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Rearing sheep on a Sainsbury's farm

Cooking Up a British Christmas

Sainsbury’s has proudly supported British farming for 145 years, aiming to offer the finest British products when they’re in season and when the quality meets and exceeds customer expectations.

Sainsbury’s works with around 4,500 British farmers across the UK, and every aspect of a Christmas dinner these farmers supply will have been responsibly sourced with integrity and pride.

A prime example of Sainsbury’s commitment to responsible sourcing with integrity is its relationship with Lloyd Maunder, who began supplying Sainsbury’s in 1898. Lloyd Maunder would send big batches of eggs, butter, poultry, pork and rabbits from his farm in north Devon to Sainsbury’s headquarters. This proved so successful that he had to hide the identity of his client from his rivals!

A while later, John James also established his own farm in East Anglia, managed by his son Frank. Eggs from this farm were delivered to stores faster than most other homegrown eggs in England, keeping them fresh for customers. They were cheaper than fresh imported French eggs too. This combination made them outstandingly popular - so much so that Frank had to set up a collection scheme whereby he would pick up eggs (and in later years, pork) from the neighbouring farms and send them to Sainsbury’s London depot by rail, in order to meet the demand. The beauty of this was that it allowed local farmers who only had the means to produce small quantities of eggs, butter and poultry to sell directly to Sainsbury’s.

Finding Quality Produce

Throughout its history, Sainsbury’s has strived to source as many products from Britain as possible, including many of the items found in a traditional Christmas dinner. A big festive family favourite - the Norfolk Black turkey - is raised on small UK farms with expansive woodland areas where the turkeys are free to wander. The farms are RSPCA Freedom Food approved, ensuring the most stringent of standards are adhered to, maximising animal welfare, quality and taste. Other Christmas dinner staples that Sainsbury’s is proud to source directly from Britain include milk, fresh eggs, fresh chicken, the meat in its fresh sausages, fresh duck, fresh pork and ham, fresh smoked farmed salmon and block cheddar.

Sainsbury’s further underlines its commitment to British produce by focussing on three main areas: promoting British products where possible, converting more existing product lines to ones from Britain, and looking to find new British products.

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Sainsbury's Christmas turkey, c. 2000

Taste the Difference Norfolk Black Turkeys

Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Norfolk Black Turkeys are reared on small farms in rural Norfolk.

They are free to wander in vast woodland expanses, and provided with perches and straw bales, helping them to live more natural and active lives as they would in the wild.

The turkey was introduced to the British Christmas dinner table as early as the 16th century, with King Henry VIII reportedly the first monarch to feast on the bird at Christmas. While goose continued to be popular throughout the 17th century, it was the Victorians that really instilled the tradition of eating turkey at Christmas. Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ is perhaps the most famous Victorian example of a family eating turkey at Christmas where Scrooge sends a turkey to Bob Cratchitt.

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Sainsbury's smoked salmon and king prawn advert, c.1990

Taste the Difference Oak Smoked Salmon

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Oak Smoked Salmon is reared on selected farms in Scotland.

These farms are chosen based on their environmental characteristics (such as water current speed) ensuring that optimum levels of fish welfare are observed.

The farms are run by those who share Sainsbury’s values and vision for sustainable aquaculture to produce the highest quality salmon.

Smoked salmon was brought to British shores in the late 1800s from Eastern Europe. It immediately proved popular with the upper classes and, as storage and preservation methods improved and the price lowered, it also gained popularity with the masses. Today, smoked salmon is still considered a delicacy by many and, at Christmas, is usually served as a starter or hors d'oeuvre due to the versatility of cooking methods available.

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Aberdeen Angus Cattle grazing at Kinermony Farm, c.1960

Sainsbury’s Own Milk

Sainsbury’s is passionate about the welfare of each and every UK cow that produces milk on its behalf.

Sainsbury’s Dairy Development Group (SDDG) was set up in 2005 to improve the lives of the 55,000 UK cows that produce 470 million litres of fresh milk and 90 million litres of milk for cheese per year.

A new ‘outcome approach’ standard was introduced to assess the individual health and welfare of each cow on areas such as fertility and nutrition.

Milk is probably more prominent in your Christmas dinner than you might think. It’s used in everything from your Yorkshire pudding and bread sauce to your selection of cheeses - not forgetting the customary glass of milk for Father Christmas himself, of course.

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Dairy herd on a Sainsbury's produce supplier's farm, Knutsford

Taste The Difference West Country Farmhouse Mature Cheddar

Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference West Country Farmhouse Mature Cheddar comes from the Barber family in Somerset who have been making cheese for almost 200 years.

Sainsbury’s has sold Barber’s Cheddar since 1957 and according to local tradition, real Cheddar must be produced within 30 miles of Wells Cathedral.

Taste The Difference West Country Farmhouse Mature Cheddar is made in Ditcheat which lies about 10 miles away. Perfect!

A cheeseboard is a common addition to most Christmas feasts and the most British of all the cheeses - Cheddar - is often a family favourite. The cheese can be dated back to at least the 12th century where records indicate King Henry II purchased 4,640 kg of Cheddar for £10.13s.4d.

Another important ingredient at Christmas time are eggs. Eggs help us make classics like Christmas cake and Christmas pudding as well as little extras like custard and Yorkshire puddings. But just where do the hens that lay Sainsbury’s eggs come from?

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Frank Sainsbury Egg Collection Scheme, Little Wratting, Haverhill, c.1912

Sainsbury’s Woodland Eggs

Sainsbury’s sources its eggs from a number of different farms across the UK. Its Woodland Eggs are laid by hens which are able to roam freely.

Hens' natural instincts to shelter under trees and protect themselves from predators can be fully realised as they forage in farms containing trees that cover at least 20% of the range area where the birds are free to wander.

There are 180 woodland farms that produce eggs for Sainsbury’s from all over the UK.