We must work together with the farmers

07 February 2008
We must work together with the farmers

Academy of Culinary Arts president Brian Turner urges chefs to get closer to the farming community, in the first of a regular column from the ACA

The Mutton Renaissance campaign has seen us join forces with the National Sheep Association in a bid to get "proper" mutton back on to our menus.

As chefs, we're at the mercy of our ingredients, and over the years, since mutton fell out of favour, there has been some really unloved and uncared-for meat about. This has given mutton an unappetising image and so the real English flavour of good mutton was forgotten.

Mutton is not just about mature sheep. It has become a catalyst in the drive to become more environmental and sustainable. As well as being topical, this is vitally important to farms and farming at a time when everyone in the agricultural industry needs our help. None of this happens without good communication.

During the entirety of this Mutton Renaissance campaign there has been a growing movement to re-establish the relationship between the chef and the farmer.

This is what our great British food tradition is all about. It's the farmer's job to produce the raw material and the chef's job to transform it into edible "happiness". But, as chefs, we also have a responsibility to help protect the sources of our ingredients.

We have suffered yet another bout of foot-and-mouth disease and now bluetongue, putting the livelihoods of farmers in jeopardy yet again. The lamb market has suffered appallingly with frighteningly low prices, and the same applies to cattle and pigs. We owe it to the farmers to work together for a better agricultural future.

Farmers are an intrinsic part of the hospitality supply chain. They produce the food we eat and look after the land which makes this country "green and pleasant" and a driver of tourism.

To keep our campaign on a high note, we must make sure that this remains top of our agendas. This is not a short-term "hit", but part of a long-term plan to resurrect a legendary, traditional culture in the contemporary spirit - support it and it's a win-win situation.

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