Caldecott's Cotswold White Chickens

Free Range For More Gains


Hands up all of you who only ever purchase free range eggs? Would you even dare to go up to the farm shop till or supermarket checkout with anything other than free range, for fear of being labelled as someone who does not care about the plight of the chicken so ably highlighted by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and others?


If I asked that question in a room of over 100 or even 1000 people I would say 90% or higher would say yes to free range eggs.


Same question except this time, free range chicken. How many of you always make sure the chicken is free range before you order, or purchase? How many of you check it is English poultry?

In the same size room I would guess the figure might be closer to 20%.


Why is there this huge disconnect between welfare friendly eggs and welfare friendly chickens? Yes I understand that the time and therefore cost of producing an egg will be much less than that to produce a chicken of 56 days plus, versus 35 days of a non free range chicken. I understand that the average difference between a whole chicken and whole free range chicken is approximately £4.50 per kilo. However, ethically, philosophically it jars with me; are we only ethically aligned in our purchases if the price fits?


We invited our retail clients to do tests on the yield on our English free range chicken and see how many meals they can get out of it – after all, the only real price consideration is cost per portion? With a higher yield, better flavour and utilising the whole carcass, a family of 4 can enjoy a roast dinner on a Sunday, 6 good portions of Chicken soup and enough chicken for 2 chicken salads through the week. So with one chicken, costing let’s say £11 from a local butcher or £6 from a supermarket you can create at least 12 meals for £1.00 per meal per meat portion or 52 pence – that seems very reasonable for one of the most nutritious and healthy foods you can eat. Maybe we should stop comparing it to the cheap imported chicken that sits side by side on supermarket shelves and maybe we should educate more on how to utilise the whole chicken carcass, using not abusing these great free range animals. There is no waste, lots of good food so all the sustainable arguments are ticked as well.


It’s also a great exponent for the saying… Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. – Hippocates


Now, can I ask that question again please? I hope there are a few more hands.


More details about our wonderful Free Range Poultry Farmer, can be found  here


Aubrey Allen English Bacon

The English Bacon Sandwich is almost as rarely glimpsed as a dodo riding a unicorn on a visit to see the Lochness monster.

Bacon, the iconic landmark on an English breakfast. A celebration in a patriotic proud manner of all that England stands for. Implied, is that we can achieve anything, face the challenges of Brexit, the slowing of followers on social media, the discontinuance of our favourite Netflix show,  as long as we have a British bacon sandwich to hand. It’s the thing that made hangovers worth having. But saying that we are enjoying British Bacon in the morning reminds me of the genius sketch in Blackadder goes forth where Captain Darling says he is as English as the Queen… and is then lambasted for his German connections.

With the African swine flu now threatening numbers and prompting price inflation this could never be more topical. China has increased its imported pork by 250% to cover the deficit. With the swine flu now in Eastern Europe, it makes you glad we are an Island.

All we hear about is the importance of sustainable sourcing; buy British we are urged! Demands for British beef and lamb. What about pork? Our market is flooded with inferior, poorly produced, highly processed cheap Dutch and German products which skews entirely the English artisan market and makes it appear expensive – but we are not comparing apples with apples, not at all. Nor are we looking at the end product and the amount of water loss in cooking not to mention the utter disappointment on flavour. The imported counterparts are pumped full of chemicals, water (more than half of all bacon is imported and the figure could be higher as the bacon is processed here but is foreign pork).  They use cheap old Boar pigs which produce wide flat eye of bacon, darker in colour and with very little fat on. These are mass produced in a commodities market in large tumblers with high levels of water and polyphosphates to encourage water retention. It is tumbled with iced-water which encourages again high water retention. They then freeze the product fully before slicing. What is worse, is so many people who care about buying British only do so to a point or are at times misled into believing they are purchasing a British product.  If we could get together to support English bacon and let the consumer know the difference then we can all charge more, give back more to our English farmers and give our guests a bacon that is welfare friendly, better for the planet and with a nutritionally higher value.

