It is not every day that you hear about a former vegetarian running her own animal produce business. But strange as it may seem, that is an integral part of the Wackley Brook story and explains a lot about why we do things the way we do.
Like many vegetarians, I didn’t decide to stop eating meat because I didn’t like the taste – far from it. My decision to go meat free was made on animal welfare grounds. When we bought our smallholding at Manor Farm near Wem, we decided to raise our own chickens so I could eat a roast chicken with a clear conscience.
I am no longer vegetarian, but I still hold the same values about the right and wrong way to treat animals as I did then. The way we raised those first chickens – free-range, outdoors with ample room to graze on pasture, and plenty of opportunity to wander outdoors across our field, and on an organic diet – has become the blueprint for how we have raised all of our livestock ever since. And in fact, this fits in perfectly with our belief in organic production which is why we decided to become a certified organic farm.
We also feel our approach to production is about quality and flavour, not producing a commodity, as so much of modern agriculture is today. We believe in organic farming because it sets certifiable high standards, for animal welfare, for sustainable land management, for environmental protection, and for quality of produce. We believe that measures like low stocking rates, slow rearing, plentiful access to the outdoors and a nutritious, chemical-free diet is not only good for our animals, it is good for our customers, too. As food producers, we like that customers can connect the end product back to us compared to when a customer visits a supermarket and most of the food is detached from the producer.
Just as organic agriculturists don’t see the need to treat their crops with artificial pesticides and fertilisers, we don’t believe in routinely giving our animals antibiotics, growth hormones or other medications. Like you would with a person, we treat any ailments our animals suffer from as and when they occur, not by loading them up with drugs all the time.
We also believe strongly in local produce. If we bring new animals into our fold, we strive to avoid long, stressful journeys and ensure careful handling during transportation to minimise stress to the animal. Most of the transportation we do ourselves in small numbers so that we can ensure high animal welfare throughout the production process. Plus, we believe in supporting our local community as much as possible, and enjoy the benefits of them supporting us in return.