Category: Industry

‘Super Bacon’

It’s the party season and last night you’ve kicked it hard – and why not? Tis the season and you’ve earnt it…..today though the morning is a foggier, less hospitable place than the night before and you need help, restorative, comforting, warming help, but where to turn for this short cut to wellness?

Simple.

A big, fat, tasty bacon sarnie – which my friends, is science, as Elin Roberts science development manager at the Centre for Life in Newcastle reported to the UK national press in 2009: “Food doesn’t soak up the alcohol, but it does increase your metabolism – helping you to deal with the after-effects of over-indulgence. So food will often help you feel better. Bread is high in carbohydrates and bacon is full of protein, which breaks down into amino acids.

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“Your body needs these amino acids, so eating them will make you feel good.  Bingeing on alcohol depletes neurotransmitters too, but bacon contains a high level of amines which tops these up, giving you a clearer head.”

There’s even a scientific formula behind that, oh so, aromatic delight of a bacon butty.

Elin adds: “If you’ve got amino acids and reducing sugars at a heat above 150 degrees centigrade, it kickstarts the Maillard Reaction in the pan. That means lots of lovely smells are released and it’s this which draws us in. I know of three vegetarians who have been broken by the smell of bacon.”

So we can all enjoy ourselves this festive season, safely please (eh? I really am 40 now), knowing that we can help put things right with plenty of fluids and a sizzling pan.

Thanks Bacon!

Cheers!!

Hargreaves

Top, Top Artisans?

Oxford English Dictionary, Noun; Artisan “A worker in a skilled trade, especially one that involves making things by hand “.

Words as we know follow fashions and trends like all else in life and the two that I constantly hear bandied about at the moment are ‘Top, Top’ and ‘Artisan’ – technically that’s three words I know – but, as a football and a Liverpool fan ‘Top, Top’ shot into my conscious when Sir Alex Ferguson described Steven Gerrard, in his 2013 Autobiography, as ‘not a top, top player’, which made me bristle a fair bit, as with a maximum of only 198 players on the pitch at any one time in the premier league I would say that anyone securing a regular position in the starting line-up most definitely is a ‘Top, Top’ player, especially when considering the amount of people trying to do exactly that. Having once had a trial at West Ham or Tottenham Hot Spur definitely doesn’t count – did they just have a policy of letting everyone have a go in the ‘80’s?

However, the term ‘Top, Top’ has since become an easy way for pundits, both professional and pub based, to segment the merits of different players and so my question is- will we see the same sort of segmentation for all things labelled ‘Artisan’?

New-Artisan-Economy-logos-1

 

The word’s roots are French from the mid 16th Century and based on the Latin artire, ‘to instruct in the arts’, but in English usage was “often taken as typifying a social class intermediate between property owners and wage labourers’ (OED).

So to be artisanal was an aspiration for the majority of the poor beleaguered work force, as to be employed in a profession that required you to be able to manufacture with a great deal of learning and care in a skilled trade was to really improve your lot in life. No wonder then that in recent years it has become such a popular label in the food industry in order to connote on a product that it is something hand crafted, created with more care and skill than the mass produced, industrial process driven ‘fayre’ that is most commonly retailed. And it really is an industrial process, see Charlie’s article ‘After all a pig is not square’ to understand how they do it.

Labelling a product ‘Artisan’ is now so popular that a quick Google search has revealed that it’s been applied to Domino’s Pizza (who then confusingly say they are not Artisans, but then that actually they might be), Starbucks ‘Breakfast Sandwich’ and Mcdonald’s ‘Artisan Roll’, as well as Gel Nail Polish, Investment Management Services & Injection Moulded Plastics – I kid you not!

And after plastic bankers I doubt there’s a lot left for the term to be applied to, but real Artisans – ‘Top, Top Artisans’ will always be worth searching out as price is what we all pay, value is what we get.

 

Cheers

Stephen

Error!

When Charlie suggested that I write an article he also said it would be a good idea to introduce myself as the newest member of the team here at ‘Bacon Towers’.

I am Stephen Hargreaves and joined Cure & Simple at the start of June; I first met Charlie back in 2007 on a freezing cold morning stood in a field as we were trying to catch a loose horse and over the intervening years it became apparent there was much in common between us. We are both country ‘lads’ with backgrounds in agriculture & animal husbandry, we are both passionate about animal welfare & food production, both ‘foodies’, with a desire to create and deliver something unique, but more than this we share the same values and a similar outlook on life.

We also have complimentary skill sets, Charlie developed a professional expertise in software development & brand building, my area of specialism was in finance and more accurately as a professional investor in small & mid-sized companies. A good platform on which to develop a team and build a business we think.

Building our business will inevitably include errors and naturally enough we only want to make each mistake once, so we need to incorporate into our process a system of both recognising & correcting each error and also of ensuring that it won’t be able to happen again or have an impact on other areas of the business.

A simple system, regardless of the type of system, is always the strongest, but as systems grow and become more sophisticated they also become inherently weaker so we need to allow for this and create ‘safeguards’ for failure, either partial or total, as any system that does not prepare for failure is effectively ensuring it – something that engineers know all too well through their study & training and something that the ‘Fathers’ of the European currency would have been well served to have heeded.

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In doing this the best place to start maybe to follow Henry Ford’s maxim “Don’t find fault, find a remedy; anybody can complain”. Let’s not invest time assigning blame, but find out what went wrong and build a safeguard into the system to prevent others from making the same mistake.

