A fifth-generation farming family in Co Clare is cutting out the middleman with a new online venture that will bring beef from the cattle reared on their 500-acre farm directly to the customer’s door.
Brónagh and Cathal O’Rourke will deliver the first boxes of their newly launched Burren Premium Beef on Monday, November 16.
According to Brónagh, the idea for the venture came about following the launch last year of the Burren Farm Experience, the couple’s on-site eco-tour and event business.
“I remember asking Cathal one day: ‘How come you can’t buy beef locally that’s been farmed here in the Burren?’” Brónagh said.
“I’m not from a farming background myself and I couldn’t understand it. Cathal’s family have been farming here for five generations. He told me it was because most farmers don’t sell their beef directly to consumers.
“I started looking into how we could do it ourselves after Covid-19 slowed down our tour business, but I know we’re fighting quite a difficult battle because the industry is very much dominated by the big retail chains.
“That is our competition, whereas we’re doing all of this from our farm outside Boston, a very small village here in Clare.”
Available to buy online at burrenfarmexperience.ie, there are three boxes in the Burren Premium Beef range each containing a selection of cuts.
A 10kg box costs €170 and a 20kg box is priced at €325. The O’Rourkes also have a seasonal 5kg Christmas box, priced at €100.
“Our beef is all grass-fed Hereford and Angus. It’s hung for up to 21 days and each box has a variety of steaks, beef strips, minced beef and roasts,” Brónagh said.
“The mix is great value. It also means that we, the farmer, get a good return from an entire animal.”
The O’Rourkes have partnered with Valhalla Meats, a new meat processor established last year in Longford by Paul Davis, the Galway-based goat farmer.
“They’re a family-run business like our own and they understand where we’re coming from. A lot of the bigger meat factories won’t put your label on the product. They’ll only use their own,” O’Rourke said.
“Valhalla are different. They don’t have a high price for premium cuts and a low price for lesser cuts either. They believe all meat is made equal and we reflect that in our boxes.”
Selling their own beef directly will mean a higher return for the O’Rourkes and will also allow them to market their meat based on their traditional farming standards and focus on animal welfare and sustainability.
The O’Rourkes maintain the traditional Burren farming practice of “outwintering” their cattle every year.
“They graze out on the Burren – or ‘on the rock’ as we call it – in the winter. That means they get the calcium from the water in their diet and the extra nutrition from the herbs,” Brónagh said.
“It also means that they clear the flora and fauna in wintertime, so that, in spring, it can grow fresh.
“The beef tastes better and our cattle are happy. They’re out on the land 90 per cent of the time. They have a lovely life.”