Yesterday I made a trip up to the Denham Estate near Bury St Edmunds to learn more about their free range Venison and Lamb. Denham Estate is situated in the village of Denham, West Suffolk; so is a local Suffolk producer. I was very interested in their Estate and how it worked so visited them to see the small but knowledgeable, friendly team to find out more.
Cecilia Gliksten, Proprietor of the Denham Estate warmly welcomed me at the estate offices and we discussed the Estate and its history over a coffee. We talked about their free range Fallow Deer and Denham Lamb reared on the Estate; and it was obvious Cecilia is committed and enthusiastic about the Estate and its produce.
I love the fact that the estate has high animal welfare standards, good conservation understanding and uses a lot of traditional farming methods. On my visit I observed how all aspects of the food production were conducted on the Estate including the breeding programme, rearing, management, slaughtering, butchering, marketing and delivery. I was interested that the animals and produce journeys were monitored by the estate to ensure high welfare standards and tracking of the meat. So I set off with Neil the Stock Manager in his pick-up to discover more about the Estate!
We went to the other ends of the Estate to visit some of the Fallow Deer herds who are divided into Bucks and Does apart from at Rutting time. Denham Estates main livestock are Fallow Deer which they raise free range on the estate grassland. The Venison they produce is reared, slaughtered and packaged all on site, so traceability is definite and the animals are followed through the complete process from ‘field to fork’. This work is completed by skilled stockmen and butchers; to produce local, good quality meat. The Estate supplies catering outlets such as restaurants, cafes, colleges and hotels in London and East Anglia but also now the public can purchase for themselves these high quality meat boxes online. Also, I saw the barns used for routine checks, medical examinations and also I visited the slaughterhouse – only metres from the holding barn. Although this initially sounds a bit abrupt it is by far the best way to produce meat I feel. The animal is put under the least amount of stress, is familiar with the barns themselves and doesn’t have to travel hours on a trailer to reach a slaughterhouse. Moreover, the stockman can ensure and oversee high animal welfare right till the completion and the meat is all produced on site. I could also see that Neil was enthusiastic about the livestock, what he did and was deeply knowledgeable about the Estate.
In addition to the Fallow Deer the unique Denham Castle Lamb is reared free range on the estate. This is a breed solely produced on the grounds – bred from the more primitive, hardy Soay breed and sired by a Wiltshire Horn or South Downs Ram to produce a good quality rich flavoured Lamb from the Suffolk grasses. These herds are grazed extensively on the conservation pastures on the Estate. These sheep looked healthy and suited to their terrain due to their natural characteristics passed down through their bloodlines. Neil the Stock Manager showed me the different flocks and explained how they bred the distinctive Denham Castle Lamb and how the sheep were suited to the rough grassland, and how this improves the flavour of the Lamb.
On the environmental side of things the Estate is at a higher level membership of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. As part of this scheme the Estate is involved in the regeneration of grassland and other semi-natural vegetation, educational visits, restoring old orchards and providing high animal welfare.
As I came back from looking around the Estate there was just time to pop in to meet Alan and Bob the two highly skilled, on site butchers. Both were fantastic men who were passionate about their produce and their team. Alan gave me a varied box of Denham Estate meat to try which included Venison sausages and casserole pieces (very versatile!) and shoulder and chops of Denham Castle Lamb. I loved this goodie box and am very excited about cooking with the produce for my family and putting up some recipes on the blog soon –so keep an eye out! In conclusion, I had a great day visiting and would like to say a big thank you to Cecilia and the Denham Estate team for letting me have an insight into how the Estate runs. I was impressed with the meat produced and the meat boxes would be a great choice for people interested in good quality, local sourced produce which has been reared to high standards.
If you would like to learn more about Denham Estate, their livestock and meat boxes here is the link to their website http://www.denhamestate.co.uk/
Katy, The Good Life In Practice x