With this in mind what can we learn from others? For if we only learn from our own mistakes we are condemning ourselves to repeat the mistakes of others; so who can we learn from? Simple logic suggests that those industries where errors are the most catastrophic are likely to have the most comprehensive error reporting and prevention systems –airlines could fit the bill perfectly here and indeed they do have a very robust system of confidential error reporting, which is well highlighted in Peter Bevelin’s book: Seeking Wisdom, From Darwin to Munger

“the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has an Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) for analysing and reporting aviation incidents. FAA utilizes NASA as a third party to receive aviation safety reports. This cooperation invites pilots to report to NASA actual or potential deficiencies involving aviation safety. That NASA is the receiver ensures confidentiality and anonymity of the reporter and all parties involved in an incident. There has been no breach of confidentiality in more than 20 years of the ASRS under NASA management. Pilots who report an incident within ten days have automatic immunity from punishment.” pp163.

Anonymity in a small team is admittedly difficult to achieve. We can however, instil the culture of investigation and remedy, not blame, from the beginning through the design of our own Error log, not just for actual, but also for potential errors in order to consider break points and build in contingency plans. Doing this will allow us to create checklists and simplify procedures to make better decisions and avoid dumb mistakes.

And avoiding the dumb mistake is something we can all strive for!

 

Cheers

After all a pig is not square?

 

This was the reply that came from a question on how we could try and standardise the shape of Cure and Simple bacon. Not that the bacon tastes any different but the all too fussy consumer wants their artisan bacon to look exactly like the supermarket alternative.

The loins from each pig are always different in shape, unsurprisingly, after all no two pigs are identical. The large processors get round this by freezing your bacon down to about -8C, essentially this gives the bacon loin a consistency akin to play dough. This allows the bacon to be pressed into a perfect shape, before slicing. The end result is bacon that is the same size and dimensions slice after slice, the consumer is safe in the knowledge that their bacon will be the same shape day in day out.

For us we do things a little more traditionally, calling on times gone by when people didn’t expect exact dimensions time in time out, and blast chillers didn’t exist. We have to accept that the chump end of the loin is much thicker to the shoulder end. Generally speaking if your Cure and Simple bacon is much more circular in shape, it comes from the chump end. If it is similar in shape to streaky bacon, more rectangular in shape then it comes from the shoulder end. As for the middle it looks more like the bacon you come to expect in the supermarket. In regards to shape their will never be two packs of bacon that look the same, they all taste the same due to the exact recipes we use but shape will always be different.

Cure and Simple Old English - Chump End
Cure and Simple Old English – Chump End
Cure and Simple Old English - Middle
Cure and Simple Old English – Middle
Cure and Simple Old English - Shoulder End
Cure and Simple Old English – Shoulder End

Refreshingly, the Cure and Simple customers have yet to pick up on the difference in shape of their bacon, must be that they also understand that a pig is not square.

 

The delivery conundrum

It was back in 2007, when LoveFilm, burst onto the scene, with a simple service of delivering movie rentals through the post. What made the offering so compelling, was not only the huge array of titles on offer, or the price point, but the way that your postman could quite easily deliver your movie rental at the fraction of the price of a traditional courier and certainly more convenient; you didnt have to be in.

 

The founders of LoveFilm soon sold the company to Amazon, and set their sites on their next goal; Graze.com. Another compelling offer, but this time deliverying all sorts of snacks and treats through the post, the company was soon snapped up by a private equity outfit. The power of Royal Mail is considerable, with their network being able to deliver packages and letters throughout the country overnight. The real trick to getting Royal Mail (or other nationwide postal services) to work for you  is to get the weight of your package and dimensions correct so that you can use 1st Class Post for a letter or large letter. For Cure & Simple we use a large letter format, and keep the total weight under 500gms. This enables us to deliver overnight nationwide for under the price of half a pint of larger.

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The UK is inundated with fantastic small manufacturers of all types of wonderful foods, who sell their wares throughout a myriad of independant retailers, farmers markets and other regional events. In days gone by unless you happened to live next door to these events being able to experience these foods was problematic. The internet soon filled this gap, and online ordering soon became the norm for these companies to offer their products to a nationwide market. The problem for this is that you either have to buy in bulk or you are hit with a huge courier bill to ship your product to your door. An example, pull up Google, type in “Artisan Bread Online“, select the top link and buy a loaf of “Multi Seed Rye”, go through the checkout process. The product is £2.30 to purchase which seems perfectly reasonable, by the time you get to adding in your card details, the price is over £7.30 for a loaf of bread!! No doubt the producer is also helping to subsidise some of this delivery charge. Suddenly even the most deepest of pockets would struggle to justify the price of a loaf of bread.

 

Fortunately Cure & Simple, delivery is a straight forward process due to the fact that bacon averages 5mm in thickness and doesnt weigh that much, plenty of other products can also benefit from being delivered by 1st Class Post. What is really needed is a simple method for small producers to be able to ship their products in bulk to a single location overnight, and for consumers to buy multiple artisan items from this single location. The price of delivery is then split between all items in the basket, maybe even on a pro-rata basis. Maybe there is a co-operative out there or an independant artisan retailer who does this already, if you know of any, then please let us know. If their isnt one perhaps the artisan food movement should set one up.