Good Food Nation is the voice of the animals in the food industry. It is the brand which puts their welfare and happiness at its core. Each animal is loved and cared for irrespective of age, sex or productivity and will be free to enjoy their whole, natural lives. Good Food Nation is the umbrella brand of Hen Nation and Cow Nation, supplying eggs and dairy products. Goat Nation? Coming soon!
Isobel Davies, organic vegetable and fashion pioneer, and Liz Jones, animal welfare campaigner and columnist, have joined together to create this revolutionary food company.
Isobel grew up in Nottinghamshire and then North Yorkshire rescuing wild animals, riding round on horses, singing and 'dealing' in horse manure, horse tack and rabbits. Aged 16 and feeling fully educated, she left Yarm Grammar school, left home and spent 2 years living in France. Two years later she moved to London and started playing the saxophone, singing and songwriting in avant-garde jazz ensembles then indie pop bands. After a few records, a lot of touring in Europe and to escape her awful singing voice she started award-winning Farmaround.
Farmaround was London's first organic vegetable box scheme. With Farmaround still in tow, she moved back to her 'vaguely' native Yorkshire and founded Izzy Lane, the multi award-winning ( including RSPCA Good Business Award ) ethical fashion label which uses the wool from her flock of 600 rescued sheep. Isobel champions animal welfare as well as support for British farming and the British textile industry. She is a patron of VEGA, the animal welfare research charity.
Liz Jones is the most famous, best read columnist in the UK.
Her first job was on Company Magazine, and she then worked at the Evening Standard before joining The Sunday Times, where she worked for 11 years. She became editor of Marie Claire, editor of Life and Style at the Evening Standard before becoming that paper's chief interviewer.
She is now a columnist for The Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday. She is patron of Equine Market Watch, and lives in Somerset with her four rescued collies, 17 rescued cats, rescued horses and sheep. Her books include Liz Jones's Diary and The Exmoor Files. She is divorced but has now remarried, to one of the collies.
When I tell people I'm about to launch a food brand, they usually laugh, incredulous. I am after all a recovering, borderline anorexic. I don't own a wooden spoon or, come to think of it, a functioning oven. If I'm ever tempted to make something as complicated as toast, I think of the crumbs, and just won't bother. I have been a vegetarian from the age of 11 (I got through high school subsisting on brown bread banana sandwiches), a vegan more recently. Subsequently, my diet has polarised alarmingly. I survive on adrenaline, fizzy water and muesli. The thing is, I just don't care about food. But I do care about animals.
Aged 11, I remember seeing an item on the evening news about a group of cows who had escaped the abattoir. They were running, bellowing with fear, up and down a road with grown men chasing them with sticks. I asked my mum, who until then had brought me up on a diet of hearty stews, gammon and pineapple and Sunday roasts, what happened in an abattoir. Until this point I had believed, rather naively, that only animals that had died naturally were eaten by us. I was shocked. We had a much loved pet dog, Pompey. I had a rabbit, Penny. Why were these farm animals in a ghetto? At about the same time I saw the cartoon film of Animal Farm on TV. Being very young, I took it rather literally. The sight of the horse being carted off in a lorry to be turned into glue haunts me still. Chopin's Piano Sonata No 2, which accompanied the horse's exit, still turns the blood in my veins cold. Why were people allowed to treat animals in such a way?
But I continued in my urban life. I moved from Essex to London as a student, and discovered the joy that was Cranks, off Broadwick Street in Soho. Homity pie. Nut rissoles. Cheese baps filled with cress. My eating widened from those soggy sandwiches. I felt the world was changing. That, one day soon, more of us would become enlightened, and become vegetarian. Unfortunately, that new dawn never came. In restaurants now, the only dish on offer for me is the inevitable mushroom risotto. Air stewardesses still tut tut when I say I need a special meal. I starve in most countries in the world: in Istanbul, I was alarmed to find even the dessert, a sort of crème brûlée, was made from chicken. Only once on my travels have I ever felt able to relax: on a walking holiday in Uttaranchal, a northern state of India, where no one even eats eggs. For the first time in my life I ate three hearty meals a day.
I couldn't help noticing, too, how beautiful the people of this state were: lean, clear skinned and serene, too. By this point I knew that eating dairy was a compromise. But only when I saw a secretly filmed video, taken by animal rights lobbying group Animal Aid, of a dairy cow being slaughtered, did I begin to think seriously about food, and the way we farm. Plus, at about this time, almost three years ago, I met a Isobel, who is my business partner in this, my first food venture.
With ever mounting pressure to increase productivity, dairy cows are increasingly subjected to mega dairy regimes, in which they are incarcerated almost permanently, in order to maximise yield and drive down costs. A modern Holstein now produces up to 60 litres of milk per day - 10 times more than she would naturally produce to feed her calf.
Such a heavy load takes its toll on their bodies - more than 75% of cows have some kind of foot disease (Farmers Weekly, April 2009). By the time they are five years old they are worn out and considered uneconomical - the next stop is the slaughterhouse. Their calves - by-products of the dairy industry - suffer no less. At only a few days old they will be removed from their mothers. Some will be sent to market to be bought for milk or veal production (it is shameful this country has resumed live calf export: these animals are so young they often cannot stand). But most male calves are regarded as waste by-products, as demand is limited for their 'low quality' flesh. According to Farmers Weekly (April 24, 2009), 2000 Holstein male dairy calves are shot each week. I didn't want to be a party to this mass slaughter.
And then Isobel came across a dairy farmer in Suffolk who was at the end of his tether, tied up in knots by rules and regulations just because he wanted to look after his cows in a more respectful manner. He wanted any cows that had to be put down killed at home, not driven, terrified, to an abattoir.
It transpired that Isobel and I bought these the 63 dairy cows from the farmer to ensure their survival. We would sell their milk, and use the money to fund their retirement. For the first time, an animal would own the product, rather than have it stolen from them. It is a revolutionary idea, and is I hope the next big movement in food, an industry that never seems to put the welfare of the animal into the equation, let alone first.
Of course, people might still be laughing at the whole idea by this point, but I don't care. People laughed at the Suffragettes at first. At the abolitionists. Animals, especially those who live on our farms rather than in our homes, deserve respect. This is not charity, they are merely selling what they have to secure their own future. Our older cows, the grannies, will act as babysitters, too, and will not just be tossed on the scrapheap of greed and mass production.