Meat with a sense of place
- Briony Cullin
- 27 September 2018
The Carmichael Estate in South Lanarkshire regards its venison, beef and lamb like a single malt whisky
Located between Lanark and Bigger, Carmichael Estate is one of Scotland's oldest family farming businesses, with roots going back more than eight centuries. Assistant manager Andrew Carmichael explains the ethos which drives the estate's work: 'Our point of difference is producing "single malt" meats like venison, beef and lamb. By "single malt," we mean that all animals are born, reared, fattened, finished, slaughtered, butchered and packaged on the farm, ensuring the meat is truly traceable.'
The land at Carmichael is a mix of woodlands, hill farm and grazing pasture. This diversity lends itself to being able to grow crops needed to feed the animals, like barley, lupin (as a protein) and grass. 'This means we can – as far as possible – use our own home-grown feed,' says Andrew, 'so we know exactly what has gone into the grain process, without buying in compound feed from around the world. This also helps keep our carbon footprint low.'
Rearing animals to provide the best quality product possible is a key focus: 'We have a good, healthy herd of deer, cattle and sheep. We don't buy in lots of livestock,' explains Andrew. 'We have a nice progeny to our produce which comes from good animal husbandry and welfare on the land. We do this across deer, Texel lamb and Limousin beef."
At Carmichael, red deer were introduced to the farm in 1983 and their Scottish venison is now multi award-winning. They also use farming breeds which are particularly suited to the landscape, like Limousin beef who love rolling grass.
Animal welfare is paramount and this extends right through to the slaughtering process, where most of the farm's animals - except for cattle due to their size - are taken to what is possibly the smallest abattoir in the UK, located on the farm itself. 'This means they don't have to travel and reduces the stress to the animals,' says Andrew. 'The other benefit is that the farmers involved in the growing process are also involved in the restraining process. They're the people the animals know, which means the animals are less stressed.
He has no doubt that stress can affect the meat, 'so we make sure the process is as humane as possible. There's no doubt that on-farm slaughter reduces stress to the animal and increases the quality of the taste of the meat.'
Carmichael Estate sell their meat online as well as at farmers markets – they're regulars at Castle Terrace in Edinburgh, Partick in Glasgow and Haddington in East Lothian – and through their own farm shop and tearoom, where they also offer a range of local products like jams and chutneys, beers, wines, ice-cream, ready-meals and cheeses.
In all these ventures, the single-estate approach remains at the heart of their thinking. 'If you value a wine from a French vineyard or a single-malt whisky, then why don't you value a meat product which comes from a single source,' asks Andrew, 'where all the inputs are grown on site and where the animal begins and ends its life on the farm?'