British farming is revered the world over – and for good reason. Farming in tune with nature means native breeds have evolved to grow strong and healthy on the landscapes where they were born.
This type of farming creates the healthiest, most nutritious and best-tasting meat. Sheep fatten up nicely by simply foraging in fields. They traditionally graze on land that doesn’t have much other agricultural use – such as poor-quality hillsides – which means it usually makes economic sense to allow them to roam free.
Free-roaming, pasture-fed cows have evolved naturally to forage and are not forced onto grains. This means their meat is generally higher in vitamin E, which provides protection against toxins and neurological diseases, and beta carotene – which is good for the immune system.
Truly free range and organic chickens are meatier because they have developed good muscles. They also offer more complex flavours because of their healthier lifestyle and feed. There are less of the bad fats and more of the good fats in this chicken, and they are not routinely fed antibiotics.
Organic and truly free-range pigs are reared without the routine use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers common in intensive farming. This is especially important in light of reports highlighting how the overuse of antibiotics in farming is undermining the treatment of infections in humans.
When it comes to eating, the firmness of texture and depth of flavour is unparalleled in pigs that have been free to roam and fed a healthy diet.
Buying directly from farms is the best way to achieve this quality in taste and nutrition.
Of course, not all of us are lucky enough to live near farms or have easy access to farmers’ markets.
Fortunately, the food is now being brought directly to our doors as meat boxes become ever more popular. Here, we recommend some of our favourite meat boxes on offer at the moment – in no particular order, it just depends on what you’re looking for.
You can order to your office or home because the meat arrives chilled or frozen and will stay that way all day.
Each brand offers a selection of meat boxes, so if you like the sound of one then click on the link to find more.
Pipers Farm family favourites: £55
Devon-based Pipers Farm is a 50-acre family farm working in tune with nature and 25 other family farms in the surrounding areas – and they butcher onsite. One roast chicken from here will not only easily serve a family of four, but you’ll also have enough left over for a curry and to use the carcass to create a tasty soup or stock. Tasty being the key word here – these genuinely free-ranging chickens have a depth of flavour you will have forgotten they could have.
The same can be said for the other selections in this meat box, which really does include a lot of meat. But each portion is not huge, encouraging you to eat a little less and a lot better.
Family favourites meat box includes: 1.5kg properly free-range whole chicken, four free-range chicken burgers, 1kg grass-fed beef mince, 1kg saddleback breakfast sausages, 200g unsmoked saddle back bacon, 250g properly free-range chicken fillets, four grass-fed sandwich steaks, four award-winning saddleback pork steaks.
Farmdrop BBQ meat box: £22.40
Farmdrop is like an ethical grocer, bridging the gap between farmers and city-dwellers – it’s still fairly early days so it only delivers to London-ish postcodes at the moment, and is beginning to expand outside the M25.
The company only champions farmers who really care about the environment, animal welfare and quality – but allow you to make the choice of whether you want organic or free-range produce, providing great biographies of each farm to make that decision easy.
There’s a minimum order delivery of £40 so you can stock up on vegetables or household goods, all created by different suppliers but with the same ethos in mind. We also love that they deliver to your kitchen with a smile every time, and take away the crates so there’s minimal packaging left behind.
The BBQ meat box includes: six beef burgers, six sausages, six lamb riblets and six pork ribs. Hands down some of the best sausages we’ve ever tasted.
Rosewood Farm all week Dexter beef box: £53
Rosewood Farm maintains its meat is a by-product of their wildlife conservation work in Yorkshire’s Lower Derwent Valley; as such they farm very much in-line with the standards of organic and 100 per cent grass-fed meat, even though the farm is not officially certified.
The meat boxes are all about the beef and offer very good value, including a mixture of cuts representative of the whole animal to ensure none is wasted. We cooked a chuck steak in a pressure cooker and it was melt-in-the-mouth with a real richness of flavour. The website or photography might not be as polished as some of the others in this list but they’re professional farmers, not marketers, so this almost adds to their authenticity.
