Lisa Jenkins joined 30 chefs on a trip to the organic farm of Rhug Estate in North Wales to discover why its high-welfare meat is served up at some of the UK's finest restaurants
The Caterer accompanied them and was given a bespoke tour of the estate by farm manager Gary Jones, an employee with more than 20 years' experience. The chefs saw bison, Aberdeen Angus Highland cattle and Japanese sika deer, the latest addition to animals on the estate, and recommended to owner Lord Newborough by Brett Graham, chef-patron of the Ledbury in London.
"Lord Newborough is a great guy, committed to his estate, and when he asked me for some advice about a plan to breed deer at Rhug I had no hesitation in recommending he take on a herd of sika deer," said Graham. "I breed my own on two estates: Boughton House, the home of the Duke of Buccleuch in Northamptonshire, and Aynhoe Park with James Perkins near Banbury. "The meat from the sika deer has intermuscular fat and we are developing this intense flavour benefit as we breed the herds from year to year. The meat of the sika deer is dark and lean, and they feed well on average ground. They are very hardy and should do well at the Rhug Estate. We will have sika back on our menus at the Ledbury from early autumn." After a coach trip from London via Oxford, the group sat down to a two-course lunch commencing with Rhug organic salt marsh lamb two ways: pan-roasted loin lamb and neck fillet bonbon, served with chargrilled Hispi cabbage, rosemary hasselback carrot, creamed Savoy and red wine jus*.* !lunch-on-chef-trip-visit](https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/h16Uv29eRsWABROOxtf0) Lord Newborough, who hosted the visit, said: "We invite aspiring chefs, head chefs and front of house managers here to find out more about what goes into creating the delicious organic meat we produce on the farm. We are delighted to be able to call some of the best places in the UK our customers and the purpose of the visit is twofold. The chefs enjoy coming to the farm to learn more about how the organic meat is produced, and we enjoy talking to them about the amazing dishes they create with our organic meat." Hybu Cig Cymru (Meat Promotion Wales), which sponsored the chefs' visit, is the approving authority for the estate. It ensures that lamb from the farm meets the specifications of the European Commission's protected geographical indication (PGI) designation and is labelled and sold to consumers as Welsh lamb. ![rhug-estate](https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/q5MO4MzlQ7tgdm1Bz5PS) Sandra Daramola, sous chef at Indigo at One Aldwych, said: "The day out at Rhug in Wales was educating and enlightening. I had no idea there was so much going on at the estate. There's a farm shop, bistro, farm walks, a children's play area and even a bison walk. "The focus of the day was a tour of the organic livestock farm and hearing about the wholesale meat business. Here at One Aldwych hotel, we applaud the Rhug Estate's sustainable farming practices - they match our kitchen's commitment to selecting suppliers with high standards of animal welfare. From the gluten-free pork sausages served at breakfast, to the salt marsh lamb on the Indigo restaurant Á la carte menu, Rhug Estate is an important meat supplier to the hotel's kitchen. I'd recommend everyone to find out more about the food that we prepare by visiting farms. I've been telling everyone in the kitchen about it." Oliver Bridgwater, the sous chef at Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck Restaurant, said: "It was a pleasure to be shown around by Lord Newborough and to gain an insight into that side of the business. It's always great to see people going to the extra effort, and I can assure you it's well worth it in the end product. These visits are important to us. We find them a very helpful way for us to communicate how special our produce is to our staff and guests." ![rhug-farm-shop-high-res](https://cdn.filestackcontent.com/EpUXfOQfRGSx4ELNsYbq)
The history of the Rhug Estate The first working farm at the Rhug Estate in Corwen, Denbighshire, dates back to at least the Bronze Age, according to evidence from a burial mound dug up in 1875. The mound, some 100m in circumference at the base and 10m at the top, is also thought to have been used as the base for a medieval motte (a fortified hill within a castle for grazing cattle), and in Victorian times was turned into an ice house. The estate started out in the hands of the Salusbury family of Bachymbyd, then went to the Vaughan family of Nannau and finally ended up in the Wynn family in the 19th century. Robert Vaughan Wynn is the eighth Baron Newborough. Lord Newborough has been involved in farming from an early age. He gained practical experience on other farms and went to agricultural college to learn farm management. He took over the estate from his father in 1998. At that time, the farm covered 2,500 acres and was a low-input/low-output beef and sheep farm with nine employees. He set about converting the estate to an organic farm, where the animals are free to graze in a stress-free environment. ![elliot-knoxThe Rhug Estate now consists of two farms covering a combined 8,000 acres. It also includes a bistro, the Bison Grill (headed up by chef Elliot Knox), a farm shop, a conference facility, a drive-through and a herd of sika deer (the most recent arrivals). The estate employs 115 people, over 90% of whom live within 10 miles of the workplace. In 2000 the farm was certified organic by the Soil Association. The bespoke Rhug organic brand includes Aberdeen Angus beef, bison, Welsh lamb, salt marsh lamb, pork, game (in season), chicken, turkey and goose. Its customers include Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester and Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley. The farm is a self-contained field-to-plate operation that follows the highest animal welfare standards. It does not routinely drench (administer drugs by mouth) or inject its animals, and avoids handling them. It all helps to minimise stress and rear happy animals, which produce the best meat. The estate also produces its own energy with hydro, geothermal, solar and wind turbine projects. The riverside corridors running alongside the estate's fields are part of the Welsh government's Tir Gofal and Glastir agri-environment schemes. Rhug has nearly nine kilometres of riverside, which is fenced off to protect the water and encourage wildlife habitats.
You need to be a premium member to view this. Subscribe from just 99p per week.
Already subscribed? Log In