Christmas at Pipers Farm

Welcome to Christmas at Pipers Farm. Gather all you need to make this year sparkle with pure joy. There’s no trolleys or queueing needed here, so grab yourself something to warm your cockles and sit back, we’ve got all you need for a sensational Christmas.

Our Mission

Pipers Farm is a 50-acre, permanent pasture, family farm, located in Devon. It lies in an area of rolling hills and nutrient-rich red Devon soil. Our fields are small and the 400-year-old hedgerows surrounding them are 2 or 3 metres wide. They are priceless reservoirs of biodiversity and natural corridors for wildlife.

Our ethics and values are deep-rooted to the core of our business. We passionately believe in producing wholesome natural food that has been grown with respect for nature. Our principles have not changed for 30 years and you can rest assured that we will continue to produce food that you can trust completely.” Peter Greig, founder of Pipers Farm.

Our mission is based on these deep-rooted beliefs...

We work with 25 small-scale family farms based in both Devon and Somerset. We believe small-scale mixed farming is the most sustainable way to produce food. All our farmers grow a range of produce - for example, our Red Rubies graze alongside a flock of sheep and our Wessex Saddleback pigs happily live next to vegetable patches. We have built strong relationships with our farmers based on a handshake and a belief to produce food the right way.

For us, true sustainability also includes building sustainable communities. Proper sustainable farming needs to have an economic benefit to the community. It is no good having farmers and workers unable to make a living through food production as this only leads to unfair pressure on principles. We work with our farmers and we agree upfront on a fair price to produce our food. The price does not fluctuate with the market and is always honoured. By supporting Pipers Farm your money is going back into the community. It is helping us ensure our countryside looks fantastic, it is funding projects such as converting to renewable energy on our farms, and importantly it is securing a future for small-scale family farms.

We work with 25 small-scale family farms based in both Devon and Somerset. We believe small-scale mixed farming is the most sustainable way to produce food. All our farmers grow a range of produce - for example, our Red Rubies graze alongside a flock of sheep and our Wessex Saddleback pigs happily live next to vegetable patches. We have built strong relationships with our farmers based on a handshake and a belief to produce food the right way.

Grassland forms a vital part of our countryside. For centuries it has been the principal food source for cattle and sheep. Fields of just grass provide all nutritional components an animal needs. Our fields contain a variety of other plant species including herbs, wildflowers, and clovers. Rich in essential vitamins and minerals our grasses not only provide incredible healthy nutrition but also support a diverse range of insects and wildlife. We do not believe you have to cut down acres of rainforest, grow miles of land for grain, we simply utilise what is in abundance right on our doorstep. Our ruminant animals only ever eat a diet of 100% pure natural grass, all grown on our farms. Our chicken and pigs, although not ruminants, also eat grass as a high proportion of their diet. You will notice our chickens are very yellow; this is down to the amount of chlorophyll they have ingested from foraging in our fields.

Regenerative farming is an approach to food and farming systems that rejects pesticides, artificial fertilizers and chemical inputs, and instead focusses on regenerating topsoil, increasing biodiversity, improving water cycles and increasing resilience to climate fluctuation to strengthen the health and vitality of farming communities. Regenerative farming is based on techniques and thinking that integrates organic farming, permaculture, agroecology, agroforestry, restoration ecology, and holistic management.

One of our fundamental principles of farming the Pipers Farm way is to grow livestock slowly. By selecting the right breeds, with the right diet, we let animals grow at a natural pace. This is of paramount importance to the health and welfare of our stock and it also ensures an animal has developed a proper bone structure and texture in the meat – resulting in real eating quality. We are also passionate about the Slow Food movement, a grassroots organisation that is the alternative to fast food. Slow Food strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming characteristics in line with the local ecosystem. The Slow Food motto is ‘Good, clean and fair” - a sentiment we couldn’t agree more with.

Making sure we have enough food for the future and looking after our planet for the next generation is so important to us as a business. Reducing food waste is a key part of preserving a healthy and sustainable countryside. We are a zero to landfill business. Our waste is sorted into recycling materials and matter for the local biodigester that is turned into energy and then compost to feed the land. We utilise the whole carcass from nose to tail and ensure nothing is ever wasted. We encourage our customers to try something a little different, to think outside the box and realise the true value of the food you are eating.

