A Shropshire company which sources and supplies an ever growing range of weird and wonderful meats – including crocodile, bison, ostrich and zebra – is taking its first bite into the food service industry.
Alternative Meats, owned by business partners Rachel Godwin and Jeanette Edgar, is based in a farm building near Wem. Having started selling ostrich meat seven years ago it now sources produce from across the West Midlands Region and beyond, even shipping in rare breeds from the southern hemisphere.
The company is venturing into the food service industry with two major firms in the Region, including a new agreement to supply Wolverhampton-based Blakemores, which is initially listing the company’s ostrich, venison and rosé veal products.
Discussions are also progressing with Troughles Fine Foods in Leominster, Herefordshire, which supplies more than 250 pubs and restaurants in the West Midlands Region and Wales alone.
Alternative Meats is listed in two of Rick Stein’s ‘Food Heroes’ books and has benefited from unusual produce featuring in popular TV food programmes, even supplying crocodile for the chefs on ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’ this month. When ostrich meat featured on Gordon Ramsey’s ‘The F Word’ in May the company had 50 new orders on its website the following day.
Alternative Meats currently supplies 20 farm shops including a chain of ‘farm delis’ based in Dobbies garden centres nationwide, as well as retailers in Shrewsbury, Coventry and Warwickshire. It also sells various meat cuts and products to hotels, pubs and directly to the public via an online home delivery service at www.alternativemeats.co.uk.
The company is also branching out into other avenues as well, with a recipe book called ‘An A to Z of Alternative Meats, Alligator to Zebra’ due to be published by the Harper Collins group early next year.
It has been quite a journey for a rural business launched on the same day the foot and mouth crisis thrust the farming industry deep into crisis.
Jeanette Edgar, director of Alternative Meats, said: “We have come a long way since that fateful first day and have thankfully managed to turn things around. It has been quite an adventure along the way but I’m glad to say that business is thriving.
“We started on a small scale but have diversified more and more over time. If there’s a new product we discover to source then we put it on the list for people to buy.
“Having said that, there is a more serious side to what we do. Many of the products we source are healthier options with most rare meats such as ostrich having much lower fat content compared to more traditional choices such as beef and lamb.
“We also set high ethical standards, as we are proud to supply some taboo meats such as veal products as long as they pass strict RSPCA Freedom Food standards. The way veal is produced is completely different in Britain to the horror stories people hear from the Continent.”
A Rural Recovery grant received in the aftermath of the foot and mouth crisis set the business on the right track, allowing Rachel and Jeanette to set up their website and launch a direct sales business to home consumers.
Having started in ostrich farming the company soon expanded its range by sourcing wild boar, venison and duck from Shropshire in the West Midlands Region, goats from Cheshire and mutton from Wales. It always sources from Britain where possible but some more exotic breeds such as bison and crocodile come from as far afield as Canada, South Africa and New Zealand.
Jeanette and Rachel now employ another member of staff to process orders and co-ordinate delivery, with business turnover due to be in excess of £300,000 this year. The mail order delivery business has grown fantastically, from sales worth £3,000 in 2003 to £55,000 just four years later.
The pair met working on a Shropshire farm owned by Rachel’s father. Jeanette applied for a job when recovering from a broken back following a riding accident in 1986.
Jeanette developed product marketing and visited chefs around the country at a time when ostrich meat was virtually unheard of in the UK. After the pair took over running the farm they saw a gap in the market for unusual products and began to diversify into other areas, leading to the creation of Alternative Meats.
Last month the company was shortlisted in the Heart of England Fine Foods (HEFF) Diamond Awards and in 2007 it was a finalist the Innovation in Industry category at the Shropshire Business Awards.
For further information, images or to arrange an interview with Alternative Meats please contact Oliver Du Croz or Nick Trueman at Seal Communications on 0121 200 0780, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Also visit www.thewestmidlandsregion.co.uk
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