The all-week Dexter beef box includes: a mixture of cuts (excluding offal!) including hind (1.25kg) and forequarter (1.25kg) joints, diced stewing steak (1.0kg), mince (1.0kg) and steaks (0.5kg).
Abel & Cole fabulous meat and fish box: £17.50
Abel & Cole were one of the pioneering food box schemes, starting with organic vegetables more than 30 years ago. Its ethics are still strong, with a family feel in the HQ and suppliers extolling the values of working with them. This weekly subscription box includes two cuts of organic meat and one sustainable fish that changes weekly. The company offers recipes to help with its promise to stop you always cooking the same meals – and it works.
If your aim is to eat less meat and better quality, this box is a no-brainer. And the fish is a good way to change things up even more.
Primal Meats monthly surprise meat box: £50
Primal Meats promotes the eco-omnivore diet – and is all about pasture for life and regenerative farming that balances the social, economic and ecological needs of farms and land managers.
The meat boxes are ideal for people who care about animal welfare (it’s Pasture for Life certified) and those following diets based on ancestral wisdom, as the meat is as close as possible to meats from the wild – and you can genuinely taste the grass in the steaks. If you subscribe to this hamper, you not only get seasonal favourites and discounted specials but also the chance to be a guinea pig for new products, free of charge.
An example monthly surprise meat box includes: lamb shoulder, 1kg + 2 x 350g beef mince, 350g beef shin, 2 x 250g lamb chops, 500g pork sausages, 250g beefburgers, 500g chicken thighs, 350g pork strips
Riverford small everyday meat box: £18.45
When it comes to ethics, Riverford offers some of the strongest on the market – it’s organic, British and 100 per cent grass fed. Riverford are arable farmers so they work with a small group of West Country farmers to source their organic meat, and prepare it at their butchery.
This box includes easy-cooking cuts such as mince, diced meat, prime steaks, chicken breasts and the occasional roasting joint that serves two people for three dinners. It’s easy to cook and offers good flavour. Subscribe to one of their weekly vegetable boxes, and making quick dinner decisions will never have been so easy.
Farmison favourite steak and chops for two: £73.95
Farmison customers are more like Farmison fans, and it’s easy to understand why. First up, the meat is good. Really good. It is juicy, succulent and has a depth of flavour not easy to find, and this is because their goal of getting people to “eat better meat” goes hand-in-hand with their support of farmers who are preserving ancient and important British breeds.
The favourite steak and chops for two box includes: 2 x 250g 32 day dry-aged heritage grass-fed rib eye steak; 1 x 700g 32 day dry-aged porterhouse steak; 2 x 200g 32 day aged grass-fed rump pave steak; 2 x 250g 14 day dry-aged native breed lamb barnsley chop; 2 x 180g ripon cathedral black bacon steaks; 2 x 330g outdoor reared pork T-bone steak
Coombe Farm Organic fitness meat box: £32
As you would expect from a fitness box, the meat from Coombe Farm Organic is pretty lean but it has good flavour. The box also represents great value, and their mince beef comes rolled rather than flat, which is space-saving for the freezer.
Coombe Farm is relatively new to meat farming and as such is still building up its processes. Even so, it knows its customers well and offers a selection of meat boxes to cater for most dietary requirements.
The fitness meat box includes: two beef burgers, 250g beef mince, 225g beef rump steak, 200g chicken breast fillet, 250g chicken mince, 170g beef picanha steak, 200g pork leg steak, 180g turkey breast steak, 250g turkey mince
Eversfield Organic mega BBQ box: £75
Wow. This box is a treat for meat lovers. If you’re hosting BBQs this summer, then this box truly provides a meat feast. This family-run farm in Devon has transformed commercial farmland into organic pasture filled with trees, hedgerows and wildlife. Their meat is organic and grass fed, and you can taste the difference. The lamb, especially, is not to be missed.
The mega BBQ box includes: 620g chicken wings; 400g chicken drumsticks; 460g beef burgers (GF); 400g farmhouse pork sausages; 500g minute steaks; 1kg butterflied lamb shoulder; 500g sweet chilli pork belly strips; 400g pork chipolatas; 400g lamb kebab pieces; 460g lamb minted burgers
Horned Beef Company beef en primeur: £84.99
The Horned Beef Company is great because it rears native breed cattle outside all-year round in tune with nature. This means the beef is generally only available from June to December.
