This afternoon Terri and I decided to go to a Christmas craft market at Blackmore Farm near Bridgwater. The stallholders were local and the farmhouse itself is ancient and interesting. I treated myself to a willow trug and haven’t stopped admiring it since. It was made by a lady called Sarah Webb who chatted whilst I made my choice and gave me a card with her website address on when I paid her. Unfortunately the address doesn’t seem to work so there’s no point in linking to it, but should I find where the website is I’ll let you know. Here’s my beautiful trug – as you can see, it’s quite large and I love it. It will be perfect in the summer for gathering my ‘harvest’ from the garden.
Whilst wondering around afterwards I got into conversation with a lady selling Christmas puddings and almost immediately she brought the subject round to how healthy her puddings were, only using good products, etc. She then announced proudly that “of course, I only eat New Zealand products myself”. When I asked her why she informed me it was “because New Zealand is the only country that doesn’t ‘pump’ its animals full of growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics”. Terri, sensing an impending storm, moved out of range and left me to it.
I told her that this country doesn’t use any of those things either and in fact I was under the impression they’d been banned for the past twenty years or so. She rather grandly stated “oh, I don’t think so dear, they’re very much in use here. I know lots of farmers who use them”. Now, if I’d have been an average consumer, impressionable and likely to believe such a tale, I could have accepted this as the truth, gone away and told all my friends to only buy New Zealand meat. But, here’s the thing – I’m not!
I told her that I was in fact a dairy farmer myself and was sure that growth hormones had been banned in this country, and steroids or antibiotics were only used for medicinal reasons rather than to aid growth. She looked confused, but adamant she was right. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that most New Zealand lamb is now considered halal and killed appropriately so it can be sold to both the Muslim community and non-muslims. I’m not even sure she would have understood what I meant and I couldn’t face the prospect of going round in circles verbally.
Changing the subject slightly she asked “what kind of cows do you have on your farm?”. When I told her ours were British Friesian she pulled a disgusted face and said she only really liked Guernsey cows, implying that anything else was inferior. I walked away before I became any further embroiled in what was turning out to be a pointless discussion.
As I was leaving she turned to her companion and said “do you hear that Mabel (or whatever her name was)? I can eat British meat again. They don’t put growth hormone in it any more.”
Where does this misinformation come from? Is it the British press or had she gathered her knowledge by word of mouth? The more I dwell on it, the crosser I get because while the farmers of this country struggle to persuade consumers to buy British, rumours such as this abound and people are convinced they’re doing the right thing by buying something with half-a-planet’s worth of airmiles to its name. There she was promoting her puds and telling me how wonderful they were, that they were produced locally and yet she was prepared to eat meat from a country half the way round the world.
I give up really. You can’t fix this with a PR campaign.