With a family history of working the land dating back four generations, Michael George has farming in his veins

While not a farmer himself, he and his wife, Rachel, have used beef produced on his family’s mixed farm in Pembrokeshire to develop an award-winning brand, aptly named From Our Farm.

“I always had a feeling that something could be done to get the produce from the farm closer to the end consumer,” he says. “We thought about how we could add value to the beef instead of just sending it wholesale.”

Five years ago, the couple landed on the idea of biltong, which George had tried on a trip to South Africa as a teenager. One appeal was that, as an ambient product, biltong didn’t have the logistical issues of fresh or frozen meat.

“Once we had an ambient product, we could talk to a shop in the Highlands of Scotland and could get it there easily – there was a massive barrier taken down,” says George.

Researching the market, the couple realised biltong was becoming mainstream and most farm shops and delis had heard of it, even if they weren’t sure what it was or how it differed from jerky.

“Jerky is typically cooked or smoked, and then dried afterwards,” explains George. “But with biltong, there’s no cooking. So, it’s all done at a low temperature.”

Another difference is “with jerky the fresh meat is sliced thin like ham and then dried,” he adds. “With biltong we cut a long steak, salt it and dry it more like a piece of charcuterie and slice it once it’s fully dried.” The result is a texture softer than jerky and more like a salami or prosciutto.

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With existing brands focused on lean and low-fat biltong, the couple decided there was a gap in the market.

“There was space for a brand focused on the traceability of the beef and on really good eating quality, and that seems to resonate with a lot of the farm shops and delis we were talking to, especially with our farming family story.”

With a concept decided, what followed was a lot of experimentation, including a DIY drier built from a plastic storage tub, an extractor fan and a lightbulb.

Once confident in their trial runs, they bought a real drying cabinet from South Africa and began production from an outbuilding on the family farm. They undertake every aspect of the process, including packing and distributing to customers and wholesalers.

“We’ve done it all in-house from the start, which has allowed us to make the product that we want and not have to make compromises on the final product,” says George.

In its couple of years of trading, From Our Farm sold biltong at food festivals while approaching local farm shops, delicatessens, pubs and other hospitality venues. Today, the bulk of sales is through wholesalers and DTC.

“We try and make sure we’re never pushing everything down one channel,” George says. “If you have a couple of weeks where it’s thin on one channel, normally something else will pick it up. So, we try and spread it out as far as we can between website, shops and wholesalers.”

Biltong Menu Photo

From Our Farm has since outgrown its original location and now rents an industrial unit in Narberth. It has expanded from one drying cabinet to five, upgraded kit such as sealing equipment and date coding, and invested in a tumbler.

The biltong range has also expanded since its debut in 2018 in Original and Chilli variants.

“These were great for getting the product out there and gauging the branding, the packaging, portion sizes, all those things you need to know before launching more products,” says George.

“When we wanted to do some more flavours, we looked around and there were a lot that seemed standard across all brands. We didn’t want to just replicate something else, so we tried to think of a couple of flavours that were a bit different.”

One of the newer variants is Habanero & Turmeric, which George describes as having different spice from a standard chilli and an earthy flavour. From Our Farm also worked with Pembrokeshire Chilli Farm to produce a Carolina Reaper option, which that has become one of the brand’s most popular.

The fifth in the range is Tomato & Basil, which last year won a gold Farm Shop & Deli Product Award.

“We developed that one after thinking of how bolognese and ragu dishes complement beef and that tomato could be an interesting flavour,” George says.

“It took quite a bit of trial and error to get the recipe right so that the tomato wasn’t overpowered by the beef. When we dry the beef, reducing the water really intensifies the flavour, but we got we got there in the end.”

Having a Farm Shop & Deli Product Award can be a boon when talking to potential new customers, he believes. “When you’re speaking to a buyer it gives you something to back up that the quality of product is good.

“From that buyer’s point of view, it’s a case of whether it would appeal to their customers and whether the numbers work.”

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Having developed new variants, the business has also expand its range with beef dripping from rendered trimmings. The product impressed judges at the Farm Shop & Deli Product Awards, winning a silver prize.

From Our Farm launched the dripping with expectations of selling 20 to 30 jars locally each week, but it has become hugely popular and shifts 600 jars weekly via farm shops, wholesalers and online.

“When we started doing it shops kept asking for more, and then one of our wholesalers asked for a pallet and it’s become a really steady product,” says George.

He and Rachel also offered a duck fat for Christmas and are exploring other fats, buoyed by the success of the dripping. Diversification is crucial, George insists.

“The temptation for a business like us is always to focus on scaling up and economy of scale. If you’ve got retailers who might not want to sell twice as much biltong but can sell biltong alongside beef dripping and duck fat, then you can grow without having to chase that endless volume. That is definitely our preference.”