We visited farmer John Vanstone, of North Eastcott Farm, Cornwall, to find out about his role in supplying beef to Tesco and how he works with us.
How do people know British beef is good quality?
British farmers are especially stringent about the way their beef is produced. Our animals are reared naturally with their mothers and are given more time to mature, and this gives the meat a superior flavour. We produce food for the animals to eat, particularly here in the West Country, and all the beef that we supply to Tesco is of excellent quality.
You’re an organic farmer. What does that involve?
This means we don’t use any chemicals in the fertiliser or sprays on North Eastcott Farm, and all our cattle are fed on organic grains. I started out on the farm with my wife, Jenny, over 20 years ago with a few sheep. We’ve grown it to 200 acres of organic farmland. Farmers today tend to be more specialised in the way they farm. We switched to organic farming about seven years ago.
How do you make sure your animals are well treated?
We have a number of breeds here, including Hereford, and we do everything we can to make sure the cows are well cared for. Our calves will stay with their mothers for seven months before they’re brought indoors for the winter, where they have straw bedding and are fed on silage and hay. Once it starts to get warmer, in the spring, we put them out to graze on the grass again and then they’ll leave the farm in the autumn of their second year.
What specific products do you supply?
Our cattle will go to make everything for Tesco, from the best-quality sirloin steaks for a special occasion to beef mince for family favourites.
How long is Tesco beef matured for?
Tesco now ages its own-brand British beef steaks and joints for a minimum of 21 days, and 28 days for Finest*. This helps to give it a fuller flavour, and produces succulent and juicy meat.
Does the weather affect your farming methods?
We try to keep the whole process as natural and organic as possible. If the weather’s right, we like to bring the cattle out to the fields rather than having them all together in a shed – this reduces disease and it’s better for mothers and their young. We’re located on the Atlantic coast, so we can have over 1.5m of rain annually. The wet weather means we’re in a fantastic grass-producing area and that’s just perfect for a cattle farm. But whatever the weather, I’ll be off regularly on my quad bike all over the farm to check on the animals.
When is your busiest time of year?
Farming can be a 24-hour-a-day job. When it’s time for calving, for eight or nine weeks from around the end of March, I just have to catch a few hours’ sleep when I can. I could have up to 65 cows giving birth at that time.