Guernsey Press

Local beef ‘superior product’ that we should be promoting

LACK of interest in buying local meat has surprised Guernsey’s newest farmer, who thinks more could be done to promote what he describes as a superior product.

Andrew Eastabrook is the new manager at Meadow Court Farm. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 30870791)

Andrew Eastabrook has taken over as manager of Meadow Court Farm following its purchase by farming family the Mallards.

He took up the position after hearing about it through a recruitment consultant and said he thought it would be a great opportunity. ‘I was thinking of moving on from my last job and he sent me a message saying “shared farm venture in Guernsey”.’

The shared farm idea is common in New Zealand, said Mr Eastabrook, and means that as well as being the farm’s manager he has a personal stake in the business.

‘I came over in September last year to meet [former farm owner] James Watts and fell in love with the island.’

He was excited to take on a new challenge and had become aware of the issues that face farmers, such as the rising cost of feed, food and fertiliser. ‘These are the three main input costs on dairy farms. They’re spiralling across the globe and milk prices aren’t keeping pace with that.’

A main difference between the island and the UK is the ownership of land, too. ‘A lot of land is rented here but a lot in the UK is owner-occupied which gives you quite a lot of freedom as to what you can do.’

He said he was surprised at how few opportunities there were to sell local beef. ‘Pretty much all of these cows will be turned into mince and there’s very little value to them.’

While in the UK a dairy cow which had reached the end of its productive life could sell for about £1,000, locally Mr Eastabrook said the price was closer to £150 for meat of the same quality.

He noted that islanders did not seem bothered about whether their meat was local or imported, despite the low number of food miles involved in opting for Guernsey beef compared to meat from France or the UK. ‘And it’s a superior product,’ he said.

In an effort to make Guernsey beef more widely available, the farm will be approaching local restaurants and individuals.

Mr Eastabrook grew up spending most of his school holidays helping on dairy, beef, pig, sheep and arable farms in Surrey before graduating from Newcastle University with a degree in agriculture with honours in animal science.

His first job was as a dairy management trainee on a farm in Buckinghamshire looking after a 500-strong herd of Holstein-Friesians, before he went on to manage the Brymor herd of Guernseys in North Yorkshire, with the milk being used in ice cream sold in the region.

His most recent post was at Hartpury University and College in Gloucestershire, where he spent the last five years setting up and managing a commercial herd of Guernseys.

During this time he undertook genomic testing of the entire herd, being the first UK herd to do so.

He is full of praise for the breed compared to others he has worked with. ‘Their nature is exceptionally docile and they’re very easy to work.

‘The milk is superior to pretty much any other product in the world.

‘A big thing environmentally is that they are really good converters of grass into milk.’