Conserving rare breed farm animals
Pheasants’ Hill Farm specialises in rearing and also supplying the old, and now rare, breeds of farm livestock – Dexter, Irish Moiled and Beef Shorthorn cattle, Southdown and Hebridean sheep, Tamworth and Gloucester Old Spots pigs and Dorking hens.
The beef we sell is Dexter or Irish Moiled, both originally native Irish breeds. All produce marbled beef. Before the advent of industrialised farming, farmers primarily produced meat for their own family’s and their neighbour’s consumption. What was valued in the breed was good eating and flavour, rather than profitability and yield as it is today. So the old Irish and British livestock breeds were developed selectively over centuries by our farming ancestors to improve their flavour. The breeds that were most prized were those that tasted best, rather than those that yielded the most meat, as is the case in modern farming. This historical process of breed improvement for flavour was a balance between old fashioned husbandry, and the advances of science.
Since World War 2, however, this balance has been destroyed. Achieving the highest yield for the lowest cost with the least effort in the quickest time has become the sole preoccupation of most modern livestock production. The old fashioned rare breeds of farm animals that we rear on our farm and sell in our shop are not cheap to produce, nor are they particularly efficient. They take time to grow and mature at their own pace in the open air, and cannot be hurried or forced, but the depth of flavour of the meat of each individual breed, like their appearance, is unique.