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Organic Chefs UK

THE spate of celebrity chefs campaigning for the nation to switch to free range produce has once again put healthy eating high on the agenda.

From organic fruit and vegetables to home-cooked cuisine, the North-East is full of culinary gems. And with so much written about GM foods and the buying power of supermarkets, more people are turning to farm shops, organic food outlets, farmers markets and quality food shops.

As a family-run business, North Country Organics is conscious of where its produce comes from, how it is produced and how it affects our environment.

It is also aware of the benefits of organic food and wants to share this with its customers. As recent studies have shown, organic fruit and vegetables on average have at least 40% more antioxidants in them than non-organic. Such is North Country Organics passion for organic food and its production that it has recently signed a lease for a Victorian walled garden in Northumberland. From here, the business is set to grow its own vegetables so it knows exactly what has gone into producing them. Now the business can provide produce that has travelled less than 10 miles to your door.

Ridleys Fish and Game is a specialist retailer, wholesale supplier and producer of top quality fresh fish, seafood, poultry, wild local game and homemade foods. Supplying to both to the general public and the catering trade, the business was established in Hexham in 1991 by owners David and Carolyn Ridley. This Rick Stein recommended fish shop has become known for outstanding quality and service. Its wild game is 100% traceable from Tynedales estates and hand prepared at its game larder in Acomb. New to the range are additive free game sausages.

From a small cottage kitchen in the North Pennines, the Weardale Organic Soup Company began manufacturing home-made gluten-free soups using artisan production methods three years ago.

Today production has increased beyond all expectations and a new product range has developed in line with customer demand for produce suitable for sufferers of coeliac disease.

The company has recently registered with Salsa (Safe and Local Supplier Approval). Shoppers can find Weardale Organic Soup at Newcastle Farmers Market on the first Friday of every month and the newly regenerated Quayside Market every Sunday.

The new range of Weardale Local Soups support local growers and cut down on food miles.

George Payne Butchers, of Brunton Park, Gosforth, remains one of the region�s best-known traditional independent family butchers.

Only the very best will suffice for Paynes, whose keynote aim is to source the highest quality locally-fed and reared meat products, particularly rare breed beef, lamb and pork.

George Payne said: We have taken every step possible to cement relationships with local meat producers on our doorstep in Northumberland by forging pioneering field-to-table partnerships. This provides total control to both supplier and buyer, allowing us to hand-pick only the finest quality meat products from recognised British breeds and prepare them carefully in readiness for consumption.

Sourcing our meat direct from the farm gives us a much greater degree of hands-on control over the whole process, coupled with full traceability. Importantly, it also minimises the stress on animals. Its all about keeping down food miles and helping to rebuild and renew local economies and communities by encouraging people to produce and purchase food locally.

The business is the only butcher on Tyneside to hold membership of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and George is a former RBST Butcher of the Year. Moreover, the shop has just been honoured by the Trust for selling the most rare breeds meat of any butcher in the country, so helping to ensure the survival of these threatened breeds.

George says: The whole aim is to preserve endangered species. If farmers do not breed them, they will die out, but farmers will only breed if there is a viable reason for doing so.

Because rare breeds meats are of a far superior quality than their commercial equivalents, we will do everything possible to promote these breeds and give people an opportunity to discover their distinctive flavours.

It is all about creating supply and demand. By buying these products, our customers know they are helping to ensure the very survival of British rare breeds animals.

Donald Gilberts, of Gosforth, is a traditional butchers. Healthy eating is one of its top priorities and this is reflected in its quality, locally produced range. It stocks everything from sin free 98% lean products, to exotic meats like kangaroo, bison, crocodile and ostrich. It also has its own range of free range poultry supplied by Thornbeck Farm.

The Country Barn is another company which is extremely keen to help promote healthy eating and living. It carries a range of fresh fruit and vegetables. Youll find all the ingredients for Gordon Ramsays red potato wedges, rocket and parmesan salad, or Cook Yourself Thins celeriac version of dauphinoise potatoes, in stock. The Country Barn also has its own home-bred beef and lamb. Owner Sarah Oakey said: �We have long championed the fantastic taste and benefits that can be found buying free range products. This has certainly been highlighted in recent weeks with all the information regarding chickens and the like. We are happy to advise we carry Thornbeck Gold Label award-winning free range whole chickens as recommended by Rick Stein and his Hero seal of approval. We also stock local free range eggs and with Pancake Day just around the corner, what better way to ensure you have the perfect pancakes this year?

And for those who enjoy a dash of golden syrup on their pancakes, why not take the healthier option and switch to honey instead? Honey is a completely natural food source which can provide a quick source of energy. Its soothing qualities can help alleviate sore throats and coughs, and its also an excellent remedy for skin ailments and is used in the W S Robson Skin Care range.

At Chain Bridge Honey Farm, near Berwick, honey and beeswax comes from 1,800 colonies of bees situated throughout north Northumberland and the Scottish Borders.

The hives themselves are crafted at the honey farm and transported by Willie Robson and his son, Stephen, to fields of borage, beans, oil seed rape and clover in the spring, and are moved to the heather in late summer.

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+ChefsWorld Tim Capper
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