Farmison & Co puts White Park cattle on the menu to revive rare breed

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Farmison &Co, the sustainable online meat company, is using an innovative funding scheme to help the revival one of Britain’s rarest breeds of cattle. 

The Ripon, North Yorkshire-based company has bought a herd of White Park cattle – the symbol of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust with their distinctive wide horns – which were once associated with Druids and Celts. 

The herd and their young calves are now grazing on a farm in Wensleydale, and under the scheme the farmer will pay for the livestock over 18 months. When the cows are ready to calve again, a bull will be acquired to expand the herd. 

Not only does it spread the financial cost for the farmer, Farmison & Co provides a guaranteed outlet for the meat, reducing the risks of rearing and managing these distinguished but rare animals. Farmison & Co has previously piloted the scheme to build up Dexter breed cattle and now has a herd of 150. 

Although they have been part of the British landscape for more than 2,000 years, White Park cattle, closely descended from wild cattle, came perilously close to extinction as other commercial breeds came into favour. 

Numbers plunged as low as 60 in 1973, but have since recovered to 950 breeding cows, though they are still classed as “at risk” by the trust. 

The cows and calves bought by Farmison & Co are registered with the White Park Cattle Society. They will graze on Wensleydale pastures in the shadow of Castle Bolton in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. 

Wensleydale’s ancient grazing land closely resembles the environment White Park cattle were bred to live on, with woodland clearings, rough pasture and wild foraging. 

This conservation grazing puts nutrients back into the soil and enhances biodiversity, while also enriching the nutritional profile of the meat with omega 3 fatty acids and adding to the flavour of beef known known for its succulence, marbling and taste. 

Farmer and long-time supplier of Dexter beef to Farmison, Stuart Raw, will be the custodian of the herd and manage breeding and expansion.  

Stuart said: “We’re in a position where we can help to promote one of the rarest and most ancient breeds in the country by building the breed up. These rare breeds are saved by eating them. The fabulous flavours of the meat speak for itself.” 

Farmison has built up a nationwide customer base for its heritage breeds beef, including Red Poll, Aberdeen Angus, Shorthorn, Galloway, Dexter and Sussex. Now they are being invited to support the revival of White Park cattle when the meat goes on sale, around the end of 2022.  

John Pallagi, Farmison & co founder and CEO, said: “We’ve shown there is a proven demand for heritage breed meat and consumers appreciate its taste and quality. So long as customers demand this type of beef, these breeds will have a guaranteed future. 

“As the link between farmers and consumers, we are in a unique position to protect and enhance this country’s agricultural heritage of which White Park cattle are an integral part. 

“Through our innovative scheme, we can offer farmers financial support and give them the confidence that there is a market for beef produced from this beautiful breed.” 

Earlier this year, Farmison reported that annual revenue for 2020 had more than doubled to £12.1 million, including sharp growth in e-commerce sales. As well as its own direct customers, it sells to wholesale customers including Harrods, The Ivy and the National Trust. 

It now employs more than 100 people at its base in Ripon and supports up to 30 farms across Yorkshire and the north of England. 

In-house Michelin starred chef Jeff Baker develops recipes for its range and in 2020 the company won Online Butcher of the Year award for the third time.