Do you know where there’s never any debate when it comes to talking about ethics and sustainability when it comes to meat? Taste. We’ve put this theory to test over the past few gloriously sunny and rainy weekends, and the results were fairly conclusive.
Generally, people liked the story behind the meat – how it was 100 per cent grass-fed, and/or organic, and/or genuinely free-range, and that it came from well-cared for animals.
But they loved the taste of it. When the meat was served up the table invariably became quiet, as guests discovered the flavour and the texture.
You know you’re onto something good when the condiments are hardly touched, and you receive messages afterwards asking for “the name of that farm again”.
So, what is the difference between meat from the best of British farms and that more mass-produced meat?
Free-roaming, pasture-fed cows have evolved naturally to forage and are not forced onto grains. This means their meat tastes of the terroir they have grazed upon. It’s also generally higher in vitamin E, which provides beta carotene – which is good for the immune system – and protection against toxins and neurological diseases.
Truly free-range and organic chickens are meatier because they have developed good muscles. They also offer more complex flavours because of their healthier lifestyle and feed. There are less of the bad fats and more of the good fats in these chickens, and they are not routinely fed antibiotics.
Sheep fatten up nicely by simply foraging in fields. They traditionally graze on land that doesn’t have much other agricultural use – such as poor-quality hillsides – and they convert that grass into oh-so-tasty and tender meat.
Organic and truly free-range pigs are reared without the routine use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers common in intensive farming. When it comes to eating, the firmness of texture and depth of flavour is unparalleled in pigs that have been free to roam and fed a healthy diet.
Here, we recommend some of our favourite meat boxes on offer at the moment – in no particular order, it just depends on what you’re looking for.
The meat arrives chilled or frozen and will stay that way all day. Each brand offers a whole range of different meat, not just the box we’ve selected, so if you like the sound of one then click on the link to find more.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
The best meat delivery boxes for 2021 are:
Best for experimental chefs – Cotswold Beef offal box: £60, Cotswoldbeef.com
Best for beef – Rosewood Farm 5kg steak night box: £130, Rosewood.farm
Best for venison – Knepp Wild Meat, venison: £4.50, Kneppwildrangemeat.co.uk
Best for steaks – Great Berwick Organics secret 7 steak box : £70, Longhornbeef.co.uk
Best for specific diets – Primal Meats monthly surprise subscription box: £50, Primalmeats.co.uk
Best for chicken – Fosse Meadows medium free range BBQ box: £47, Fossemeadows.com
Best for crowd pleasing BBQ – Eversfield Organic traditional BBQ box: £39.95, Eversfieldorganic.co.uk
Best for seasonal meat – Pipers Farm summer meat box: £45, Pipersfarm.com
Best for trying new things – Coombe Farm Organic balancing meat box: £40, Coombefarmorganic.co.uk
Best for exciting flavours – The Ethical Butcher 'the unlocked' BBQ box: £85, Ethicalbutcher.co.uk
Best for a weekend away – Farmison the family staycation box: £59.50, Farmison.com
Best for those who like surprises and variety – Deersbrook Farm monthly box: £58, Deersbrookfarm.com
Cotswold Beef offal box
Best for: Experimental chefs
We included the Cotswold Beef steak box last year and our review said: “These were the biggest, most delicious looking steaks we’ve seen in a while and their cooking and eating lived up to the first impressions.” This year, we decided to review their offal box. Offal is some of the most nutrient dense food you can eat – it’s rich in vitamins, minerals and an excellent protein source. It’s too often overlooked, especially as a way of feeding nutritious food to a family that offers incredible bang for your buck.
The Onglet steak went straight off the barbecue and into the mouths of those who claimed they would never eat offal – they are probably only finding out as they read this article that this is how it is classed. The juiciness of this cut was out of this world. It tasted pure, natural and, of course, meaty. The whole heart was roasted to make a dining table showstopper, while the generous portion of liver, pan-fried to perfection, was smooth and creamy yet rich in flavour and melted in the mouth. We’re still working our way through the kidneys, organ fat and marrow bones (which we intend to use for flavouring and broth).
A far cry from the headlines which usually demonises beef production as a main cause of climate change, Cotswold Beef are out to prove a slow-growing native breed of cattle can be beneficial for the environment – and biodiversity – if farmed in the right way. As such, their cows are mob grazed on wildflower meadows, herbal leys and permanent pasture. This farming method and dry ageing clearly captures flavour, too.
