Dartmoor pony one use

Horsemeat is back on the menu in Devon as part of a controversial new conservation scheme.

Meat from Dartmoor hill ponies has gone on sale at a farmers’ market in Tavistock, as well as online via Dartmoor Conservation Meat.

The initiative is the work of Charlotte Faulkner, founder of the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association conservation charity, who has lived on Dartmoor farm for 17 years and believes encouraging farmers to sell the animals as meat will help conserve them.

Currently, more than 400 foals are shot to keep a constant number of ponies on the moor, which the DHPA blasts as “unacceptable”.

It warned Dartmoor farmers had stopped keeping ponies because the economic crisis meant they were harder to sell as riding or driving mounts.

“Unless a way can be found to make them profitable the remaining farmers will have to do the same,” it added. “Hill farmers can’t afford to keep luxuries and this will mean that the moor won’t be grazed properly, gorse will flourish making whole areas inaccessible and eventually the tourist trade will drop.”

Faulkner hopes that if farmers have the guarantee of a meat market to fall back on, they will be more willing to raise the ponies until they are three years old, when they have the best chance of being sold to private homes.

Products on sale through Dartmoor Conservation Meat include pony sausages, steaks and mince. The website also features recipes, such as for a ponymeat lasagne.

A Brisey Mire Box containing 2x500g diced steak, a pack of four sirloin steaks (200g) and taffety mince (100g) costs £28, while a Haytor Box comprising a 1kg roasting joint, a pack of four fillet steaks (200g) and taffety mince (100g) is priced at £45.79.

According to the charity, the project already has support from some of the hoteliers on the moor.

“We are confident that others will follow as ponymeat, like venison, is low in fat, high in omega-3, organic and delicious,” it said.

“It is really versatile, and can be eaten as steak or roasted, both of which the French enjoy, or made into sausages or savoury meats such as salami and pastrami.”