Food NI member company Castlescreen Farm has opened a new farm shop which will feature a wide range of local products as well as its own successful Dexter beef and other meats.
The farm business is run by Damian Tumelty and partner Jackie Gibson and has successful track record in supplying Dexter beef through farmers’ markets, high-end restaurants and also retailers such as Avoca in Belfast. It also has developed ham products from its own pigs. Mr Tumelty, in addition, has his own butchery operation on the family farm.
“We set up the farm shop to enable more people to purchase our meats especially Dexter beef such as sirloins, fillets, burgers and sausages from our own grass-fed herd. Shoppers will now be able to call at the farm to buy our meats.
“In addition to our own meats, we’ll have chicken, lamb, free-range eggs and a range of other products from other local artisan producers. I am keen to offer these smaller businesses opportunities to access shoppers and grow sales in this part of Co Down,” he adds.
The company has just launched a unique Dexter beef salami developed in collaboration with successful cured meats specialist Corndale Farm in Limavady. There’s also heather honey from the farm’s own hives.
Damian and Jackie are now well-known at markets across Northern Ireland especially the immensely popular Inns at Saintfield Road and events in Downpatrick, Portaferry and Newcastle.
“The markets,” continues Damian, “are a great way to talk to shoppers about the distinctive characteristics and delicious taste of Dexter beef,” he adds.
Damian is among a small group of Dexter breeders in Northern Ireland and has won a cluster of prestigious awards for the cattle especially “Charlie’ a breed champion at Balmoral.
He opted to rear Dexter cattle because they are much smaller than traditional beef cows. “They may be small cows but the meat they produce is naturally marbled with fat, giving it a distinct succulence and a much fuller flavour,” he explains.
“We took the decision to change our farming approach and to get away from big animals,” he says. “Research shows that Dexter meat is one the best you can eat as it is naturally marbled which comes from grass feeding.” This is why he describes the business as specialising in “wee cows, big beef’.
Dexters are apparently gaining in popularity due to their size and quality of meat. The animals are small and very robust, able to survive outdoors in conditions in winter that would be impossible for bigger breeds of cows, he adds.
The flavour is strongly influenced by the diet the cattle enjoy. “It’s a very healthy diet of exclusively grass or silage. Our beef is then dry-aged for up to 35 days for an intense, real beefy flavour,” Damian says. “The beef is then prepared on-site by us.”
He currently rears a herd of around 100 beef and breeding cattle on the sprawling farm which has been in the Tumelty family for over 40 years.
“We can sell everything we currently produce and people can now call at our farm shop to buy our range of meat,” he adds.