Our first meat box delivery

October 6, 2006

Organic meat box

The quest for a reliable source of fine organic meats has led us this week to the knowingly-named Well Hung Meat Company. This lot are based in Buckfastleigh, just down the round from Riverford farm in South Devon, an area of the country which must surely have a uniquely high concentration of right-on farmers per square hectare.

And why did we choose this company? Because they’ve got a photo of Hugh Furry-Wheatheringstal handing them a certificate on the front of the website. Because they’ve got Soil Association Organic Food Awards coming out of their hairy pig’s ears. Because they came first in Google when we searched for an organic meat delivery company, and we’re too lazy to look any further. And because, if their name is anything to go by, they leave their carcasses strung up to mature slowly for a decent length of time. Which I’ve been told is a GOOD THING.

I don’t know about you, but I’m usually too distracted to study the small print about how these country folk rear, educate and slaughter their animals – if their farm has won a load of organic awards and HFW thinks they’re alright, then that’s good enough for me. Well meaning but lazy consumers like me will always just look for a trusted logo, rather then investigating deeply into the origins of the produce, which is why articles like this in yesterday’s Guardian are quite worrying.

Anyway, we ordered their introductory meat box, which comes in at the non-trivial price of £40, plus an £8 delivery charge. And what did we get for our hard-earned reddies?

*a 750g topside of beef (£11.39)
*a 410g pack of lamb loin chops (£6.56)
*a 1.4kg leg of lamb (£18.12)
*a 495g pack of beef steak mince (£4.45)
*a 395g pack of sausages (£3.16)

Which Maths chick has added up to come to er…. 40…. um…. carry 3…. um 42 pounds and…. no, hold on, 43 pounds and 68 new pence. Which is a saving of almost £4 for the intro box. Which is better than nowt.

I reckon we could get more meat for our cash down at Islington farmer’s market (with fewer food miles) but that would involve getting out of bed before midday on a Sunday and sitting on a bus for an hour. Hence we’re happy to foot the extra quids to have our joints delivered. At least I am – Maths chick thinks 50 quids a bit steep for four smallish packs of meat and a decent-sized leg of lamb. I reckon you’ve got to be prepared to pay at least twice as much as usual for properly butchered organic meat to be delivered to your door.

The most traumatic thing about getting the box was that, because we were both at work, the delivery man left the box with the people in the dodgy-looking house across the road. Now if this was in a wee country village that would be no problem. But, living as we do in Norf London, imagine our distress when we realised we would have to MAKE CONTACT with our neighbours. Not only this but surely, we agreed, they’d have opened the box by now and injected smack into our lamb chops.

However, our paranoid fears turned out to be ill-founded as the box was delivered to our door during the night by our saintly neighbour, who even left a card with a smiley flower on the front and this message inside:

“Good Morning! Here is your dinner, I hope no foxes have run off with it! Sorry, I took it in and then went out all day, but I left it in our fridge, so it has been kept cold. Hope it’s all present and correct!
Zoe at Number 19

And in return, I’ve just dropped round a jar of our home-made apple chutney as a little token of thanks. Ain’t we lovely, too?

So not only do we now have a fridge full of well-hung lamb and beef, we also have a renewed belief that common kindness and humanity still flourishes, even in the sink of depravity that is 21st century London. And surely this is proof that the organic food box movement breaks down the barriers of fear and prejudice that blight urban life.

Hurrah for Zoe! Hurrah for us! Hurrah for the Well Hung Meat Co!

24 Responses to “Our first meat box delivery”

  1. margesimpson Says:

    why oh why no riverford meat? ive never tasted steak like it ,it just melts and the price is very reasonable especially for mince sausages and bacon extras.the cheese are really good too

  2. gastropunk Says:

    margesimpson, good question. don’t know why we didnt do a riverford box – we just stumbled across this other company and ordered it on impulse. we’ll give the riverford one a go next and compare quality and prices…

  3. Didn’t I tell you about the usefulness of neighbours?
    We are fortunate in that our veg box could sit for days
    on our doorstep and only suffer from the heat. A friend once left a bottle of wine for us, in full view of every passer-by, and it was still there when we arrived home four hours later!
    The increasing popularity of internet shopping is going to mean that we will need to rely on the kindness of neighbours more and more – or never leave home at all!

