Meet the venison farmer
PUBLISHED: 17:00 11 November 2013 | UPDATED: 17:00 11 November 2013
When chef Tom Biddle needed top-quality venison for the Kent Life and Kent on Sunday Food & Drink Awards, naturally he turned to Chart Farm at Seal
Chart Farm is a family-run business that’s been producing top-quality venison for more than 30 years on its farm near Sevenoaks.
Seb Peterson took time out of his busy day to discuss why top Kent chefs like Tom Biddle at Tudor Park and Andrew McCleish at Michelin-starred Chapter One naturally turn to his venison for their restaurants and special occasions like our Food & Drink Awards dinner on 14 November.
His deer, a mix of fallow and sika, are raised on 400 acres of pasture and woodland and spend their whole lives free to roam in a semi-wild park environment. The numbers vary according to the time of year, currently about 1,200 – more than Knole, though not quite so much land.
This natural lifestyle means that the meat is rich and full of flavour and produced as stress-free for the animals as possible, with all culling and processing also being done on the farm, which means no transportation over long distances.
Seb and I are chatting in the Chart Farm butcher’s shop, which opened in 2009 and where a steady stream of customers flock in for their weekend cuts of venison and other good-quality meats, including locally sourced beef, lamb, pork and chicken.
So what makes venison so special? “It’s a very healthy meat – low in fat and cholesterol, high in iron. We also leave the skins on when we hang the deer because this retains the moisture in the meat.
“We do the butchering ourselves and we sell haunches on or off the bone, loin fillets, steaks, shoulder, minced and diced meat and various other cuts. We also make our own venison sausages and burgers and our venison pies are made locally.
“From this month we’re selling locally sourced Appledore turkeys and local geese ready for Christmas,” adds Seb, whose love of the country life stems from his father, a fishmonger in Billingsgate who bought the farm at Seal Chart in 1973 and initially grew arable crops before moving over to deer.
He adored the life, as did his young son who, when he left school and went to work in investment banking, quickly realised it wasn’t right for him. Seb came back to the farm and is now a father himself, with two young children aged seven and five.
The shop’s experienced butchers Steve Day and Andy Prince are getting pretty busy, as the customers (mainly drawn in by word of mouth recommendation) continue to flock in, so I make my way out, but not before buying a couple of venison steaks for supper. And they’re delicious.
Now follow Tom Biddle’s recipe for your very own awards ceremony dinner. n