Our first event of 2022 kicked off with a tour of Direct Meats, a catering butcher and distributor, in Colchester. We were split in half with the first group having to dress up in some flattering factory-wear and proceeding to a tour of the main factory.
We made our way down to the main butchery area first where we saw how the whole carcasses get divided up and every product that can be made is taken off with little waste. A staggering number of products are processed every hour and the speed in which the butchers worked was eye-opening.
We then went into the dry-aging chamber where the sugars in the beef are broken down to create a nutty and unique flavour and improve tenderness in the meat. The chamber is designed to keep the beef at 1-2 degrees Celsius with a humidity control of 75-80%. It also had ultra-violet lighting that eliminated any unwanted bacteria.
The sausage factory was on a huge scale and this is where not just pork sausages are created, but also lamb and beef. Once the primal cuts are hand-selected, they are fed through the industrial sized mincer which removes any gristle, before being fed into the sausage machine. The sausages are composed of 85% meat to 15% fat ratio to ensure succulence with every bite.
Subsequently, we made our way back inside the office to hear about the history of Direct Meats, owned by Martin and Linda Blackwell, from supplying local pubs to Michelin Star restaurants. They now supply restaurants across the whole of the UK, with a huge presence in London, and over 17 countries globally.
The last part of the tour was around the charcuterie factory, built in partnership with Dingley Dell Pork. The factory comprises of bespoke Italian-designed curing chambers which use state of the art technology to mimic the perfect conditions for the curing process. The result, Dingley Dell Cured, is an award-winning, artisan range of fermented sausages, salamis, and air-dried whole muscle cuts, all using exceptional Dingley Dell Pork. Make sure to check out their online shop – dingleydellcured.co.uk.
After a fascinating tour of Direct Meats, we headed down to the local pub for some food and a talk from Mark Hayward, Owner of Dingley Dell Pork. Mark and his brother Paul are third generation farmers and started the brand 20 years ago. Their philosophy is simple – Welfare, Taste and Sustainability. The pigs are kept outdoors with the highest standard of welfare, and they believe that human-animal relationships define welfare and make for all round happy pigs. They run a unique breeding programme on farm where the pigs are scanned live for Intermuscular Fat (IMF) which is also known as marbling in the meat. The higher the IMF, the better the quality of pork as this increases flavour and tenderness. They also run a sustainability project in partnership with Direct Meats called “A Million Bees On Farm”. 34 hectares (equivalent to 83 football pitches) of nectar rich plant mixes are planted in staggered blocks around their farm each year. The aim is to support a million bumblebees which they achieve every year!
It was a brilliant first NextGen event of 2022 and we are very grateful to Martin and all the team at Direct Meats and Mark for an insightful afternoon.
Our next event is a tour of RAGT Seeds on 13th June and we look forward to seeing our NextGen members there. If you are interested in joining the group, please don’t hesitate to contact Jono or Hollie in the Fram office.