It’s Red Tractor Week and so our minds are focused on what it means to eat British and buy British in 2016.
At Red Stag Media, we are all about good food – one look at our physiques will tell you that – and as we specialise in providing digital marketing, PR and communications services to food, farming and countryside-related businesses, it is in our interests for British agriculture to be as diverse and buoyant as possible.
British produce has moved on leaps and bounds from when I was young, when staples were steak, chicken, sausages and mash and occasionally fish and chips on Fridays if we were lucky. Spaghetti Bolognese was a rare and exotic treat that only came about when mother was feeling Continental. Pizza and curry were practically unheard of and, besides, would never have passed the meat and two veg test which every evening meal was subject to.
But British produce has had to move on because of the huge change in the tastes of the British public. Foreign travel, immigration and a glut of TV chefs, cooking programmes and cook books woke our palates up to what lay beyond our seas.
So what does British produce look like in 2016? What does Britain produce now that it didn’t when I was growing up? We know we produce some of the best, if not the best, meat and animal products in the world, and to the highest welfare standards. And we grow acres and acres of cereals and fruit and veg. But this has been the case for years. With the ever-changing tastes of the British public, what are we now doing with those wonderful raw ingredients? How have the flavours of the world come back to the UK to be reinterpreted by those working in food production now?
A look around our native county – Yorkshire – reveals that there are all manner of artisan producers creating fantastic food from entirely British ingredients.
Chorizo, for example. Who would have thought you would get Chorizo that was made in Yorkshire from British Pork? Well you can, via Yorkshire Chorizo. You can add salami into the mix at Three Little Pigs and at Paganum Produce. The latter even farms their own pork and lamb near Skipton and source local beef, and even do a Yorkshire Charcuterie range.
Kippers have been a breakfast staple of Yorkshire folk for generations, especially for those who live close to the county’s miles and miles of coastline. Whitby is famous for them. But other producers have moved on and now smoking is a popular way of preserving and flavouring meat and fish. A prime example is the Staal Smokehouse near Beverley, where smoked chicken and duck sit next to a range of different smoked fish. They even do a smoked rapeseed oil, which I’m keen to try.
The county abounds with cheese makers too, and not just our traditional Wensleydale, as delicious as that is. Yorkshire Brie is now being produced in Huddersfield, Yorkshire Gouda near Settle. Blue cheeses and a feta-style are being made in Harrogate, and a goat’s cheese near Hull.
Of course, we’re well stocked for drinks as well, having some of the best real ale breweries and micro-breweries in the UK, producing world class beer, such as the award winning Great Newsome Brewery.
But it doesn’t stop there. Yorkshire now has several commercial vineyards, including the UK’s most northern, as well as Little Wold Vineyard which is located just a couple of miles from Red Stag HQ. We produce gins in a vast array of flavours and colours and there has long been talk of a whiskey distillery being set up to create Yorkshire’s very own water of life. I do hope this comes to pass.
We probably make non-alcoholic drinks too, but Yorkshire Tea aside, and I’m not sure the raw materials are grown in the county, I’m not so interested in those!
When I started writing I wasn’t intending on restricting this post solely to Yorkshire producers, but there just happened to be so many of them that to look at other areas of the UK would require a book, rather than a blog post. This is fantastic news. It means that British producers are an innovative and diverse bunch working in a thriving industry. To buy British is no longer to restrict yourself to a few well-known staples, but to discover a huge opportunity to eat well, eat fresh and even to reduce your carbon footprint.
So to celebrate Red Tractor Week, why not check out your artisan local producers? You might be surprised to discover who is on your doorstep, and at the same time find new and tasty ways to support British farming.