Flying the flag for pasture fed livestock and the connection between health and farming, Liz Earle speaks to Emily Ashworth about her deep-rooted love for food and the serious impact it can have on our health.
Sat awaiting to speak to Liz Earle, the ultimate wellbeing guru, curiosity began to set in.
For over 30 years, this was someone who has graced the nation’s TV screens and magazine pages, the instigator if you will in championing natural products.
Known for her passion for beauty, natural health and wellbeing, her current focus is her magazine, Liz Earle Wellbeing (www.lizearlewellbeing.com), a high-quality quarterly magazine focused on food and living well, alongside running her 350-acre pasture-fed organic farm in the West Country.
It is of great importance at this present moment to ensure farming is made accessible to everyone and Liz, I found, is the perfect person to highlight that this industry is not only pivotal in the creation of a healthier nation, but in environmental longevity too.
Having always been an advocate for seasonal food and produce that isn’t born from intensive farming methods, Liz and her husband renovated a derelict dairy farm ten years ago with, she says, an outlook to embed themselves in the rural community and really understand the complexity of farming.
Her views are clear, spoken with clarity and precision – this is her passion, not just her hobby.
Liz, who currently runs 70 Pedigree Hereford cows alongside 300-400 sheep, is adamant about the link between food and wellness.
“I used to say you are what you eat.
“Now I say you are what you eat has eaten because that’s where it starts.”
And it begins with the soil, a topic close to Liz who is an ambassador for The Soil Association, as well as The Sustainable Food Trust and Love British Food.
“Grazing is essential for the re-fertilisation of soils and the microbiology of it.
“Soil microbiology and gut microbiology are very similar. It translates into the food and is important for our gut health, which can effect anything from illness to mental health and depression.”
The produce from grass-fed livestock – dairy or beef – says Liz, is very healthy.
High in omega-3 and rich in a variety of nutrients, she is aware of the criticism that red meat has had, but is confident it is the way our meat has been reared that counts – in terms of sustainability as well as health.
“People are becoming aware of the benefits of good fat, especially when it’s naturally occurring. Fat isn’t the concern, it’s sugar.
“I grew up in a generation where we ate a lot of pork and chicken thinking this was more sustainable, but actually it’s not the case.
“Grass-fed beef requires far fewer inputs and is more sustainable, as well as healthier”
“We should be eating less meat, but better quality. Yes, we will have to pay a bit more for it but it means more premium will go back to farmer and our shopping bill will be balanced by less expensive other foods”
In a film clip created for Love British Food, she vibrantly spoke of how farming was essential in the upkeep of the countryside and if we wish to preserve that beauty, it is grazing that has to play a significant role.
“People don’t realise what happens if you take sheep, for example, off the land.
“What happens to the field management?”
And it isn’t just the land itself that benefits from this, it’s simply a traditional way of life for livestock.
“Getting them outside is of course good for them and good for soil health.
“It’s the natural rhythm of food production, having animals on the land.
“We realised recently that we didn’t have any veterinary bills last year and, unlike our neighbours, haven’t had any positive TB reactors.
“I don’t know whether this is down to the way our land is managed or the greater immunity of the animals, but it’s something that is being investigated as we’re not the only pastured farm to experience this.”
Sensing the pure enjoyment Liz gets from the intricate science behind it all, and the obvious positives in how she bridges the gap between good living and good farming, how can we really present that message to the public?
She is evidently proud to be part of the industry, but believes it those at the helm that also need to take the lead.
“Whatever you’re selling, you need to be telling a story and take the customer along with you.
“Labelling is important – supermarkets shouldn’t be making up fake farms. You need genuine stories.
“Once you explain things, customers are much more likely to buy in to it.
“We need to create transparency in farming to reassure the public that scandals won’t keep happening.”
In a climate where constant negativity can dampen the brilliant work our farmers do every day, it is refreshing to hear someone who is firmly in the public eye calmly input a bit of realism.
“Whether you are vegan, vegetarian or eat meat, all food comes from farmers.
“People look to Britain because we have some of the highest animal welfare in the world.
“It’s why I wanted to be an ambassador for Love British Food.
“There is so much farming can do and we should be proud of that.”
A founding farmer member of Pasture for Life, an organisation that extols the benefits of produce from animals fed exclusively on pasture, Liz is keen on the new Free Range Dairy milk vending machine scheme.
With reducing pollution and packaging at the forefront of her mind, it comes back to her main ethos: Cutting out the middle man.
She explains that she and her family now visit a local dairy farm to purchase their milk.
Having introduced a small pasteurisation unit and a vending machine, you take one of the bottles provided (which is yours to re-use), fill it with non-homogenised milk and pay a pound per litre for it.
All revenue goes directly to the farmer and you get the freshest milk possible from that very field.
This type of diversification is not only a way to create a more environmentally friendly and sustainable business, but reinforces your community.
“I didn’t know this local family beforehand.
“It’s a chance for conversation.
“My seven-year-old son will look at the cows and say, ‘Look, that’s where the milk comes from.”