One of the best parts of my job is to find good quality Paleo products and over the last few months I have been spending some time interviewing some of my favourite brands to bring you an insight into their products.
Today is an interview with Caroline Stake who is the owner and co-founder of online meat company Primal Meats. Caroline is passionate about providing high quality, 100% grass fed and organic meat that is ethically produced. No hormones, no pesticides and no fertilisers. Alongside Primal Meats, Caroline also runs the websites Paleo and Primal Living and For Heavens’ Stake with her partner Stephen.
Paleo and Primal Living provides a “hub” for those following a Paleo or Primal way of life with lifestyle ideas and fitness and exercise tips. Whereas For Heaven’s Stake is a fantastic project which brings together ethical farmers whose animals are reared in a sustainable way and allows the customer to buy meat from their animals on a crowd funding platform called the auction. It is a great new idea and well worth taking a look at. As you can tell Caroline is incredibly busy and absolutely loves the Primal lifestyle and all it entails.
Primal Meats is my top choice when it comes to purchasing high quality 100% grass fed meat, not only does it taste delicious but I love the ethos of the company who strongly believe in animal welfare and providing top quality products. In this interview we discuss how it all started, the benefits of eating grass fed meat and what we can expect to see from Caroline and Stephen over the next year.
Tell us about how you got started with your websites?
It has been a long and winding path! I started out in conservation as a National Park Ranger in the Yorkshire Dales then moved to the lovely Lake District with my Farmer Husband (at the time) and took over the well-known and beautiful 700 acre Yew Tree Farm near Coniston. We farmed Belted Galloway cattle and Herdwick sheep and ran a tea room, bed and breakfast and butchery with associated website. I campaigned throughout this period for higher welfare and more sustainable farming practices and educated myself about food and nutrition. I have always loved nature and wild spaces and was a member of Coniston Mountain Rescue for 11 years.
The websites evolved following the breakup of my marriage and having to leave all my businesses behind with the farm, I had the opportunity to start from scratch and use all my passions and skills to create a business I love. I met Stephen and we share the same passions for Primal living and food, we have been developing the businesses together ever since.
Why is grass fed meat so beneficial?
I always like to take the opportunity to distinguish between the term “grass fed meat” and “100% grass fed meat” as in the UK there is often a huge difference between the two. The term “grass fed meat” can mean an animal that has had a minimal amount of time on pasture, there is no regulation over the use of the term. Whereas “100% grass fed meat” or “pasture for life” certified meat has eaten nothing but pasture for its whole life. There is a big difference between these terms and unfortunately due to a lack of regulation in this area “grass fed meat” may not always be what it seems. This is often exploited and the consumer mislead.
100% grass fed meat is high in omega-3 fatty acids and has a fantastic omega-3: omega-6 ratio, similar to what you would expect in the meat our ancestors would have eaten. Omega-3 is anti-inflammatory and can be superb for our health so should be added into our diet. The problem is that omega-3 and omega-6 (which has the opposite effect of omega-3 and is inflammatory) compete for the same biochemical processes. This means that if you are getting too much omega-6, which most of us are, especially in meat that has eaten grains, then you just will not absorb the good omega-3 fatty acids so frankly you are wasting your time and money!
100% grass fed meat has the best chance of delivering and allowing your body to absorb the very healthy omega-3 fatty acids along with an impressive range of other nutrients in far higher amounts that would be found in grain fed meats.
Can you tell us about the welfare of your animals?
I am a passionate campaigner for animal welfare and was in farming for many years so have witnessed some pretty bad practice and upsetting scenes. I strongly believe that being positive is a stronger force than fighting against something. Our aim is try and raise awareness of the problems of modern factory farming and in-humane slaughter, but instead of yelling NO, we encourage people to vote with their pound by buying better.
Animals that are reared purely on grass are, by default, doing what cows do naturally; grazing in fields with the sun on their backs (well hopefully some sun depending on the UK weather!) whilst eating a diet that is right for them. These animals will be healthy and overall will have an incredible quality of life. This is what I want to encourage, the problem is that marketing makes it pretty difficult for customers to distinguish between the two systems.
Supermarkets are unlikely to miss you if you boycott their meat, but even one person buying all their meat from a company like Primal Meats could keep make a real difference to supporting small holistic family farms and keeping our business afloat. We promise we will keep working towards getting more farmers to convert to “pasture for life” farming – together we can really make a difference.
Do you have a favourite cut of meat?
OOH, I think different seasons call for different meat experiences. In Winter I love to have shin beef cooked slowly in the aga for 12 hours. Whereas in Summer it would have to be one of our grain free burgers made with Himalayan sea salt sandwiched between two garlicky mushrooms! Am I allowed cheese? I am more Primal than Paleo! It’s unpasteurised!
Do you have any tips on preparing/cooking meat?
I personally think if you want to eat the best quality 100% grass fed meats you need to work from the freezer. You can’t expect to nip to the shop and find something good enough, if you buy in bulk you can buy things like half a lamb or an 1/8th of a cow and get great value as well as always being prepared for the next meal. When meat has been properly dry aged it freezes very well. I pride myself on having a pretty fine palate and assure you I could not tell the difference between a frozen steak and a fresh steak once it has been thawed and cooked.
Try not to overcook delicate cuts like loins and steaks as you will lose all the delicious tender juiciness.
Cook cuts that have a lot of connective tissue (such as braising steak, shin beef, shoulder of lamb and lamb shanks) really long and really low, like 10-12 hours in a slow cooker. It will be worth the wait!
What does a Paleo/Primal lifestyle mean to you?
Eating real food that has been minimally “messed” with, as close to a wild or natural food as possible – apart from a few treats here and there! I like to keep closely connected to nature with regular walks, often just stopping for a moment to appreciate a view or to catch the smells and sounds of the space. Stephen and I love camping and we have a wonderful roof tent with wood burning stove we use for all our business trips and many holidays. We love to wild camp, sail, walk, fell run, wild swim, scramble, climb, canoe and bike ride at every opportunity, sometimes on our own sometimes with all three kids and two dogs in tow! I also do interval yoga daily, I LOVE it.
What are your tips for successfully adopting a Paleo/Primal lifestyle?
Get plenty of sleep, eat clean and real food, get into nature and mix up your exercise.
Where can we buy your products?
We only sell through our online shop at www.primalmeats.co.uk.
What does the remainder of 2015 hold for you?
We want to launch our sister site Paleo and Primal living which is going to look similar to Primal Meats but will be a “hub” for all things “Primal living”. We will have guest bloggers and pages dedicated to different approaches to the ancestral diets and primal living. We will be selling everything from Paleo eBooks, online courses and outdoor gear through to bush craft courses and trips to Everest base camp.
We will continue campaigning for more sustainable farming and better animal welfare. We are actively encouraging new farmers to come on board and convert to “pasture for life” farming.
We are also launching a wild game range in Autumn which I am ridiculously excited about.
As always a lot of my time is spent trying to continually increase and improve our product range and get even better at customer service.