It’s a glorious day and the Cotswold countryside is looking utterly beautiful as I travel the short distance from Thyme to meet one of our local suppliers, Lizzie Dyer. Lizzie’s business is kid meat, a delicious, nutritious, tender meat that is lower in fat than chicken and higher in iron than beef. Its versatility is loved by our chefs and Lizzie has received plaudits from the likes of Jamie Oliver, Jimmy Doherty and James Martin. Launched only three years ago, ‘Just Kidding’ is based on a thriving small-holding reminiscent of ‘The Darling Buds of May’, with electric fences … goats are escape artists! But there is nothing haphazard about the way that Lizzie farms.
She is an intensely intelligent woman, welcoming and utterly passionate about the sustainability of her business. Having grown up on a Somerset farm, where her father milked Friesian heifers, she was acutely aware of the fate of dairy calves, often the unwanted, disposable by-product of a milking herd. So when she began to think about farming free-range goats, her drive was to source billies from the growing goat dairy industry. She now takes five hundred billies a year, that would otherwise be shot at birth, and rears them for kid meat, supplying restaurants across the country, along with a healthy trade in doorstep sales to the public.
Her small farm is organised like a delightfully charming school for goats. In the main field I meet the unruly teenagers of the herd; they are jostling for attention, nibbling my trouser legs and butting with mischievous intent. They have space, shelter with plentiful, warm bedding, barrels & crates to play with, things to clamber over. They are clean, shiny and there is no two ways about it, happy. Then to the nursery, under cover, deep in straw; only a month or so old, the youngest kids are sleepy on their milk-rich diet. Lizzie’s docile Labrador pokes her nose through the fence and nuzzles a curious kid. There is no one farming billies for kid meat in this way, so she is creating her own systems and a means of production that fits her over-riding ethos, that of the highest welfare meat possible.
Somewhere between six and nine months old, depending on their size, they are slaughtered in a small local abattoir in manageable groups, to ensure minimal stress. Lizzie then processes the meat in an immaculate kitchen by the nursery sheds, ensuring she has full control of the whole process from the moment she collects the kids from the dairy to the point of sale. We love kid meat as a feasting dish for special events at Thyme, it has a subtle flavour and is a really exciting alternative to lamb. Our friend and regular guest chef Oliver Rowe recently braised kid for a dinner at Thyme using an array of summer vegetables from the kitchen gardens and it’s a truly impressive dish that is really easy to recreate. Follow the link below for his recipe.