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Pastoral farming for climate friendly beef

Recent years have seen a growing scepticism towards eating meat, fuelled by knowledge of the environmental impact of intensive livestock farming. This has led to a shift towards vegetarianism and veganism in the population, and even proposals to eliminate meat from our diets. However, we at Newmiln believe that meat can be produced in an environmentally-friendly way, and have sought to promote our pastoral farming practice as a way forward for livestock farming. 

This is seen in their effect on a farm's insect diversity: the fields of white clover created for our cattle are a bonanza for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, while cowpats draw in dung beetles. The latter then help recycle bacteria into the soil, reducing the risk of infection in our animals. We also create herbal leys for our grazing animals, with plants such as comfrey, yellow trefoil, plantain and chickory. These in turn improve the grazers' health, by stabilising the bacteria in the rumen and killing parasites.

But perhaps the most important advantage pastoral farming offers is its remarkable ability to store carbon. By creating areas of natural grasses and wildflowers, grazing livestock help stabilise the soil, reducing carbon escaping, and encourages the growth of plants that absorb greenhouse gases. The aforementioned white clover, for example, has remarkable nitrogen-fixing properties. The newly fertile soils also support soil biology including earthworms, fungi, protozoa and bacteria, which themselves aid carbon retention by breaking down dead plants and recycling them into the soil.

Here the importance of livestock to augment carbon retention in soils should be stressed. Carbon storage is maximised with a medium height and a wider diversity of grasses, both of which are maintained by the low-intensity grazing system we use on our land. In turn, this range of grasses contain fumaric acid which when eaten by ruminants reduces their methane emissions. This is a habitat that is engineered to preserve carbon in its soils.

The current "eating meat is bad for the planet" advice is based on cattle rearing systems that are heavily reliant on corn, soya and grain based inputs in intensive rearing systems. These also have the impact of lowering a animals pH in their rumen, leading to a range of nasty consequences for that animal which include low dose antibiotics becoming routinely fed to cattle, which has its own set of problems, including its contribution to antibiotic resistance.

Cattle and sheep evolved to eat grass, and thrive on it. Lets let them eat it. Common sense here equals climate sense, and also farming sense, especially in this part of Scotland, where rain is relatively plentiful. Yes the meat from animals reared this way does cost more, but that is without putting a monetary value on the environmental and animal welfare costs associated with meat produced in an intensive way. If we were able to do that we may be surprised at the result. 


I'm writing again on a chicken theme largely in response to the Guardian investigation into the production practices at the 2 Sisters Food group (2SFG) in the midlands. Apart from its findings I am genuinely interested into how poultry is processed on such a large scale. 

I have found myself reading some of the articles and wondering why the journalist writing it is so horrified about the slaughter and processing of chickens and how physical the work is. I'm not quite sure what they expected, and I felt that their disgust for the process was shaming for the people who work on the chicken production line. We do that work on a small scale on our own farm. Slaughtering (humanely) and gutting a chicken so it is safe to eat is a dirty, smelly, bloody job. It's physical, repetitive work, like most work within food production and catering, and you have to do it quickly and efficiently or you become overwhelmed by it. No one in our business does it for longer than one morning a week. 

But it is meaningful work and that work, albeit hard, has a dignity. That dignity comes from the job completed, orders fulfilled, a customer who likes the product and says it tastes nice, a field of chickens outside on a summers evening doing what they are supposed to do, members of staff employed in a proper legal structure, and importantly, treated with respect for the work done. If you devalue the end product so that its cheapness is the only valuable outcome you remove that dignity from the process and that is shaming for the people involved.

Once something is cheap, or worse still perceived as cheap, we value it much less and it becomes easy to abuse or even discard that product, and the processes, that have gone into making it. I am not under any illusions, very few people choose to do this work, and so then valuing their effort becomes even more important. Without it we would not have anything like the food choices on offer to us on a daily basis.

Organic Chicken - FAQs

Over the years I have noticed that the same questions about organic chicken crop up regularly when chatting to customers, so we wondered if a quick fact sheet may help. Apologies to those of you who know this stuff, here goes.

1. Does organic mean free range? Organic includes “free range” within its standards. On our organic farm our birds have to be allowed access to the outdoors for more than 70% of their lifespan.
2. Why don't they go outside from day 1? 
When they are chicks they are covered in down, and we cannot let them outside – they would die of cold. They take 3-4 weeks to grow their feathers to protect them. Then we can move them to the field sheds where we can let them out every day

How long do you keep your birds for? We keep our birds for a minimum of 70 days, that’s nearly twice as long as a standard supermarket chicken (35 -42 days).

How many birds are in your sheds? We have to keep our birds in small (approx 400) flock sizes with plenty of room to move around. This allows the birds to establish a pecking order and form social groups.

You don't feed your chickens antibiotics do you? We do not use routine antibiotics on our chickens. In 11 years we have used antibiotics once for sick birds and only on the advice of a vet. So that’s 110 000 (minus 450) organic chickens reared on our farm with NO antibiotics in 11 years.

Do these chickens lay eggs?
We use different breeds of birds for laying hens and chickens for eating. You could think of them as dairy cows and meat breed cattle.

best broiler

The laying hen is the dairy cow and is bred for laying eggs. She gives you a 55g egg every day.

Where do you process your chickens?

We process our chickens on the farm by people who are correctly trained and licensed, and are paid wages as set by the Agricultural Wages board.

You don't inject your chicken with water or anything?

We do everything by hand and we do not add ANYTHING to our chicken meat before sale. So no chicken injected with any kind of saline solution to make it plumper

roastchickWhat is a Chicken Oyster?

The Oysters come from either side of the backbone at the very top of the leg. They are SUPER TASTY as they are brown meat.


Where to find us?

  • Edinburgh Farmers Market, every Saturday 9-2pm Castle Terrace
  • Online for an overnight courier delivery.
  • At our farm egg honesty shop There's a freezer chicken sale on just now. Call 01738 730201 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. us to place an order for fresh or frozen produce.

    Where to find us?

Keeping our chickens in: The Consequences

Happy New Year to you all and welcome to 2017. As you may all be aware, since December 6th all free range and organic poultry producers have been instructed to keep their birds indoors. We have now had a further instruction to keep our birds in until the end of Feb 2017. 

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Grass Fed Meat: Why bother?

I know I always say this, but in Scotland we are blessed, we have a mild climate with plenty of rain, and so we can grow any food that we need. As organic farmers though, our major crop is grass. Growing grass is a mild obsession, as grass, or more precisely clover grasses, are the cornerstone of everything we do here. What's less well known, is quite how many environmental and health benefits grass growing can deliver.

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Autumn 2016

Although its warm out there this week Autumn is definitely here. We have apples on the trees and our new season glut of lamb. Tender, sweet and mild tasting, the lambs have been out all summer on grass and have never known the hardship that winter brings. That winter changes their flavour. I love that change in taste, but I know not everyone does so if you fancy some milder tasting lamb September is the time. Go for it.

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Christmas 2016: Beef, Lamb, Pork, Chickens, Turkey & Trimmings

Bespoke Butchery at the Farm

  • Call us 01738 730201 m: 07841 623608
  • email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • order online
  • Edinburgh Farmers Market every Saturday 9-2pm
  • Perth Farmers Market 9-2pm SATURDAY 3rd and 17th December
Where do I pick it up?
  • The Butchery at our FARM: Fri 23rd December 8-5pm
  • Edinburgh Farmers Market SAT 24th Christmas EVE December 9-2PM
  • Last overnight courier delivery Wednesday December 7thto arrive Thursday 8th

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