On the farm with Quality Meat Scotland: Hardiesmill Place

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen in association with Quality Meat Scotland, caught up with the owner of Hardiesmill Place, Robin Tuke to find out more about the farmer/chef relationship, how any one part of the supply chain can have an overall effect on the quality of beef and the importance of working with farm assured suppliers.

Hardiesmill Place is a privately run farm in the Scottish Borders, owned by husband and wife, Robin and Alison Tuke. The 482 acre farm is part of Hardiesmill Aberdeen Angus, a Scotch Quality Assured privately owned company with five farms specialising in the production of beef.

bloggers1The farm is home to around 250 Pedigree Aberdeen Angus cattle which are split between winter and spring calvers. To ensure their customers receive the best possible eating experience, Robin and his team like to meet all of their prospective clients, even before planning conception, to make sure they share the same ethos which is quite simply, teamwork.

He said: “We will only work with recognised people, we like to meet all of the people we work with as we say this is team work.” He continued: “Before we even work with anyone we get them down on the farm and we will normally have a good two meetings to see how it all goes and if everybody gets on well with each other, which is unusual if foodies don’t get on well with each other, and then we’ll go forward.”

From planning conception right through to the end user tasting the beef, Robin believes each stage of the process is responsible for the quality and end result of the beef.

He said: “From planning conception to the moment it's swallowed, we've found that no one part of the supply chain can make great beef, but any one part can ruin it!” He continued: “If the haulier slams on his breaks and the animal gets hit too hard it will get bruised, if we screw up the feed it we will change the flavour and consistency, if the chef over cooks it it goes wrong, but if we all work as a team we will produce well breeding beef.” quote

Robin continues to discuss the relationship between farmer and chef in more detail expanding on the importance of building a strong rapport with his customers to achieve maximum results.

Robin said: “You have to have a close working relationship with the chef and you get two huge benefits out of that. One – is that everyone is singing off the same hymn sheet and two – if they know where the beef comes from then the farm know what the chef is looking for and you get better feedback.”

He added: “We have a view here that if you don’t work well with the chef then we don’t work at all.” This goes for everyone in the supply chain explaining that by having a good relationship with his customers Robin finds they will usually form a longstanding relationship working with each other for years to come.

He said: “As a result of that we tend to find that our relationships with the chefs last for a good few years. It’s the same for the whole supply chain, we work with everybody.”

Once a chef becomes a customer, Robin and Alison like to organise visits to the farm for a mix of chefs and front of house. This doesn’t just help to improve their understanding of how the farm works and the distinct differences between what can be found in the supermarket to what’s hanging up in the abattoir but it also helps strengthen their relationship.

Robin said: “You’re giving them an insight and taking them around to show them how the feeding affects the flavour, how you can look for consistency if anyone asks, what’s the difference between black angus so they know the difference from getting it in Tesco from the stuff hanging off of us.”

The visitors also get to meet the cattle in the flesh and learn what is meant by the term ‘happy cattle’ and how this can greatly affect the quality of the meat.

He said: “They go down and meet the cattle and find out what we mean by ‘happy cattle’ which is one of the most critical things for the entire farming experience. If you don’t have happy cattle they get stressed, they will burn off, be too lean for hanging and the meat will be tough so you have to have happy cattle.”

He continued: “So when they meet the cattle they can visualise what we mean when the customers ask for it so they can answer their queries properly. From their point of view they get to learn about those things and we enjoy having them. It also strengthens our relationship.” cow1

The cattle are kept on a grass and grass-silage diet which produces a distinct flavour. This flavour stems from how the cattle feed and has given the farm what they and their customers consider to be the ‘top end’ of the eating experience.

“The flavour and the flavour we like for our beef is from grass fed because it swings it from the front of the tongue to the back of the teeth and the cheeks and it sits with longevity for about 10 minutes on the teeth which changes the texture slightly. We found it gives us the eating experience that we want which is at the top end.”

Robin discusses the benefits of working with the Scotch Beef PGI scheme and the importance of working with suppliers that are also Scotch Beef approved.

He explains: “Working with Scotch Beef we know that every person in that supply chain is sufficiently passionate about what they do to pay for the privilege of undergoing a major inspection. It means that they're going to care about doing their bit right!”

By Michael Parker

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 7th April 2016

On the farm with Quality Meat Scotland: Hardiesmill Place