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Greetings from dry stone wall country. The Dales are a romantic blur of grey, green, and brown at this time of the year when lit by the low winter sun. With December here at last, we are in the final throes of a challenging year. Since January, we have introduced 50,000 new customers to our produce. At times, the efforts of my team to keep operations going in the face of huge demand were Herculean. I am pleased to say we are ready for Christmas and have scaled our business to keep close the suppliers and farmers that have been with us since the beginning. In my update this month, I want to discuss how our festive range this year represents traditions past and present.
For one thing, we are stocking and selling more smaller roasting joints than ever before. This trend, inspired by the current situation, is the latest chapter in the nation's changing Christmas tastes. It fascinates me how food culture evolves. Right now, we are living through a golden age for British food, as the mass supermarket supply chain fragments and artisanal suppliers can come to the fore via new technologies. As a nation, our Christmas tastes are becoming less predictable - and more refined.
The tradition of a turkey and trimmings might be ingrained in our popular culture, but this is relatively speaking, a recent development. If you opt for our mutton, venison, or even handmade pies for your Christmas table - as many customers are this year - you are harking back to the winter traditions of the Middle Ages.
It was during the 1840s that many of the Christmas innovations we recognise today began. For the Victorian middle classes, rabbit, veal, and mutton - previously the staple of Christmas tables - fell out of favour, and the wealthy began to prefer beef or large birds. In the same decade that Christmas trees, cards, and crackers entered popular culture, so too was Charles Dickens's Scrooge gifting the Cratchit family a turkey. In Victorian society, turkeys remained out of reach for most, and Dickens used this gift to signify Scrooges' newfound generosity.
In fact, chicken was the mainstay of most British Christmas tables until the 1950s. Before the fast-growing broiler came along, chicken was a luxury and considered special enough for Christmas. Oranges were also given as presents, particularly to children.
By the same token that chicken left the table, soon turkeys were the centrepiece of choice as intensive methods brought down the cost. Turkey suddenly became accessible to a country which only ended rationing in 1954. Britain's most popular, the Broad Breasted White Turkey, was bred to have more breast meat, while their white colour means the pin feathers are not as visible when dressed. As with all meat, rushing poultry to gain weight sacrifices the quality, and this trend pushed slow-growing heritage breeds like the Bronze or the Bourbon Red to the brink of extinction.
Thankfully, I have watched demand for heritage breeds increase at Christmas over the last years, as the public looks for something extra special. The flavour and texture of our turkey is probably closer to what the Victorians enjoyed than supermarket turkey. If you have yet to try our traditional slow-reared turkey, you are in for a treat.
Covid-19 has left many of us revaluating what is important in life, as we live according to new restrictions. It has always been my philosophy that food is the basis of human relationships. Whatever your tastes, Christmas is the celebration event of the year, bringing people together, and it deserves great food. With some assurances as to how we would be allowed to celebrate Christmas, I recommend placing your Christmas order sooner rather than later - our delivery slots are filling up and supply from our heritage breed herds and flocks is limited. Please check our Christmas FAQs in case you need to add extras to your order, and for all other information. My excellent Customer Care team are also on hand to answer questions.
Our range this year has been designed to incorporate festive classics, contemporary trends, and chef-prepared centrepieces from the kitchen of Jeff Baker. Jeff has been perfecting his stuffings and seasonings since January, to pair with the heritage breed meat. If you're looking for a show-stopping centrepiece, with minimum fuss to prepare, look no further.
On behalf of my amazing team, I would like to give my thanks to helping our vision of making accessible, better meat a reality.
CEO & Founder of Farmison & Co.