As it's ever more important to have confidence in the quality and origin of meat, a growing number of livestock farmers, especially those with most to be proud of, have decided to adapt and start selling direct through the internet, farm shops and farmers' markets, to customers who care where their meat comes from. Somerset Farm Direct began selling lamb from the Woods' family farm on Exmoor direct (01398 371387) www.somersetfarmdirect.co.uk) only last year, and already has more than 1,500 customers for its lamb and mutton and for free-range chicken and duck reared by neighbouring farmers. The lamb is traditionally and non-intensively reared and naturally fed, hung for at least two weeks, butchered locally, packed and labelled for delivery by courier next day. Cutting out people in the middle, the farmer and the customer get a fair price (which includes delivery). A whole lamb box is £86; the half lamb box includes a leg, a shoulder, rack of lamb loin and chump chops and a boned and rolled breast for

As it's ever more important to have confidence in the quality and origin of meat, a growing number of livestock farmers, especially those with most to be proud of, have decided to adapt and start selling direct through the internet, farm shops and farmers' markets, to customers who care where their meat comes from. Somerset Farm Direct began selling lamb from the Woods' family farm on Exmoor direct (01398 371387) www.somersetfarmdirect.co.uk) only last year, and already has more than 1,500 customers for its lamb and mutton and for free-range chicken and duck reared by neighbouring farmers. The lamb is traditionally and non-intensively reared and naturally fed, hung for at least two weeks, butchered locally, packed and labelled for delivery by courier next day. Cutting out people in the middle, the farmer and the customer get a fair price (which includes delivery). A whole lamb box is £86; the half lamb box includes a leg, a shoulder, rack of lamb loin and chump chops and a boned and rolled breast for £49. The same price buys a mutton box consisting of around 10kg of this hard-to-buy meat. Accolades for its tenderness have come from cooks and chefs (John Torode of Smiths of Smithfield is a customer). There are also chicken boxes - six large, free-range chickens for £56. Prices include delivery. So committed are the Woods' to traceability that they can even supply a photograph of the very sheep you are about to consume.

Even meat eaters prefer not to dwell on the details of how animals are slaughtered (and vegetarians might as well skip to the next item). But any carnivore who cares about the provenance of their meat, animal welfare and the survival of those farmers most committed to improving standards of animal husbandry should consider it. The meat industry is more tightly regulated (as it had to be, to ensure safety and improve public confidence) but the resulting cost of abattoir inspection is disproportionate for the smaller ones, and threatens the very areas of meat production which are flourishing. Smaller slaughterhouses offer traceability and greater flexibility for farmers producing organic, rare breeds and less intensively-reared meat. Yet if these middle-sized and small abattoirs - which handle half the red meat in this country - disappear, the farmers offering most hope to livestock farming will suffer too. So will their animals, which will have to travel further to larger abattoirs. The issue of inspection charges and the future of many abattoirs shouldn't be ignored. A recently published independent committee of inquiry report by The Honest Food campaign presents evidence from a wide range of concerned individuals from organic farmers to chefs. The report calls on the Government to recognise that a varied and flexible slaughtering industry is vital for the rural environment, animal welfare and consumer choices. Buying meat direct from producers (like Somerset Farm Direct) who use small slaughter-houses helps, but there's an urgent need for reform (and for the Treasury to allow MAC enough money to do so) so these businesses do not go to the wall. A Threat to the Countryside: Miscalculation of the Meat Industry and its Consequences is published by Honest Food and costs £7.50 (020-8740 7194).

Contrary to my better judgement, one of my superiors here at the sty urged me to put in a good word for sprouts. To promote the little vegetable, of which it fears a generation of children is growing up in ignorance (and which many adults claim to dislike, despite having forgotten the taste), the British Sprout Growers Associations has been formed. We should appreciate the bud-like brassica - from which the prefix associated with EC interference seems to have been dropped - not least, growers tell us, because one serving contains as much vitamin C as six glasses of orange juice. Further reading does make them sound more attractive. Jane Grigson describes the sprout as "an elegant miniature cabbage". Her ideas include a brown butter and herb sauce, choux de bruxelles a la crÿme, and a creamy soup. And if children need to know where they come from, Sainsbury's is selling sprout "trees" for Christmas.

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