Offal box includes: 6-8 x 200-300g packets of beef liver; 2 x 150g-200g packets of beef kidney; organ fat up to 1kg; A whole beef heart or tongue; oxtail (cut into pieces) or beef cheeks; 1 x onglet approx. 500g; 1 kg marrow bones
Buy now £60.00, Cotswoldbeef.com
Rosewood Farm 5kg steak night box
Best for: Beef
A recipe for a great night? A 5kg steak box, a fiery barbecue and a bottle of young cabernet sauvignon. Rosewood Farm specialises in beef. Interestingly, it doesn’t dry age its meat for any length of time – a process that is widely practised by others to improve the meat’s flavour and tenderness. It says this makes little difference to its grass-fed beef and believes it is actually a waste of resources. Their customers agree, and we do, too.
The flavour is rich and full, and the steaks were incredibly tender – easily standing up to those who had been dry-aged for 28 days plus. The Picanha – taken from the top of the rump and surrounded by a thick layer of fat – was hands-down the star of the show. This Yorkshire farm also literally goes against the grain by producing 100 per cent grass-fed meat. It prides itself on being herbicide, pesticide and fertiliser free, and it does a whole lot for the environment – its tagline is “food as a by-product of conservation”.
The steak night dexter beef box includes: a selection of 100 per cent grass fed flat iron, rump and sirloin steaks, plus a picanha and 450g of whole fillet and extra virgin grass fed beef dripping.
Buy now £130.00, Rosewood.farm
Knepp Wild Meat, venison
Best for: Venison
We turned up to a friend’s barbecue and were immediately hailed as the best guests because our host knew what Knepp Farm was, and of course, was a fan. And rightly so, thanks to its excellent reputation for turning farming as most of us know it on its head.
Animals here – which include longhorn cattle, Tamworth pigs and red and fallow deer – have free range of an incredible 3,500 acres of land that’s been re-wilded, and are all 100 per cent grass fed. Their natural slow growth means the meat is denser and richer, completely unlike the sometimes watery-like and bland tasting mass produced meat. We tried the venison meat from Knepp. Venison is an underrated meat – it’s a complete source or protein and also includes haem iron, zinc and packed with heaps of B vitamins.
It’s the only one on our list that’s technically not a pre-made box of meat – instead, you can build your own. First up, we tried the naked red venison burgers (£4.50, Kneppwildrangemeat.co.uk), which come in packs of two. Deep red in colour, they’re the perfect amount of lean to fat ratio left totally naked, 100 per cent venison (with just a little salt and pepper seasoning). If you’re after a beef alternative, this is it; they’re more intense in flavour and offer up that classic gamey taste.
Taking things up a notch, we also tried the venison striploin (£9, Kneppwildrangemeat.co.uk), which is essentially the venison equivalent to a fillet of beef. It’s super lean, deep purply red in colour and is some of the best meat we’ve ever had. It’s best not to over complicate something so good though, so we grilled it on the barbecue, and cut it into thin slices, where the meat melted and was utterly delicious. Just make sure you rest the meat well to enable the juices to be reabsorbed from cooking.
Last, but not least, and perfectly suited to a low and slow roast for a flavoursome family meal, is the boned and rolled venison haunch (£19.98, Kneppwildrangemeat.co.uk). We seared it and then gave it the love it deserves by slow roasting it in the oven with beetroot, shallots and thyme, that really did justice to the wonderfully deep-flavoured meat. Or you could cut open the string ties and sear on the barbecue, cooking it with just the right amount of heat and smoke to make a decadent centrepiece. Prices start at £4.50, and vary depending on the meat you select.
Buy now £4.50, Kneppwildrangemeat.co.uk
Great Berwick Organics secret 7 steak box
Best for: Steaks
Think you already know your steak preference – a sirloin, a ribeye or a fillet? This box will make you think again. It includes organic steaks cut from the lesser-known muscles such as the tri-tip (bottom sirloin); denver (front shoulder) and hangar (upper belly – and prized for its flavour). While each offers something subtly unique to the seasoned palate, what they have in common is more important, in our humble opinion.
Great Berwick specialise in rearing English Longhorn Cattle with majestic horns. They have a 100 per cent grass-fed diet and live a stress-free existence in fields next to the River Severn. The intramuscular marbling throughout occurs as a result of slow growth, and the resulting meat is tender and full of flavour. Well, the secret’s well and truly out now.