We started curing our own bacon last year simply because finding good English bacon is almost impossible on the scale that we require. We now have fully traceable, deliciously succulent bacon that is truly English. To find out more click here


Aubrey Allen Burger

It’s the Year 2084; Science fiction becomes science.

2 July 2084

A family drive in their electric car, down the old Banbury road that weaves mysteriously between acres and acres of hydroponic laboratory facilities, the solar panel roofs glistening in the sunlight as the masses of greenhouses provide an obscure and obscured view. Children jostling to see if it’s petri dish burgers or silicone slime sausages to get their point on the car journey home.

Everyone knows exactly where their burgers come from as they are owned by Glaxo Smith Kline Tesco, or some such agglomeration. Each burger is prepared in a mechanical and methodical way by machines; a cheap and inexpensive way to serve a growing and dispassionate population. Each burger packed with the proteins and vitamins needed for a day and no variance in flavour worldwide. Everything is controlled. The only indication of the largest live cattle market in the world is a small sign as you enter Banbury “ Old Cattle Market “ which starts the children off again with questions “did you ever see a cow in a field mummy when you were little? “

Wistfully imagined perhaps. How has this even started to happen? I cast my mind back to 2012 and the horsegate scandal where the meat industry was shaken and people became mistrustful of the poor old cow who has sustained our nation for generations. A scandal brought about not so much by the farmers and producers so much as that constant race for cheapness that we allow the supermarkets to dictate. Instead of working together to promote the best meat in the world and to encourage responsible meat eating, we allow the public to believe this utter rubbish that it is possible to get good quality nutritional food at supermarket sweepings prices.

We continue to be so far behind so many countries in the world, such as the U.S and New Zealand who have a fantastic eating quality system for their meat meaning that people know exactly what they are eating – be it USDA prime at 80 U.S dollars for a steak or entry level lesser quality cattle at 30 U.S dollars.

If we allow the chemists not the cows to produce some burgers and put these on our shelves for 50% less than its bovine friend, where will this end? Can we have a consolidated and brave approach please as a wider industry as concerned with preserving our fields of cattle and sheep as promoting a sustainable future for our industry and our landscapes.

Yes there have been some shameful scandals and is it unsurprising some people are turning from meat and giving veganism a go. But we have got some incredible producers, some wonderful meaningful stories of heritage as well as a truly natural product that nourishes a nation. The farming industry may not be so easy to control as petri dishes in labs, but if we roll over and let them control our food, what next?

If we move towards a meat free burger but continue to eat meat, this will lead to an astonishing 30% of the carcase going to waste – a needless rearing of a wonderful beast for at least 30% to be thrown away (we already in the meat industry face a crisis with billions of pounds of meat either not used or exported).

Visit our burger room and understand how we build trust with our clients and consumers through using a natural product with scientific evidence on consistency and sustainability.

Why we don't surrender to tender

That just about sums up how I feel about tenders. The excitement mounts as the deliciously attractive headline figures reach your inbox promising a wonderful partnership with a multi-site national brand looking for someone who understands provenance and consistency.

It sounds good doesn’t it? The buzz around a sales office as figures are banded about.

You sign into the tender documents which reach over 10 different attachments each with in excess of 40 discrete sections needing varying input from accounts, to quality assurance, purchasing, sales and directors.

They want to delve into your company and your relationships with other people deeper than a journalist digs dirt on a dodgy politician. Still, you continue to read, lured by the continued promises of quality and consistency and partnership.

You click on the product list … 90 percent of the time you are met with an unwieldy spreadsheet into which a simple cut and paste is impossible with 15 columns to complete, all with the unfamiliar packaging specification of the incumbent supplier meaning that you need to translate your own prices into 5 x this or that.

Then you search, desperately at times for a column telling you what the specification is – where does it come from? Country of Origin? Classification meat chart giving us some indication of age of animal at slaughter or hint at quality? It isn’t there.

