The importance of eating higher quality meat in smaller quantities has came to light alongside the growth of sustainability in the hospitality industry over the past few years. James Mansfield forms a big part of this change and step in the right direction. From serving the Spice Girls in The Ivy Restaurant to slicing up meat sourced from sustainable farmers, James has always been a fan of food. This week he teaches us just why he and his business partner are creating their very own set of accreditation for the farmers they use – and how Field and Flower are small, but a successful and beautiful business model that will hopefully change the way we eat meat for the future.
00:00:00 Marks introduction
00:02:30 Meeting James, setting the scene in Bath
00:02:58 How does Bath differ from South London where James is originally from?
00:03:50 James’ introduction to hospitality at the Ivy Restaurant in London
- 00:04:42 “You had two jobs: you would come in and check the sheet and be in the briefing and you’d either be running the trays up and down the stairs all night because the kitchen was three floors below the main restaurant, or you’d be on the floor serving 300 people that would walk into the restaurant that night.”
- 00:05:25 “I was working there when Mark Hix was the executive chef so I used to take my lunch up to him in the offices, and he was a great guy.”
00:06:32 James’ progression in the Ivy – serving the Spice Girls!
00:08:19 James’ first exposure to produce, sparking his interest
- 00:08:52 “It was just incredible to see them walking in with their produce, literally carrying it to the chefs. And that sparked a bit of a passion for food – I used to love watching the chefs create dishes.”
00:10:38 Did James think he’d end up in a front of house role?
00:11:27 Leaving the Ivy and going to University to study media and then agriculture
- 00:12:22 “I met my business partner on day one, so it was strange and I definitely stuck out like a sore thumb at the Royal Agricultural College – I didn’t have any tweed! But I became manager of the football team, made some good friends… It was an absolutely amazing experience.”
00:13:40 How did Field & Flower come to be?
- 00:15:52 The trigger for selling meat online
- 00:16:02 “There were two things really for us. It was: shall we go down the catering route and do a kind of street food thing with the beef that we’ve got, or should we go down the online veg box model. And actually, we started doing both at the same time.”
00:17:43 Coming up with the name ‘Field and Flower’
00:18:20 The field and flower ethos – grass fed meat
- 00:18:29 “I think it’s really simple: it’s old school, traditional beef that’s out in a field eating grass. It’s kind of that simple from day one really – we aren’t doing anything different from what James’ grandparents were doing. It’s traditional, free range extensive beef.”
00:19:37 What age are calves taken away in the intensive mainstream system of farming?
00:20:50 Field and Flower competitors
- 00:21:40 “Our first year as a business was just testing this really, so we were doing one animal a month. We would go and deliver before work – so I would drive from Somerset up to London, deliver the boxes to friends and family and gradually, month on month, it was people recommended to field and flower.”
00:22:35 Learning to butcher for four years
- 00:22:48 “I rolled every meatball and pressed every burger. We had to learn that really, because we are a business that is all about product really, and we wanted to know the product. If we were going to go into the murky world of butchery – we had to know what was going on.”
- 00:24:36 “That’s where our philosophy of nose to tail came from – we had the whole animal there, so we had to do something with it and inevitably it was easier for pork lamb and chicken, but with beef we were finding we had some four quarter beef left over and we didn’t want to keep hanging it in the freezer…”
00:26:40 Being part event company, part butcher for two years
00:28:37 Having a business mentor – Paul Lindley of Ella’s Kitchen
00:29:38 Bringing in more farmers and outsourcing butcheries
- 00:30:12 “We’d go and stand on the farm and choose those animals, it was fantastic. In the end, people were still knocking on the door. We probably get a new producer every week.”
00:30:27 Stuart the chicken farmer – why he’s got the right approach and his conscious decision to not be ‘organic’
- 00:31:17 “He’s a free range chicken farmer at the top of his game, he’s a young guy, family farm and he believes in free range chickens being in flocks of 200 making sure the chickens are actually outside, he’s creating habitats that encourage them to go outside… It’s a Cotswold white, a slow growing breed and he’s rearing them up to an age of 71 days which is double what you’d find in, some even free range, chickens in a supermarket.”
