The snow is melting and spring is just around the corner! The trees are just starting to bud and we can hear a little more birdsong every day. We’ve already sown veg seeds in the polytunnel to get a head start before the soil warms up in our walled garden.
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Image: Rhug Estate

Last year we blogged about how the risk of avian flu and our proximity to an RSPB nature reserve had forced us to re-evaluate how and where we produce our poultry.

Nothing is ever entirely predictable in farming and a change in circumstances has lead us adapt and expand the way we produce our meat to better meet the demands of our customers and the resources available in our team here at Swillington.

The farm is run by Jo who founded the organic business and expanded and grew the farm that her mother started. Jo has unrivaled farming and stock knowledge and experience within our team but due to an operation that has required her to be absent from the business we have needed to look at our production and the risks to it.

It was decided that to ensure a quality supply and a fair workload across the team we would scale back our pig and poultry enterprises in the short term and share production with our network of trusted suppliers.

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After spending months rearing stock to the highest welfare standards it is important that the end is as stress free as possible.

Originally published in 2014 we keep this article up to date as our business grows. Last updated Jan 2018.

Due to recent concerns in the press about the provenance and welfare of how meat is slaughtered and as a farm that prides itself on traceability and creating food you can trust, we wanted to detail the story behind our slaughter methods.

We wish to reassure customers that all our poultry and animals are pre-stunned before slaughter. After spending months rearing stock to the highest welfare standards it is important that the end is as stress free as possible.

Our pigs , cattle and lambs go to a small organic certified abattoir less than 40 miles away with the pigs having several practice trips in the trailer when they are moved around the fields so that they are not stressed on their final journey. They are always fed when they go in the trailer which means loading is not a problem. They are loaded the night before and sleep on plenty of straw. Before leaving, the pigs are often still asleep when Jo gets to the abattoir with them. To avoid stress and fighting, our pigs are kept separate from others and are slaughtered quickly and humanely.


We make sure that neither lambs nor pigs ever go alone with a minimum of two animals going together with every attempt to minimise stress to the animal.

Our cattle are slaughtered at the same abattoir which is our nearest organic abattoir and one of only a few in the North of England. the abattoir has RSPCA assurance and is fully CCTV monitored.

The trips take less than an hour – a fraction of the average food miles traveled by meat stocked in the UK’s supermarkets.

Again, the animals are not mixed with other stock and are slaughtered the same day. The abattoir is independently audited and follows organic procedures set down by the Soil Association.

All poultry are slaughtered on or as local to the farm they were produced on, either here at Swillington, at Loose Birds in Harome or the Rhug Estate. They are free range until just before slaughter and travel to the abattoir. They are slaughtered by a qualified slaughterperson who has a slaughter licence gained after months of work experience before being observed by a vet who grants the licence.

We have experience and a relationship with all the abattoirs we use;  at Swillington it is Jo our farmer who has the licence which was gained after training at Loose Birds and the abattoir Rhug use was also used by Swillington until we built our own on farm abattoir. Whichever farm the birds were raised on the most local and high welfare slaughter method is used to minimise transport and food miles and all products are butchered and packed by our team here at Swillington to guarantee quality.

Organic ChickenAfter our animals have been humanely and expertly slaughtered, we then butcher the whole carcass from nose to tail allowing full traceability of every cut, giving you the customer the opportunity to know where your food has come from and try traditional cuts that you won’t find elsewhere.

For food you can trust sign up for one of our monthly meatboxes – every box includes visits to the farm so that when your box is delivered you know exactly what your family is eating.

Inspired by his travels apprentice butcher Bob has created a ‘Yorkshire Merguez’ sausage. Mildly spiced including rich red paprika the sausage is made with select cuts of Swillington organic beef and lamb which he minces, mixes with spices and hand links into sausages.

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After 4 years of delays the government has now confirmed the route of the HS2 railway, unfortunately they are taking forward the same scheme as originally proposed which will have a massive and long lasting impact in Swillington.

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