This can’t be right? The documents before that drew you in were adamant that quality was key. You work your way through the reams of electronic paper to find, if you are lucky, a tender weighting: 60% is on price.

You pick up the phone and this is how it goes:

Supplier – “Hello, we would love to understand more of what you do and what you are looking for in a key supplier – could we meet please to see if we think we can work together“

Tender person – “We really are too busy at this stage gathering information so if you can just put it together (oh yes I forgot to say the deadlines are often 7 days turn around!) and we will look at all the tenders and get back to you (they do, sometimes 6 months later after much chasing).

The phone goes down. You then have a choice. You turn all your teams attention to this one document clinging on still to the hope (it’s not the despair I can’t cope with it’s the hope!), or you can shut up, move on as you politely decline (they are often horrified that you won’t tender).

I am left with the impression that they want a number to fill a gap for them – we need 6 butchers, 3 fish mongers and 2 grocers to tender, like a distorted happy families.

We choose to shut up and move on as without specification or a willingness to even meet to discuss how you could work together. We are turning our own industry into a commodities market who are racing to the bottom together. If tenders are your thing and you deal only in commodities; great.

We aren’t.  We deal in only the top 5% of beef and lamb in the world so why would we spend weeks or months working on a tender when all that happens is they look at the last page and see the cheapest price and go with that. We believe that if you have to purchase ingredients for your business it can either be a cost or investment and we work hard to help to be an investment in the marketing with our clients and help them grow.

Best put now in the words of the first American astronaut to orbit the earth ……

“I guess the question I’m asked the most often is:

“When you were sitting in that capsule listening to the count-down, how did you feel?”

Well, the answer to that one is easy. I felt exactly how you would feel if you were getting ready to launch and knew you were sitting on top of two million parts – all built by the lowest bidder on a government contract.”
― John Glenn , first American astronaut  to orbit the earth

Aberdeen Angus on Aubrey Allen farm trip

The average size of a single breed herd in England is 28-50 and yet to provide just 8 fillets per week from one farm to a restaurant requires one farm to have 600 cattle. Curious? Read on…

There is more Aberdeen Angus beef sold in this country than is ever produced. Belted Galloway graces more menus than pastures. Gloucester Old Spot pork is lesser spotted than you would be led to believe.

10 years ago the fashion for naming breeds and single farms really took off. The result? Producers and suppliers over promising and chefs having unrealistic aspirations on what is actually achievable.

It is more than that as well; there is still a lack of understanding of how farming works and what are the best criteria for knowing you have the best beef.

Let’s take the first bold statement: there is more Aberdeen Angus sold in this country than is ever produced. We have all seen the assertion by national burger chains that all their beef burgers are Angus –  how many of us also see the small print on the screen? 30 years ago the numbers of the Aberdeen Angus Society in the UK were dwindling. As the markets were flooded with continental breeds the Angus was out of favour. What did they do to increase their membership? They changed it from a pure breed society to one that would accept any beast that had been sired by an Angus bull. The result? Angus crossed with dairy producing a dairy steer slaughtered at 14 months – a world apart from the original vision and far cry from the best beef you can have.

Back to the decade of fashion and the single breed. We heard time and time again that an 80 cover restaurant for example was able to get pure breed from a single named farm for all of their beef fillets.

Let’s assume that they only want 8 whole fillets of beef per week. They will need to source from one farm that can produce finished cattle at the rate of 3 per week for 50 weeks of the year. That’s 150 cattle per year. In order to produce that level of cattle, a farmer would need a herd of 600 cattle (if we agree that proper suckler beef cattle take between 3-3 ½ years from conception to finish).

The average herd size of a single breed cattle in England is 28-50 cows. Then you consider how many single farm pure breeds appear on menus.

