Allyn River Galloways - slow meat is good meat
A month ago we visited Galloway beef farmers, Adrian Honnery and Valentyna Jurkiw, at their slice of paradise on the Allyn River, just below Barrington Tops.
It was the first time we'd been since restrictions lifted and we spent two days frolicking in the river, tracking herds of cattle up and down steep hills, absorbing as many stories and facts as possible, wandering through a mystical Beech forest and consuming our body weight in excellent food and wine.
Late one afternoon, Valentyna appeared in the pouring rain at the back door wearing a unique fishing ensemble of strappy sandles and a sleeveless cotton maxi dress, her eyes blazing triumphantly like some latter-day Artemis and holding up two freshly-caught, plump, Allyn River bass. The river is full of fish but Valentyna and Adrian, with characteristic restraint and care for the welfare of the ecosystem, only catch them a few times a year, for special occasions. Artemis gave one fish to a neighbour and we feasted on the other. It was wonderful.
But the best part of the visit, unsurprisingly, was hanging out with the Galloways and watching the relationship between farmers and cattle and land.
Adrian and Valentyna are classic, holistic farmers working to turn their farm into a thriving ecosystem in which everything has the greatest opportunity to reach its genetic potential, including the bass.
Small herds of cattle wander up and down the lovely hills, cycling through pastures in a carefully managed cell grazing system that promotes pasture growth and regeneration and provides a smorgasbord of fodder from which they are free to pick and choose daily, according to instinct and desire. They are calm and healthy and while they're relaxed with Valentyna and Adrian - their familiars - they're a little bit wild and viewed us interlopers with some suspicion. (Given our role in their lives, that's probably not surprising...)
Breeding and raising slower-growing breeds like Galloways takes patience and commitment because, while the results are worth waiting for, their slow-growing genetics mean it can be three years before the farmer gets a financial return on the investment.
By contrast, most Australian beef comes from cattle bred for faster growth that are left in a paddock for long periods, end up in a feedlot to fatten on cheap grain augmented with hormones and are slaughtered at between 12 to 18 months old. Unfortunately, the meat market in general doesn't reward farmers for ecosystem services which leaves those who are choosing to invest in system resilience for the long-term competing on the same territory as those who are focussed simply on short term gain. (Even the organic certification schemes are limited to measuring inputs rather than considering the entire condition of a farm ecosystem measured by diversity, fertility etc.)
Which means that you - the consumer - and we - the retailers - need to double our efforts to support and encourage holistic farming and, frankly, when the quality is this good, that's not hard.
The results from slower genetics and more mature animals that have been raised holistically are incomparably superior. The depth of flavour and texture are markedly different (specially after dry-ageing) and the invaluable work to improve ecosystem health and our direct and transparent connection to the farm is a cause for celebration.
We've talked about Allyn River Galloways here before, A Dream Come True. During the Covid restrictions in 2020 when we couldn't visit anyone, we asked our farmers to send us videos so we could all see how they were faring after the long drought and calamitous fires over the previous years. Here's Adrian's farm report. The rest of the reports are available here.
Here are a few snaps of the farm from our visit.