If you buy meat from Justin Hammond he can not only tell you exactly where it is from, but what breed it was.
For the pork and lamb on his Culford Flock stall on Bury St Edmunds Market, in The Traverse next to Smith’s Row art gallery, is reared by himself and the pork is from Suffolk.
And it would be difficult to find feer range cattle and sheep because his animals are used for conservation grazing on higher level stewardship land and sites of special scientific interest, including owned Suffolk Wildlife Trust, RSPB and Natural England reserves.
You see his Jacob sheep beside the A1101 on SWT’s Lackford Lakes reserve. Justin explains that cattle and sheep grazing the land control scrub and create the sort of grassland that suits wildlife.
That also means the animals eat a wider mixture of plants than those on ‘improved’ grassland or being fed concentrated feeds in a barn.
But it is also important Justin, whose flock is named after his seven-year-old son Culford, has animals able to handle the type of grazing and being out all the time.
All his lamb comes from the distinctive horned, brown and white Jacob sheep or Jacob crosses, while the beef is from highland, Hereford belted Galoway or English longhorn cows crossed with his Aberdeen Angus bull.
Bury born Justin tried a number of jobs and went to work on a farm on the strength of having kept livestock since he was about Culford’s age, then he decided to go it alone. One reason he started with highlands and Jacobs was cost, but it was an advantage.
“You’ve got to have finance and the banks wouldn’t back me,” he said. “If I buy a cow for, say, £1,000, a highland would cost about £400 or £450, but they also suit the ground.
“But a highland isn’t a big enough carcase, it isn’t profitable enough unless you cross it with an Angus. But if you decide to keep any of the cross cows or heffers, they’ve still got the hardiness of the mother, though without the horns.”
He points out that the grass-reared animals have less fat, especially the Jacobs. The Jacob leg steak I tried had much more flavour than any supermarket equivalent.
Justin said. “It’s lower in fat, it’s more healthy.”
A Jacob chop only has about 5mm of fat on the edge, which he says goes crispy.
Justin and his wife Kim are on Bury Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, as well as the farmers markets at Risby, Rickinghall, Wickhambrook, long Melford and Lopham.
For more information see www.theculfordflock.co.uk