- 00:33:12 “We didn’t want to put that organic label on because it had a perceived value of being more expensive – and in a recession when we started, that was something we were keen to avoid.”
- 00:33:41 “He’s home growing cereals on his farm to feed his chickens.”
00:34:51 What Field and Flower look for in a farmer – coming up with their own accreditations
00:36:45 What’s the difference between intensive cattle farming and the way Field and Flower do it?
- 00:37:45 “The problem was that they were feeding them high protein food stuff – so that might be bread, cake, oranges, fruit – all sorts of things a cow shouldn’t eat really. And it was obviously a kind of race to the bottom – it was all about trying to produce this meat as quickly as possible so it could be sold to the supermarket as cheaply as possible.”
00:29:54 Buying meat less often – James is all for it!
- 00:40:53 “It’s not sustainable the way we are currently rearing meat. We will not be able to keep eating cheap meat in the years that come, I think that we need to be more responsible. We need to be looking at individual farms and systems and say ‘this is a type of meat that we are comfortable eating’…”
00:41:57 The mixed farming approach – is it realistic and are we on the point of change?
- 00:43:18 “I think people are looking for better quality products, if you don’t hang beef then it retains lots of water. If you don’t have a traditional breed it doesn’t have the qualities that come with the fats that are in a traditional breed.”
00:44:55 Where is most of the market for Field and Flower, and what has James learnt from it?
- 00:47:39 “We pay above market price in most cases, and if not market price – the feedback from farmers it that they love working with us. Then if we get feedback from customers, we connect that back so if we get great feedback we will send it on to Stu our chicken farmer, or Tom our lamb farmer…”
00:48:22 How is James finding managing supplier agreements on the changing prices of meat?
00:50:20 Choosing whether to supply restaurants & the hospitality industry
00:53:00 The key challenges around Field and Flower
- 00:53:45 “We talk about about marketing in certain areas so we can build roots for our own drivers – because our own drivers don’t make mistakes. They deliver on time and leave the box where it should be.”
- 00:56:15 “We’ve got a recyclable cardboard box, we have a silver inner liner that keeps the product cool with about 3 kilos of ice and the products come vacuumed packed. We are currently working with lots of different people to try and get biodegradable vacuum packs.”
00:57:02 The challenge with making biodegradable vacuum packed
00:57:45 Funding Field & Flower
- 00:58:11 “We had a six-week campaign where we raised £877 thousand from 650 people… 52% of our investors were our customers which was amazing for us.”
01:00:20 What’s the plans for Field & Flower, is it going to grow?
- 01:00:38 “All the time that we’re growing we’re helping farmers, and that’s a great thing. But we want to get to a point where we look at Riverford and Abel and Cole and think why can’t we try and aspire to be that size?”
01:02:05 The complications of fish and having a similar welfare standard
- 01:02:20 “We have Chalkstream Trout and Lock Duart who do our salmon up in Scotland, and we work with a fishmonger who’s based in Shoreham who is buying day boat caught fish from market every day.”
01:03:29 Does James meet every person that supply the business?
01:04:51 The issue of customer choice
- 00:01:06:24 “If we had more flat iron steaks ordered than we had coming through the ten beef animals this week then we would phone the customer and say, we haven’t actually got your flat irons, can we swap them with an onglet for example… That’s critical, the communication.”
01:07:50 What gives James the biggest buzz in his career?
- 01:08:13 “To see the product going into boxes then to see customer feedback is still kind of what drives us on, we know that we are producing a really good product and delivering a good service for our customers.”
01:09:54 Advice from James and what he’s learnt from his journey
- 01:10:18 “You have to be really resilient. You’ll get knocks and you gotta get back up and keep going. I said to someone this week – it’s about being in the game, and making sure you’re there. Sometimes it’s just survival and that’s fine.”
- 01:11:42 “You have to be able to back up what you’re doing as well, that’s massive and that’s why we are writing our own welfare standards which is quite a big task for a small business.”
01:13:36 Where can you go to find out more about James, Field and Flower and what they do?
01:14:10 Marks final thoughts and sign off
I f you’d like to learn more about James Mansfield, James Flower and their wonderful meat supply business – check out their website and social channels below, or listen to the full episode here.