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Producer of the Month: Jon and Vicky Brown, The Real Veal Company, Cornwall

Producer of the Month: Jon and Vicky Brown, The Real Veal Company, Cornwall


Producer of the Month: Jon and Vicky Brown, The Real Veal Company, Cornwall

Even though Vicky is the daughter of farmers, she and her husband Jon did not set out to produce veal. She was in fact an ambulance driver before she and Jon moved to Cornwall with the aim of opening up a restaurant. It was when Vicky's brother, Rob, who having resurrected the dairy herd on his parents' Cornish farm, spoke of how the bull calves had to be killed at birth that she and her husband Jon were inspired to set up The Real Veal Company. 

It is lactating cows who produce the vast array of dairy produce - such as milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter - the nation consumes. Only a certain proportion of bull calves are allowed to grow into bulls. The rest, more than 250,00 a year, are killed at birth. The Browns started with five calves in 2006 and by 2008 they were taking two of Rob's calves a week to the abattoir near Bodmin. To make the business cost effective and to ensure more control on the product Jon did a butchery course and Vicky concentrated on the preparation and selling of the meat. As they continued to slowly expand and win plaudits for their meat they also made use of unwanted calves from other nearby farms, raising them in small groups in open fields. 

Tragically in 2010, Rob was killed in an accident. With no-one able to take on Rob’s enormous work-load on the farm, the dairy herd was eventually dispersed, and the last of the Bocaddon veal calves were slaughtered in summer 2011. Jon and Vicky made the decision to continue with The Real Veal Company and found a local farmer, Darrin Hooper, to rear calves to their specifications on his farm at nearby Tideford. The unwanted Cornish dairy bull calves are still reared in small groups in the open air and with a varied diet. They are still slaughtered in Cornwall and most importantly are still all butchered, prepared and sold from Bocaddon Farm. 

  • Why do you do what you do? 

We went into veal production for two reasons - firstly to make use of the unwanted dairy bull calves on Vicky's family dairy farm and give them a good life; and secondly, as foodies, to produce the best possible meat we could. It is this dual focus on ethical issues and quality which has pushed us on and kept us going over the years. Despite the recent increase in the availability of UK veal, we're still confident ours is the best on the market. 

  • What achievement are you most proud of? 

We've been nominated for and won a number of awards over the years. Being named 'Young Food Hero' in the Good Housekeeping magazine food awards in 2010 was particularly satisfying, as it showed that veal had made it into the mainstream British consciousness 

  • What is your most memorable moment?
Jon entered Britain's Best Dish to try and get some exposure for the issues surrounding veal, and made it through to the best four main courses in the country with our roast fillet of veal with sweetbreads. That was an unexpected - and fun - diversion from the day-to-day work on the farm 

  • If you were Prime Minister, what one thing would you do to encourage more people to eat British food? 
The UK has admirably high standards of animal welfare, but it is grossly unfair on British farmers that supermarkets are allowed to import cheaper meat from abroad which has been reared in conditions which would be illegal in the UK. We would introduce an 'animal welfare tax' on such imports, which would not only level the playing field for British farmers but also bring attention to an issue which most of the British public know little about 

  • What is your favourite food and why? 
Veal of course…Actually we enjoy pretty much all food, and are keen cooks. We're lucky enough to attend two different farmers markets each week, so we have access to the very best and freshest local produce imaginable without going out of our way. But we do eat a lot of veal it's such a great meat, and ideal for kids - we have three, all under 6... 

  • What are your predictions for the future of British food? 
There's been such a huge surge of public interest in where food comes from over the last ten years, and we can only see that continuing. British food used to be a laughing stock but it is now as good as anywhere in the world. We're heartened by how many young people we see shopping at farmers markets, even seeking out 'unusual' ingredients like veal, so we're certain the demand for local food will grow and grow. The challenge for producers is to be the best they can - it's no good just being local for the sake of it if the product isn't up to it. 

  • If you were an advertising executive what slogan would you use to promote British food? 
British Food Speaks For Itself - Best budget tip? Do more of your fresh food shopping at farmers markets - they really are cheaper, especially if you are prepared to be adventurous with your cooking. 

  • What's on the menu this evening? 
Alpaca stew, with coriander and beer made from locally reared alpacas! 

  • How can people get hold of your produce? 
We send our veal across the country by mail order every week. We also sell at farmers markets across Devon and Cornwall, and occasional food shows and events further afield. Details of all this is available at our website www.bocaddonfarmveal.com