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Feather And Bone

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Lamb; Photo by Alan Benson
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hearts and brains. Photo by Laura Dalrymple

Laura Dalrymple and Grant Hilliard run Feather and Bone, a small Sydney butcher selling pasture-raised livestock sourced directly from sustainably run, mostly local farms. Laura shares her story.

Grant started the business in 2006, in a fit of blind enthusiasm about rare-breed sheep. He’d worked with unemployed youth, as a waiter and sommelier, and studied filmmaking – not exactly the background you need to become a butcher. He didn’t set out to be a butcher, but merely followed his fascination with terroir and food.

We believe there’s a fundamental link between the way an animal is raised and how it tastes on your plate. Our business is built around the desire to ‘open up the line of sight’ between farm and consumer, so that decisions are informed and considered.

We don’t shy away from the fact that we’re all about eating animals. We believe that if you’re going to farm, kill and eat animals then you’re obliged to treat every step of the process with the greatest respect and consideration possible. We’re doing our best to run a business that practises this kind of respect and consideration.

Around seventy per cent of the farms we source from are certified biodynamic, organic or Humane Choice free-range, and all livestock is raised on chemical-free pasture. We focus on heritage or rare breeds of livestock because of the need to build greater genetic diversity, in the face of the genetic squeeze imposed by the efficiency-based, factory-farming model. And different breeds suit different climates, environments and palates.

We buy whole carcasses because: we respect the life given up by using the whole animal; small farms can’t afford to sell parts of their livestock; and we abhor the sale and purchase of boxed meat. We’re committed to promoting the farmers and their produce, and to making sure our customers know exactly what they’re getting, where it came from and how it lived. We visit every farm we represent, as often as possible.

We sell to restaurants and retail customers who want very good quality meat and poultry with clear, traceable provenance.

Buying whole animals and supporting small farmers is all very well, but you also have to sell the whole animal to stay in business, and that’s quite a challenge. Although eye fillet makes up about two per cent of a cow carcass, its availability and affordability is why many of us haven’t learned how to cook the secondary cuts that make up around seventy per cent of the carcass.

We realised that we had to: enthuse customers about ‘nose to tail’ eating – excite them with the culinary possibilities of the blade, chuck, shanks and bones filling our coolrooms; ignite a zeal for abolishing factory-farming and related environmental, animal welfare and nutritional issues; stir up their outrage at the untruths in food packaging; and instil a sense of respect and wonder at the work done by maverick farmers, who choose to farm holistically, building up the intrinsic strength and resilience of their land.

The more we learn about livestock production, the more we realise that animals are just one component of an interconnected, natural system which is only as strong as the health of its component parts. For a cow to be healthy, the vegetation on which it feeds must be healthy, which can only occur when the soil is healthy – when the land carries the stock it can sustain without intervention. Which means fewer cows, and eating less of them. But the growth in factory farming, and the never-ending supply of cheap meat, mean that concepts like seasonality and doing without don’t factor in our food purchasing habits anymore.

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Laura Dalrymple and Grant Hilliard. Photo by Supplied by Feather and Bone
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Extraordinary Pork farm visit with Grant Hilliard and
farmer Michael Hicks.. Photo by Extraordinary Pork

Our Rules

We aim to inform customers about the production, treatment, transport and preparation of our produce. Everything we sell:

  • arrives whole and direct from the abattoir or farm, neither boxed nor packed in plastic
  • is traceable to clearly identified farms that welcome scrutiny
  • is chemical and hormone-free, and not administered prophylactic antibiotics
  • has lived on, or with access to, pasture, with the space and conditions to allow instinctive behaviour, and fed appropriately (e.g. no grain-fed ruminants)
  • is not the product of intensive-feeding regimens. Every attempt is made by our producers to practise lowstress handling throughout the animals’ growth cycles, and during the transport and processing of their animals.

For more information see www.featherandbone.com.au or visit their shop in Marrickville: 8/10-14 Lilian Fowler Pl, Marrickville NSW or find them at the Moore Park Market: 122 Lang Rd, Moore Park NSW.

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