Five years ago, the Rowe family purchased Homestead Farm, near Dover, Kent, with a plan to start a small beef cattle herd. They had visions of producing delicious, slow grown, grass fed beef, therefore they knew they needed to choose a native breed of cattle and ideally a rare breed that they could help protect. There are quite a few rare breed, native cattle to choose from, some you may have heard of such as the Native Aberdeen Angus, and unfortunately some are less common and virtually extinct such as the Vaynol or Chillingham Wild Cattle. In the end it was Shetland Cattle that became their breed of choice, due to their engrained hardiness from living in the harsh environment of the Shetland Isles and their ability to thrive on pasture alone. There are very few Shetland Cattle herds left in the UK and Homestead Farm is one of only two herds registered with the Shetland Cattle Breeders Association in the South East of England.
The farm itself was soon too small for the growing herd and the family decided to invest in additional land around Dover. They also approached the National Trust to use the Homestead herd for seasonal conservation grazing on the White Cliffs of Dover, at Samphire Hoe and on the land next to Shakespeare’s Cliff. Shetland Cattle are ideal for conservation grazing due to their large feet and light frame and the land offers the herd a rich and varied diet, which further improves the life of the animals and the flavour of the beef.
The family’s plan to produce slow grown, grass fed beef started to come together, though as it takes three years for the cattle to be ready for the abattoir, it was never going to be a quick process getting their beef ready to sell to the public. But boy is the beef worth the wait! Allowing the animals to grow naturally gives the beef time to develop a rich flavour and an incomparable tenderness. Due to the animals also being fed a natural diet of grass, hay and meadow plants; the meat is also full of antioxidants, vitamins and ‘good fats’.
In August 2018 after many years of planning, the family were finally ready to share their grass-fed, rare breed beef with the rest of the country and they launched their nationwide slow grown beef box delivery service from their website www.homestead.farm. They wanted their beef to be easy to buy and affordable therefore they price match local supermarkets and offer free home delivery within a 20 mile radius of the farm. There is a courier option for those outside of this area and the option to purchase the meat at local farmer’s markets and one-off food festivals too.
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