The company was founded by a young couple who moved to the Lake District and decided to try their hand at owning their own farm in 2015. They are part of the new generation of farmers who are transforming the farm-to-fork journey by prioritising wildlife and animal welfare, which goes hand-in-hand with quality. The couple ask you to become part of their story and to order a 5kg beef selection box “en primeur” – like the finest French wine, before it is bottled so to speak. And this certainly is some fine British beef.
A 5kg beef en primeur box includes: steaks, a roasting joint, minced beef, diced beef and sausages
Peelham Farm organic economy box for two: £20.66
This is both an organic and Pasture for Life-certified farm, which are two of the highest standards you can get in the UK. This 607-acre Scottish farm is doing some truly innovative things, which has the environment and animal welfare at its heart. Peelham Farm supports an organic cow-and-calf dairy farm by taking the bulls and rearing them for ethically-produced ruby veal.
The farm is ahead of the curve with their onsite butchery, smoker and charcuterie – producing great British salami that’s fragrant and intense in flavour.
The meat options change seasonally but the organic economy box for two includes: 300g minced meat, 300g diced meat, 2 x 200g steaks, 250g burgers, 300g sausages
Field & Flower big BBQ box: £39.50
There’s a few things that really make this box standout. First of all, the variety of the selection. Then there’s the quality of the meat, which is far superior to your average BBQ meat. Plus, the knowledge that James Field and James Flower (Field & Flower, geddit?) farm themselves and personally source and approve all other suppliers. The day before delivery a butcher trims each cut to order and the kitchen teams press the burgers by hand and hand-tie the sausages, which is a nice touch.
Big BBQ box includes: two packs of four gourmet burgers, six pork and black pepper sausages, six chicken garlic, lemon and thyme sausages, 350g hoisin pork belly strips, 200g harissa bavette steak, 450g chipotle chicken mini fillets, two lamb skewers with olive oil, lemon and garlic
The Dorset Meat Company introductory meat box: £44.95
Most customers build their own boxes at The Dorset Meat Company – as you can do for all of the companies listed here – but we opted for the introductory meat box to get a full flavour of what this company, which brings together produce from farms across Dorset and Wiltshire, has to offer.
And it has a lot to offer – all farms pride themselves on rearing animals outside, on grass-fed diets which is better for them and more nutritionally rich for us. An especially nice touch is that this box comes with condiments. We definitely recommend tasting this meat that’s farmed with minimal intervention.
The introductory meat box includes: 1kg beef topside roasting joint, 2 x 225g rump steaks, 500g diced lamb, 500g beef mince, 2 x 250g pork chops, 6 farmhouse pork sausages, 1 jar of Tracklements smooth dijon mustard (140G), 1 jar of Tracklements strong horseradish cream
Primrose Herd taster box: £45
Pork is the speciality of this family-run farm that has been keeping traditional breed pigs for more than 20 years. The pigs are reared outdoors, which is where they like to be, and there’s no teeth clipping, tail docking or castrating. They are eight to 10 months old by the time they are turned into meat, which is much slower growing than intensively reared pigs. Therefore they have a more substantial texture and deeper flavour. Their smoked bacon reminded us of how bacon used to taste (in the good ol’ days!).
A Primrose Herd taster box includes: 1 x shoulder joint (boned and rolled approx 1kg), 4 x leg steaks (approx 800gm), 500g diced pork, 500g minced pork, 1kg sausages, 500g dry cured back bacon
The verdict: Meat boxes
You can’t go wrong with any meat box from this list. If you’re really making us choose, then Pipers Farm’s family favourites box is our favourite for offering top quality and a healthy variety. The Farmison favourite steak and chops box feels more indulgent, and there’ll always be a place for this at our table. Primal Meats’ monthly surprise box is really at the forefront of a new style of agriculture that’s truly farming in tune with nature, so they are the ones to watch.
Lizzie Rivera is the founder of ethical lifestyle website BICBIM.CO.UK