  4. gastropunk Says:

    spinning_jeni, you’re absolutely right. it’s such a shame in London that neighbours are generally viewed as potential annoyances – making noise, dumping old fridges in the street, generally bringing down the neighbourhood. anything that encourages a shared sense of community and ‘looking out for each other’ can only be a good thing…

  5. oldbirdofdevon Says:

    That sounds a bit like a quantum effect – very random and bringing unexpected results. Cool. On a more prosaic note, I once bought a chicken from the well hung lot and it cost me 16 quid!! I’d be interested to hear about the Riverford comparison. I buy meat from their farm shop and it’s pretty decent.

  6. academicmum Says:

    Yes – I checked out ‘well-hung-meats’ after they were featured in the Observer as the best organic meat supplier in the country, but I balked at the price. Well I spluttered actually.

    Now I’d heard rumours that RIverford would do meat but I gather from the above discussion they’re already up and running in which case I’ll give it a try. Country mouse me, always behind the times.

    I was doorstepped recently by an outfit in Wales (Ensors?) who are doing Organic meatbox delivery and when I mentioned Riverford they guy quickly went from smoothy sweet-talking sales-guy to a red-faced Mr. Angry. “Oh that guy – oh yea like – he’s got it sown up – he sure knows what he’s doing”….”eh – I’m not sure that’s kindof his aim”, I said, freshly loyal from Guy’s latest newsletter.

    I got the Welsh box for a week, it was ok: £30 or so for an intro box but as I couldn’t face meeting Mr. Angry again I left it. Like you say Gastropunk all these extra encounters brought to us by organic boxes!

    Enjoy your leg-of-lamb. Bet it’s worth the price.

  7. gastropunk Says:

    oldbirdofdevon, it’s gotta be a damn fine chuck for 16squid. was it worth it? i have to say, the first taste of the well hung mince beef was a revelation – well worth the steep price….

  8. gastropunk Says:

    academicmum, that’s a funny story about the angry meat box salesman. interesting to hear that guy watson and riverford are seen as the big bad boys by some smaller organic producers.
    i think one of the unique strengths of riverford is Guy’s ability to communicate his passion for the cause – and to involve his customers in the mission through his newletters. by comparison, the well hung meat co’s newsletter just doesn’t cut it.

  9. oldbirdofdevon Says:

    Glad to hear the mince was worth the price. I think mince really is worth paying more for, as it’s still relatively cheap, can be used for many things and actually tastes of meat if organic. The bird was not worth the money I have to say, even tho I used every last morsel. I buy carcasses from Riverford for stock, less than a quid and worth every penny.
    One last thing, if you’re into all things Devonian, look out for Burt’s crisps if you haven’t already tried ’em. Fandabadozee. http://www.burtschips.com/

  10. margesimpson Says:

    if you buy a meat box from riverford they give you chicken carcasses (as many as tou want )for free.their mince extra is £11.25 for 5x500grm packs. its very nice no fat or water on cooking and my very good bolognaise is now exceptional the sauce much richer,good ingredients do make a difference.angry box man just probably is upset hes not doing so well.people like to knock sucsess. try it reasonable prices amazing quality. my 12 yr old daughter said after eating her sainsburys bacon roll “its not the same after youve tasted that happy bacon is it” she means riverford bacon its to die for!!

  11. gastropunk Says:

    margesimpson, very interesting to hear you get free chicken carcasses from Riverford – there’s nothing better than knowing you’ve got a big bowl of clear, tasty chicken stock sitting in the fridge. do you get the meat box delivered with your veg box or do they come seperately?

  12. gastropunk Says:

    oldbirdofdevon, cheers for the tip on Burt’s crisps, we’ll make sure we try a packet next time we’re down your way.

  13. academicmum Says:

    MargeS -you’ve sold me – I think I may give it a whirl. I found Riverford meat on a website far away and only coughed rather than spluttered at the price.

