says Russell. "This means that when their beef is cooked, it will usually shrink. Because our beef is hung for three weeks, the weight has already been lost and so there is very little shrinkage during cooking."

The beef is prepared into many different cuts: steaks of all kinds, joints such as topside, silverside and brisket, chuck, braising and shin, burgers and mince. Russell is happy for customers to come to Trevalgan and collect their own meat by appointment, or he can deliver it locally, as well as nationwide.

In 2008, Russell began taking the beef to various farmers' markets and shows. This produced mixed results. "Some days I would spend hours at my stall, selling very little. I had to become an expert on farming and butchery and had to educate people on how to cook and serve the meat, and even then they wouldn't always buy it," he says. "Many people think that farmers' markets should sell their produce cheaper than that from a supermarket, but it doesn't work like that. Farmers' market produce has environmental benefits as it travels fewer food miles than supermarket food. Our beef has health benefits: it is four to six times lower in fat than grain-fed cattle and contains a powerful anti-oxidant from the beta-carotene which comes from the plants they eat."

This year, Russell aims to concentrate more on advertising and trade. Local restaurants and hotels may soon be clamouring for delicious St Ives Beef, as their patrons demand healthier food from happier animals. Russell is proud that he can identify all of his animals at a glance. "How can large farms with thousands of animals do that?" he asks.

Unusually for a beef farmer, Russell is keen to talk to vegetarians, not necessarily to change their eating habits, but their views. "Many people have become vegetarians because of welfare issues," he says. He invites them to the farm to see why his animals are so content. "Cattle are important to the countryside," Russell continues. "If they weren't there, it would soon be covered with gorse and bracken. I'm passionate about the environment - Trevalgan is in an environmentally sensitive area and an SSSI - and I try to keep my hedging mended and footpaths clear." There is a public footpath through the farm and Russell invites visitors to walk the Trevalgan Trail, a 40-minute walk around the farm, when they come to collect their order.

Currently, Russell is working on the farm, out and about selling the produce and helping look after four holiday cottages, sometimes from early morning to late at night, seven days a week. This gives him little time to spend with his family: wife Melanie and two children Gabbi (6) and Josh (4). "But it's worth all the hard work to see the fantastic product we have here," Russell concludes. "I fervently believe that our beef is the best in the area!"

For further information contact St Ives Beef, (01736 796529, www.stivesbeef.co.uk

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