Native sheep breed enthusiasts Sue Tyson and her daughter Rachel Willan, based near Keswick, are among the founding members of a new initiative to increase consumer awareness of the provenance of the food they eat.
The Food & Fleece: British Native & Traditional Produce Collective aims to link customers with producers of high quality food and fibre products with the unique qualities of Britain’s breeds of sheep, cattle, pigs, goats and poultry.
The dedicated collective of breeders of a variety of registered pedigree native British stock are located across the UK, and their energy and enthusiasm ensures high standards within the breeding herds and flocks they keep, while championing seasonal food and unique crafting materials.
Sue and Rachel keep pedigree Shetland, Teeswater, Clun Forest and Kerry Hill, Jacob and Coloured Ryeland sheep in their Derwent flock – producing both wool and meat products – and are delighted to be part of the new initiative.
According to Rachel, all members of the collective follow a simple but meaningful code of practice, with the primary requirement being that they strive for the
highest possible standard of animal welfare.
She said: “As the overarching aim of the project is to drive forward standards in all native British breeds and celebrate local produce, all the producers are registered members of their relevant breed societies.
“This ensures that all produce, food or fibre is either produced from registered stock or their direct descendants, guaranteeing the provenance and providing full traceability.
“The final part of the agreement ensures that all producers comply with the relevant environmental health requirements for their business and, if producing meat products, only use registered and approved abattoirs and butchers.”
The collective represents more than 30 native breeds of sheep and they are expanding the number of cattle, pig, goat and poultry producers on board.
Rachel says the collective is attractive to producers because there are no middle men involved – the project is run by a team of volunteers, with all members contributing a nominal amount to cover the cost of hosting the website directory.
All the produce is sold direct by the people who grew, reared and processed it, so customers can talk directly to them and ask questions.
She said: “Real wool, grown on our native British breeds, is one of the most sustainable fibres available and is incredibly versatile.
“Thanks to its many qualities, it can be used to create a range of products. Crafters and artists can search for local flocks to visit and have their pick of the best raw fleeces available while admiring the sheep which grew them.
“Some of the producers, who are preserving heritage skills, also offer processed fibre and hand-made items such as soft furnishings.”
She added: “Supporting the Food & Fleece: British Native & Traditional Produce Collective connects communities with iconic British farming traditions, protects the diversity of British native and traditional livestock, subsequently adding value to the local economy while also enriching rural communities and protecting the environment and surrounding landscape.”
More information is available at at www.britishnativefoodandfleece.com