The organic butcher | Meat traceability and braised ox cheeks recipe


February 8, 2013


Head butcher for Sheepdrove Organic Farm

Blogger Nick Rapps was brought up in Chew Valley. After becoming a butcher’s apprentice nine years ago, the 27-year-old is now head butcher of Sheepdrove Organic Farm’s butcher’s shop in Bristol.


 Sheepdrove Organic Farm’s head butcher Nick Rapps looks at how organic certification protects consumers from food fraud and shares his recipe for braised ox cheeks – a satifying, warming dish for the winter months.

With all this talk of horse meat and pork in beef burgers, we need to be reminded how organic certification provides extra safeguards against contamination.

Traceability began in the organic world because the organic authenticity of every ingredient must be accounted for. Legally controlled and enforced, organic certification requires annual (and spot-check) inspections, rigorous paper trails and audits.

When it comes to meat, the organic certification system records every stage of the animal’s life cycle including how it was reared, and how its meat products are processed and packaged. A transparent and traceable supply chain is what organic is all about.

At Sheepdrove, we have an extremely short supply chain: the meat comes direct from our farm to the butcher’s in London or Bristol, or we buy in from organically-certified farms or abattoirs. We know exactly where our meat comes from.

Organic certification also requires respect for natural animal behaviour, and a stress-reduced free-range existence. It bans GMOs and insists that an animal’s diet is natural and grass-based. Our cattle live in family herds on the Berkshire Downs, grazing on pasture, as nature intended. All this care means organic meat is a healthy option – low in saturated fats and high in nutrients.

This also explains why I am so passionate about organic meat being affordable. We practice traditional nose-to-tail butchery so nothing goes to waste, and we can offer the cheaper cuts.

“With all this talk of horse meat and pork in beef burgers, we need to be reminded how organic certification provides extra safeguards against contamination.”

Such as ox cheeks. Cut from the carcass and sold separately, they are often classed as offal even though they are not organs (such as liver, kidney and heart) but are muscle. Hanger skirt, the muscle that holds the lungs, is another part of the animal sold fresh – and cheaply.

We only get two ox cheeks a week from our own farm animals, so we order-in extra ox cheeks from an abattoir on the Welsh borders which supplies organic offal, to meet customer demand.

Ox cheeks make a wonderful and economical dish for the winter months. Cook them as slowly as possible in sauce or stock for a rich, tender and flavoursome dish.

Sheepdrove cattle at sunset


1. Cut the ox cheek (one for 2 people, or 500g ox cheeks for 4) into large chunks.

2. Pop in a slow cooker, casserole or saucepan with thickly-cut vegetables such as carrots and onions. Allow 1 pt water per 4 people. Make the meat dish go further by adding nutritious pearl barley or cooked chick peas.

3. Add seasoning, and wine for extra richness, and pop the lid on to stop the precious liquid evaporating. Cook on a low temperature – the longer the better: About 2-3 hours gently simmering on the hob, or 2-3 in low (170°c) oven, or in a slow-cooker.

4. Serve with buttered mash and seasonal purple sprouting broccoli.


Order meat online for nationwide delivery or visit Sheepdrove Organic Farm Family Butcher Shops in Maida Vale, London, or Whiteladies Road, Bristol.


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