In 1993, an ex-soldier and brewery executive, Richard Vines, found himself out of work. He took stock of what he had around him - 40 acres of wild Dartmoor pasture and a small herd of native cattle that he had established from scratch. Armed with business acumen and a love of nature, he decided to start a small farm producing beef.
Our intrepid farmer is the first to admit that launching a self-sufficient farming business in the middle of an agricultural recession wouldn’t have been everyone’s first choice. He will also admit that he didn’t start out with the intention of setting an example for ethical free range farming. His primary motivation was survival and providing for his family.
However, by making the best of what he had and using his principles to guide him, Richard developed a successful, ethically driven business. And Wild Beef was born.
FLYING THE FLAG FOR ETHICAL FARMING
At Wild Beef, we believe in quality of life for animals as well as people. We do our best for our cattle and treat them with respect. It’s this respect that compels us to farm as we do. It just so happens that farming with these beliefs and principles produces the most nutritious, flavourful beef possible. We’re incredibly proud of that.
SETTING OUR OWN STANDARDS
There is no official certification for our way of farming. We have effectively set our own farming and production standards, which go beyond organic. The tenderness, texture, deep flavour and nutritional goodness of our beef are testament to that.
ANIMALS – cattle lifestyle; breeds; natural methods free from anything artificial
At Wild Beef, we have the highest regard for the well-being of our cattle and help them to live as nature intended. In a natural state, cows want to wander freely, browsing the menu of plant life on offer and choosing whatever takes their fancy. They also want to be free to find shelter or sunshine, interact with each other, birth their calves, and generally live exactly as they please. We enable our native Devon cattle and Welsh Blacks largely to do just that, and it’s great to see them enjoying a contented, stress-free lifestyle.
Wild Beef cows fatten easily on their grass pasture diet, and eat hay and silage in the winter. They aren’t given any antibiotics, hormones, concentrates or finishing rations whatsoever.
ENVIRONMENT – old fashioned farming; restoring the environment
Not only are the health and wellbeing of our cattle paramount at Wild Beef, but farming livestock also enables us to preserve and manage the botanically diverse wildlife habitat in which we live. By gradually pruning certain flora and breaking up the ground with their hooves, which enables reseeding, the cattle help to sustain the delicate balance of plants, insects, birds and other animal species which make the area unique. They also fertilise it for free. It’s a symbiotic system.
As the permanent pasture on which our cattle graze is undisturbed, perennial grass, its roots are able to reach greater depths than cultivated rye-grass or clover. (Undisturbed ground also holds carbon, which is a hugely valuable resource for the planet.) The roots access naturally occurring minerals, vitamins and trace elements deep in the earth, which are then transferred to the livestock and the meat. These nutrients are partly responsible for our beef’s highly developed flavour and dark colour.
WEST COUNTRY FARM SHOP - "Best from the West" online and at Borough Market
After selling Wild Beef from a small market stall at London's Borough Market for many years, we opened the West Country Farm Shop at the market's Three Crown Square in 2013. Next to selling our own Wild Beef, we bring ethical, artisan products from small producers from Devon and Cornwall to London. A variety of farmshop products is available online.
Richard John Vines (born 1942) is a West Country cattle farmer and the owner of Wild Beef, specialists in native breeds of cattle, natural, old-fashioned farming methods and exceptional British beef.
Richard was born in Northumberland and raised on a farm in East Anglia, where he says he experienced “the joys of stick and dog farming” during the school holidays. After serving in the army and 15 years with Diageo, Richard began a career in farming. He established Wild Beef at Hillhead Farm near Chagford on Dartmoor, Devon, in 1992. He set up the business to naturally rear Welsh Black, North and South Devon cattle when the concept of retailing premium produce from independent farms through farmers’ markets was in its infancy.
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Mary Vines (born 1948) is the wife of Richard and a crucial member of the team at Wild Beef. Originally from a farming family in Shropshire, Lizzie, an army daughter, spent her childhood in England and the Middle East before settling in London. Lizzie is an integral part of the Wild Beef team, spearheading the sales arm of the business. Lizzie shares her husband’s fervour for setting their own standards: establishing the best quality of life for the Wild Beef cattle; and producing beef by as natural means as possible. Prior to marrying Richard and joining Wild Beef, Lizzie worked at Sotheby’s, the internationally renowned auction house. Lizzie has two children, Alex and Sophie, who live in London and Washington respectively with their spouses.