To learn more about the questions to ask to make sure you are getting the best beef, contact our sales team on 02476 422222 or come and visit us at our next chefs day


Aubrey Allen butchery demonstration for chefs at Menu Inspiration day

Today I pretended I was a chef… and for those of you who know me will understand what a huge leap of the imagination this is or as my 12 year old would say, more like dystopian fiction or perhaps horror…

Don’t panic Clive Dixon, Luke tipping, I didn’t pick up a cook book or frying pan. Instead I considered if I was a chef where would I get my day to day inspiration from in this ever busy world.

When time allows, of course, throw off the whites, meet friends or go with your team to inspiring restaurants to fuel the creative juices. However, when you can’t and the recipe book flick through hasn’t quite cut it where do you turn for menu ideas?

I googled, menu ideas… you don’t get much. We work hard as a butcher with our teams to develop them and help them to understand the job of a chef – there is so much more than the cooking.

We have a product development team of course, but we feel it’s the responsibility of all of our client care team to bring inspirational products to market and help chefs create a point of difference on menus.

Some of the new or re-invigorated new things that we have… English Earl Stonham Wagyu – pure bred English Wagyu, one hulking great 600 plus kilo whole carcass, per week allows the team to bring some creative differences to old favourites. At the risk of ripping off the M&S advert, this isn’t just bresola, this is pure bred English Wagyu bresola, a rich alternative. Or why not carpaccio of English Wagyu, an escalope or brochette with a difference?

Free Range Milk Fed English Suckling pigs. This is new for us. Why? Of course we can get Suckling pigs but we wanted the highest welfare and we were not satisfied with the general commercial practice of taking the piglets from mums as they suckled. To find out more about our higher welfare older suckling pigs with all the fantastic milky flavour click here or speak to our team.

And as for lamb – we go into over drive in lamb season helping chefs to balance menus, finding cost effective alternatives to racks of lamb, saddles and chumps. From our wonderful paves to a spring twist on confit lamb belly. All our lamb is from the South West and the area is so good, our lamb producers have PGI status.

Noticed a pattern in our inspiration? Its all about English produce so when Article 50 comes to an end there will be no changes for us or for you  – No man is an island , but with our purchasing philosophy bound to British for the last 85 years , we can come close.

See here for our Brexit statement: Brexit Statement

To find out more about how we can help to inspire you and your menu ideas, come and see us and our butchers on April 29th. Click here to book


Aubrey Allen Dry Aged Beef

Would you ever pick up the phone to a wine merchant and ask “how much please for a bottle of wine” ?

I doubt it . You may call and enquire about the Chateau LaFite Rothschild if budget permits or you may have to settle for the Gallo Family vineyards.

Would you expect those 2 bottles of wine though to be quoted for as “a bottle of wine” or would you expect it to be widely different?

From trade to consumer everyone understands the general difference in wine pricing; how much is available, the terroirs, the grape, the methods and age and nobody would dream of saying such diverse wines were comparable.

And yet, as a meat industry, that is what we are faced with daily – invitations to tender for business with a product list that reads  “sirloin steak” “rib eye steak” “rack of lamb”; no provenance never mind true specification according to the European wide classification scale.

When you judge a product simply by price rather than reference to eating quality, ethical rearing, age of cattle at slaughter, time spent dry ageing, you not commoditise that product but devalue our whole industry; if we as the experts don’t revere fantastic produce, how can we expect this in consumers?

The meat industry at abattoirs rate carcasses via a classification system and there are 56 different classifications and that’s before you look into specific geographical rearing, specific breeds and dry ageing which brings its own extra level of specification. Where does this appear on a purchaser’s invitation to tender? It doesn’t.

If we allow purchasers who do not understand about meat purchasing to buy solely on price, then it is just a race to the bottom. Guess what happens next? You have meat scandals like horse gate. You have 6 major catering butchers going bust within the last 12 months. What next? When will we stop being shocked by these scandals and closures and start accepting that we need to truly value our ingredients?

To find out more come and visit us at our next chefs day or book a private unit visit.