    It seems to be pretty separate from Riverford Veggie. And here in Bath there is no local distributor so you have to pay £5 to get it special delivery. So it seems there is no connection to the veggie box at all.

    Though I really like the sound of that mince and bacon, there is the worthiness dilemma of whether I buy local at my struggling community shop or import from Devon. Still as GastroP pointed out Guy Watson’s newsletters are spectacularly good at keeping us customers believing in the worthiness of what he stands for…(still I was a bit surprised by GastroPs description of the size of the operation down there).

  14. gastropunk Says:

    academicmum, i think the dilemma of buying local vs buying organic is a tricky one. that’s why i think, in theory, farmer’s markets offer the best of both worlds.

    one more thing to note in the well hung meat co vs riverford meat box comparison: TWHMC hang their beef for a minimum of 21 days, Riverford hang theirs from “between 12 and 21”. i think that could make some difference to the flavour, and the price.

  15. margesimpson Says:

    the meat comes separatly by courier,which they say they are working on to try and get the veg box delivery and meat together but i suppose they need to build the business up to make it worth their while.the meat box scheme is run by guys brother, so its very linked to the veg box business. i often find even though the local farms seem local the produce is not always so local.as to the delivery charge for the meat box i order once a month and delivery is still the same charge so that makes it more economical for me and more enviromental.as to farmers markets sometimes the quality can be a bit off,although the principles a nice one,and unless they are really local are they a good idea with all the driving involved?? you can only try your best !!

  16. margesimpson Says:

    oh and now they are recycling the plastic insulation in the boxes so thats good. you post it back to them.also i find you eat smaller quantities of the organic meat,its more filling so the price sort of evens out.i got 9.1 kg of meat in the last box. how much did your box amount to gp?

  17. margesimpson Says:

    that was for a large box

  18. gastropunk Says:

    margesimpson, we found that the minced beef we got in the box this week was very filling – it didn’t disintegrate into a watery mush in the pan – so half a pound of meat was plenty for the two of us. so, like you say, it works out to be quite economical.
    we got about 7lb (3.5kg) of meat in our box for about £50, including delivery. how much was your 9kg (!) box from Riverford?

  19. margesimpson Says:

    £75 but i feeds 6 for 10 meals, and thats large portionswith leftovers

  20. organicobserver Says:

    academicmum, if you are in Bath, you should try Walter Rose and Sons butchers in Devizes (or Trowbridge) which are not too far. Excellent produce, reasonable price and a delight of a shop. Much nicer than the butchers on Green Street (Bath).

  21. academicmum Says:

    Oh – thanks for the tip OrganicObs. I will try that. This discussion has jumped me out of my Sainsbury SO Organic rut. I now have £60 quid’s worth of Riverford meat arriving on Thursday which seems like an obscene amount but when I run out I’ll definitely try Walter Rose in Trowbridge which is not so far at all from where I live

    Happy eating all!

  22. Colours Says:

    The Riverford Meat Box is a separate entity to the veg boxes, I live just down the road from Riverford. The meat side is run by Ben Watson and Guy has little or nothing to do with it. Also from what I can gather not everything is organic, the pork for instance is free-range, GM and additive free but not certified organic, which, when compared with Guy’s passion for organics falls a little short of the mark…
    I agree with Gastropunk that the hanging time makes SUCH a difference, beef should really be 21 days.

  23. Alex Says:


    Very interesting discussion and comments. I also looked at the Riverford meat box scheme and saw that not everything is organic. It’s very confusing, should you have to look to find out?

    Also agree wholeheartedly with ‘organicobserver’. I’ve never beein in the butchers on Green Street in Bath but when I’ve been past it I’m fascinated by how unappetising their meat looks. Have you ever noticed the smell coming out from there?

    Just for reference I run an organic delivery service with free delivery in bath (BA1 area) and most of Somerset. Everything is certified organic so no confusion. No meat box scheme either, just choose the cuts you want.


  24. The quest for a reliable source of fine organic meats has led us this week to the knowingly-named Well Hung Meat Company. It was very interesting,thank you for sharing this.


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