2:25pm Tuesday 21st February 2006
By Lewis Cowen
FARMERS Judith and Bill Daw have come up with a novel idea to put people in touch with the meat they eat by allowing people to adopt a sheep.
The idea is that adopters will choose a sheep or lamb from the Daws' flock at Bridge Farm, All Cannings near Devizes.
They will be kept in touch by email with its progress, including what, if any, drugs it is given and when it is likely to be ready for slaughter.
They will even be able to see their own animals grazing on the Pewsey Downs.
When ready, the Daws will take the sheep to Stiles' abattoir in Bromham and deliver the butchered carcass, ready for the freezer.
The couple are aware that some people might blench at becoming acquainted with their own dinner, but for others it is in keeping with the kind of healthy, natural lifestyle being promulgated by TV gurus like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
Mrs Daw said: "People can grow their own vegetbles, but it is difficult for most people to grow their own meat. This way they have a little bit of control.
"It is an ideal project for schools. Children can understand the way meat is produced, how fairly they are slaughtered after living a happy life in an natural environment."
The Daws came up with the scheme after boiling with frustration at the way consumers automatically buy their meat at supermarkets from the other side of the world.
Mrs Daw, 44, said: "We have nothing against the New Zealand farmers, but where is the sense in sending meat half way across the world when you can buy something even better from just up the road?
"You have no way of knowing how far the animals had to travel to the abattoir, in what conditions they were reared, what drugs they have been injected with or anything else about them.
"With our system, the consumer can choose their own sheep or lamb, find out how it is raised and even come to see it grazing on the lovely Pewsey Downs."
The website www.adoptasheepformeat.co.uk has been up and running since before Christmas but it is only now the Daws have decided to publicise their scheme.
Mr Daw, 48, said: "The animals are very nearly organically raised.
"The only drugs we use on them are designed for their comfort, rather than to promote growth. The lambs are wormed and inoculated against fly strike. No antibiotics are used.
"People who buy one of our animals can find out exactly what drugs we are using on their sheep and say whether they approve or not."
Mr and Mrs Daw have farming in their blood. Mr Daw is a member of the well-known All Cannings farming family and Mrs Daw is a dairy farmer's daughter and has been involved in agriculture all her life.
The have 500 sheep, 240 of which are breeding ewes. This means that the couple are expecting around 400 lambs within the next month or so.
Lambs cost £140 each and ewes £170.
Mr Daw said: "We want to get rid of the myth that farmers are ruining the countryside. Given the choice, every farmer would farm as naturally and organically as possible.
"It is our land, we love it and we want other people to appreciate it as much as we do."
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