Rachel Hallos farms beef and sheep at the 2,000-acre Beeston Hall in Rippondon, West Yorkshire
“The future of British meat farming is all about telling the story. The consumer is the meat industry’s best champion so it’s vital for us to explain what we do. Covid has made people think local, and we’re diversifying within our market to develop a brand to sell our beef direct to the public. To do that, you need a story that’s worth telling, that makes people connect."
“Our red Salers beef cattle are an arresting sight on the open moor. We often see photos of our herd that people have shared on social media. So we add to that story – they’re not just magnificent, not just providing meat, they’re protecting the beautiful countryside. We were accepted on to the [government] Higher Level Stewardship Scheme, and through initiatives with them, our cattle and sheep are used to fulfil environmental goods. They define the landscape, but their presence also creates it, giving us heather regeneration, wildflower meadows and attracting wildlife and birds.
“I use social media to tell that story. In the spring I’ll film our autumn calving herds making their way up to the top of the moor and explain how they help shape the landscape. We buy and sell cattle on Facebook, and we talk about feeding questions on Twitter. Of course, social media can be the devil’s spawn, but I keep out of the politics and just explain what we do. I posted a picture of our freezer full of beef for our personal use, and said I understood some people might find that picture abhorrent. But I explained the benefits of knowing exactly where the cow had come from, who her parents were, what she’d been fed, how well she’d been treated. I ended up having a really civilised and friendly debate with a vegetarian, which ended in honest, genuine respect for each other’s views. That’s all part of telling the story, too.
“And we’re adding to the story. We’re planning more tree planting, a wildlife area, a holiday let, converting part of our 17th-century farmhouse into a business meeting room to hire. All of this connects.
“When my husband’s parents had the farm, they had 40 cows and bottled and delivered milk to a high-density population. Everyone knew who they were, they listened to customers and gave them what they wanted. Over the years, farming moved too far away from that community connection. Whether through showing your environmental credentials or talking about what you do on social media, the future of meat depends on making those connections again.”