- Speciality Food discovers more about an emerging brand that wants to be a force for good, a force for change, and a deliciously regenerative way to enjoy dairy
Visitors to 2023’s Speciality & Fine Food Fair may have spotted (or taken a seat on) a curious sticker this year. An upside-down ‘anarchy’ symbol inviting them to ‘join the regenerative revolution’.
The tongue-in-cheek campaign certainly raised a few eyebrows, and got tongues wagging about one of the hottest environmental topics of recent times – regenerative farming.
Who masterminded the ‘secret sticker mission’? The team behind Golden Hooves cheeses are happy to raise their hands. “We want to be fun. We want to be exciting. And we want to show people that dairy can be better,” says Golden Hooves business unit director, Leona McDonald.
First Milk, The Regenerative Co-op, launched Golden Hooves to shout about the sustainability efforts its family-run farms put into producing regenerative milk. The co-operative of more than 700 dairy farmers across England, Scotland and Wales, has set out its stall as a leader in the regenerative movement, seeking to be kinder to the planet, improve animal welfare, and to pay a better price to the people who work so hard to get milk, butter and cheese into the nation’s fridges every single week.
What is regenerative farming?
All of the milk that goes into Golden Hooves is regenerative and First Milk has key principles its farmers must adhere to in order to work with the co-operative. “Something that’s really important,” says graduate sales and marketing assistant, Lily Grime, “is to have grazing livestock. That’s where the name Golden Hooves came from. The cows that graze the fields across our farms produce natural fertiliser. Their hooves spread that around the fields, and it improves the quality of the soil, which can better sequester more carbon from the atmosphere.”
Farmers within the co-operative must also reduce or minimise soil disturbance and encourage biodiversity by moving away from monoculture crops, which have been prevalent in the industry for decades.
“Kingshay have helped us develop a first-of-its-kind digital platform that maps out every farm, field by field,” Leona adds. “We have Regen specialists who visit the farms and help us monitor what’s happening. And we’re also working with Agricarbon who have collected and tested 21,000 soil samples for carbon from our farms. Our target by 2025 was to have sequestered 100,000 tonnes of carbon equivalent. We don’t have the results yet, but our modelling suggests we’re on track!”
“Around 72% of British countryside is farmland. That’s a lot of biodiversity we, as humans, are custodians of. At First Milk, we’ve got over 4,000km of hedgerows, miles of waterways and close to 200,000 trees. It’s really important that we get it right. It’s great when individual farms do good, but we have the power of over 700. We can make a real impact.”
A stomping start for Golden Hooves
The Golden Hooves concept arose from a desire to ‘really shout about’ First Milk’s regenerative messaging. While the co-operative already produces and sells cheese, there was a line of thought that, to be impactful, a fun, visually exciting, and (most importantly) tasty product that really drives home the business’s values needed to be brought to market.
Golden Hooves Mature Cheddar soft launched at this year’s Farm Shop & Deli Show, with a full launch of this, and the Vintage cheese (whose recipe won Supreme Champion at the Global Cheese Awards 2022) following at Speciality & Fine Food Fair in September.
“The mature cheese is rounded and rugged. There are quite a lot of layers to it,” Leona explains. “All our cheeses have a slight umami, rather than sweet, flavour to them. It’s really long-lasting, quite creamy and soft.”
“I’ve been sampling it at farm shops,” says Lily. “A lot of customers have commented that it’s got a lovely creamy texture and taste.”
Golden Hooves Vintage Cheddar takes the same rich, well-balanced recipe, maturing it for longer to tease out a touch more complexity that Leona says, you won’t forget in a hurry.
This is just the beginning
Golden Hooves has its own dedicated team…and its first two cheeses are just the start of what they hope will become a thrilling new movement on the British food scene. Leona says Golden Hooves wants to put its ‘stomp of approval’ on many other products, which will have to meet a set of criteria that includes tasting great, being British where possible, having high animal welfare, being made with regenerative or ethical ingredients, and being people-positive.
“We want to be seen as the leaders in regenerative food, and want our ‘stomp of approval’ to be recognised as the industry standard. We’ll also grow our range out of dairy,” adds Leona. “And we’ll be supporting our farmers. Where they make products, maybe for local stores or farmers’ markets, we will put our ‘stomp of approval’ on them so people learn to understand that they have integrity. Our strapline is ‘deliciously regenerative’. When people see our brand they should be able to recognise and trust it.”
Golden Hooves is available in consumer-ready portions, and 2.5kg deli blocks. Golden Hooves has partnered with wholesalers Longmans Cheese and Castell Howell Foods to bring the products to market. Will you be joining the revolution?