Island Life Magazine Ltd February/March 2007 - Page 82

life - FOOD & DRINK What’s the real cost of a steak on your plate? In our last issue we highlighted the fact that some island chefs choose not to use local produce. There were many and varied reasons as to why this should be so with one of the main reasons being cost. We decided to track a piece of island beef from farm to table to demonstrate the journey it makes and break down the costs involved in an £18 fillet steak meal. The island chain includes farmer Andrew Hodgson and his wife Claudia, quality butchers Hamilton’s run by Andy Gustar and daughter Kerry and restaurateur Richard Thomas of Yarmouth Restaurant On The Rocks. The journey starts at 800-acre New Barn Farm in Shorwell where Andrew and Claudia pro- 82 duce premium quality cattle. Andrew buys in 50 calves every other month at a cost of £305 per calf. They are sold around 12 to 14 months later and will weigh approximately 330 kilos a head from which Andrew can expect to make £1.85 per kilo once they are slaughtered. This gives him a price per steer of just over £610. His costs per life-time of each calf include £200 for feed, £25 for haulage and abattoir fees, £25 interest on the loan needed to buy the calves, £15 for straw and £70 general overheads including vets fees etc. This all adds up to a cost of £640 making him a loss of approximately £30 per animal. His livestock is transported to Turner’s abattoir in Farnborough where it is slaughtered and sold on to wholesalers Central Meats. Central Meats return the meat 82 to the island where Andy Gustar of Hamilton’s buys it up to supply his four shops as well as other butchers around the island. Once Andy has covered his overheads at his shops at Wootton, Ryde, Newport and Cowes, he reckons to make roughly £70 per steer. Amongst the many restaurants Hamiltons supplies is Richard Thomas’ On The Rocks. Richard explained that he buys his meat from Hamiltons as he knows the quality is consistently good and that the meat he would be getting had come from New Barn Farm. Richard, who used to be a farmer himself says: “The whole point of the restaurant had always been about getting the best local produce. “I’d originally planned having photographs up of all the livestock and the farms it was coming from.” At On The Rocks customers cook their own meat at the table on individual hot volcanic rocks and for this he needs the steaks to be of a consistently good quality. Richard says: “When we first opened I used another supplier which was great for the first few weeks. “But after that the fillet started coming in with a livery taste to it which was no good at all. “I wanted a much better quality. I’d already been talking to Andrew about his beef and immediately swapped suppliers to Hamiltons. “As well as tasting great, our cuts also need to be straight and thick otherwise if a customer likes a rare steak they will ruin it in no time. “Andy came down here when we opened to see what we were doing and so he understands totally what we need.” But as Richard says, his profit on an £18 fillet steak meal is negligible. He says: “The fillet costs me about £6.50 per portion. By the time the Sponsored by -