Sounds strange, doesn’t it, coming from farmers and butchers? However, we do believe we should all cut down on the amount of meat we eat, it is simply not sustainable. Meat has along the lines lost its value, with products like cheap chicken so readily available we have become so detached from the long process it takes to produce food. We believe we should all eat much less meat, and when we do eat meat ensure it has been produced in a way that has respect for the animal, respect for the farmer and respect for the landscape.

Christmas Birds

The Christmas Turkey

For many of us, turkey is ubiquitously associated with Christmas, the centre place in an elaborate spread that can be days in the making.

Native to South America, the wild turkey was first domesticated around 800 BC, and early European explorers brought the rather peculiar looking birds back to our shores in the 16th Century. Goose or duck used to be the Christmas fare of choice, but it was Edward VII that made turkey the favoured focal point of our seasonal celebrations - now more than three-quarters of us sit down to a turkey dinner on Christmas day.

The Industrial Turkey

The truth is that most turkeys consumed during the modern festive period bear little resemblance to their wild ancestors. Since the 1960’s, industrial farming has favoured a single breed, known as Broad Breasted White, which has been bred to grow quickly and maximise breast meat on the bird. The average modern turkey weighs in at twice the weight of its wild counterpart but reaches maturity in half the time (around 14-18 weeks). The hunt for a heavy bird has reached such a point that the animals are no longer able to fly or mate naturally as they are so heavy, and so artificial insemination is necessary. Often kept in close quarters in large sheds (containing up to 50,000 birds at a time), these birds are often so cramped that each only has an area the size of two-thirds of an opened broadsheet newspaper to itself, and beak trimming is a commonplace practice in order to prevent pecking. The supermarket version of ‘free-range’ doesn’t necessarily mean things are much better, as a majority of these birds are still raised in an industrial setting – the stocking density is around half that of their battery counterparts, and while they are required to have access to the outdoors, the way they are raised and housed means that most will never venture outside.

A Heritage Bird

There are several heritage varieties of turkey, many of which retain their wild ancestor’s beautiful coloured plumage, with the most common breeds being Norfolk Black, Bronze and Bourbon Red. These birds are much slower growing, usually taking twice as long as an industrially raised turkey to reach maturity, which results in meat with a much richer flavour. As the birds are not as large, or grown as quickly, they are much more suited to an outdoor environment. They are happiest venturing around a field, pecking at bugs and pasture and enjoying the fresh air and exercise, which also helps develop strong leg muscles and a larger proportion of brown meat on the carcass. As they are lighter and more physically balanced, they are also able to mate naturally, rather than being artificially inseminated.

The Pipers Farm Turkey

We raise Bronze turkeys, a heritage breed that came about by crossing wild turkeys with European domesticated birds in the 18th Century. With a dark plumage and a beautiful coppery-metallic sheen, their colouring closely resembles their wild ancestors. Our turkeys are grown for us by two local farms; a mixed family farm just four miles from Pipers Farm where two generations of the Snell family work together to raise turkeys, pigs and sheep for us, and Christine and John, farmers on a second-generation Dartmoor hill farm who have been raising truly free-range turkeys for more than 30 years. “We initially started doing Christmas turkeys to aid with cash flow, but they are now a major part of the family business. Besides it just wouldn’t be Christmas without the mad rush in December!” John jokes. The journey of our turkeys begins in late spring when the chicks hatch and live in a brooder for around three weeks to allow them time to grow the feathers needed to protect them outside. At this point, they move to their grassy hillside home where they live as ‘properly’ free-range birds – roaming the fields in which they live, pecking through the pasture for insects and bugs. “Free Range to me isn’t so many square metres per bird in the pasture, but the sight of turkeys appearing from the fields, running and flapping back for feeding time,” John points out. Their diet is made up of only good, natural food; cereals, grass, nettles fodder beet and cider apples. “Our birds are 28 weeks old, which means they have reached full maturity and put on a natural finish of fat,” John explains. When they reach the end of their lives, they are killed by hand, dry plucked, then hung for at least two weeks to develop the wonderful tenderness and depth of flavour that only one of our free-range heritage bird can offer. “Pipers understand what it takes to produce a quality product and they appreciate the extra effort involved in free range, slow grown, game hung turkeys,” John finishes.