The secret 7 steak box includes: 2 x 250g flat iron steaks; 2 x 200g denver steaks; 2 x 200g ribeye tail/chuck eye steaks; 2 x 200g hangar steaks; 2 x 250g tri-tip steaks; 2 x 200g picanha steaks; 2 x 200g bavette steaks
Buy now £70.00, Longhornbeef.co.uk
Primal Meats monthly surprise subscription box
Best for: Specific diets
Primal Meats specialises in supporting customers on diets based on ancestral wisdom, such as Paleo, Keto, Wildervore. They believe their nutrient-rich meat – from 100 per cent grass-fed animals from farms that practice regenerative land management – offers the biggest potential for cooling our planet, restoring our damaged ecosystems and providing global sustainable nutrition security. As such, they say a lot of their customers are former vegetarians and vegans looking for the next most ethical option. You can tailor your monthly surprise box based on cost (£50 - £200), diet, and members of your household.
Example £50 box may include: 500g beef mince; 1kg lamb shoulder joint; 500g diced lamb; 1kg chicken wings; 500g pork wok strips; 500g beef burgers
Buy now £50.00, Primalmeats.co.uk
Fosse Meadows medium free range BBQ box
Best for: Chicken
Have you ever barbequed a spatchcock chicken? If not, it should be the thing you serve at the next barbecue you host, and the Fosse Meadows spatchcok is a great place to start. The USP of Fosse Meadows chicken is that they are grown to 81 days. Why is this significant? Well, an average supermarket chicken is grown to around 35 days, so a Fosse chicken lives more than twice as long. This allows them to grow at a natural rate, antibiotic-free. They are also free-range, and forage in meadows that aren’t sprayed with fertilisers or pesticides.
The meat is darker, more textured and offers unparalleled deep flavour that the lemon, garlic and bay marinade beautifully enhances. Fosse Meadows have recently partnered with similarly-minded farms to broaden their range – this box includes Redhill Farm free range pork ribs and sausages and grass-fed beef burgers. They are both very welcome additions.
Free range BBQ box includes: 1 x free range marinated half spatchcock chicken (around 800g); 6 x free range chilli marinated wings (around 500g); 4 x free range garlic & herb marinated drumsticks (around 500g); 1 x free range cajun rub pork spare ribs (around 500g); 6 x free range handmade pork & leek sausages (around 500g); 4 x grass fed handmade 6oz beef burgers (around 340g); 1 x sauce shop tomato sauce (255g glass bottle); 1 x sauce shop original BBQ sauce (255g glass bottle)
Buy now £47.00, Fossemeadows.com
Eversfield Organic traditional BBQ box
Best for: Crowd pleasing BBQs
The great British barbecue doesn’t get much more traditional than a burger and (burnt) sausage. In our burger taste-test, the ones from Eversfield box came up trumps – for both flavour and texture. The other elements of this box received murmurs of approval from sticky-fingered guests, too. Devon-based Eversfield Organic works with a network of smallholding farmers to offer a range of produce direct to your door.
As their name suggests, their minimum standards are always organic. More than this, the beef is 100 per cent grass-fed, and the chickens are processed on the farm where they are reared, which minimises travel time that can be very stressful for the animals.
The traditional BBQ box includes: 4 x organic beef burgers (460g); 6 x organic pork sausages (400g); organic lamb cutlets (400g); organic chicken thighs & drumsticks (1.1kg); organic hot & smoky chicken wings (620g)
Buy now £39.95, Eversfieldorganic.co.uk
Pipers Farm summer meat box
Best for: Seasonal meat
Pipers Farm has won a whole host of accolades for its great tasting meat, from Indy best buys to Great Taste Awards. Based in Devon, the 50-acre family farm has been a frontrunner in sustainably produced meat for more than 30 years. They work with 25 other family farms in the surrounding areas to offer wholesome natural food that has been grown with a respect for nature.
This means rearing slow growing, native breeds who thrive in low input environments; such as Red Ruby cows that can digest the rough Exmoor grass and convert it into protein with zero inputs; Hubbard chickens, Saddleback pigs and Suffolk Tup lambs. Piper’s Farm summer meat box includes top-quality foundations for a range of great meals and is a good introduction to the variety of their offering.
Summer meat box includes: 4 x grass fed steak burgers; 500g properly free range chicken fillets; 4 x grass fed every day steaks; 500g grass fed beef stir fry; 4 x pastured raised pork escalopes 4 x natural plain pork sausages
Buy now £45.00, Pipersfarm.com
Coombe Farm Organic balancing meat box
Best for: Trying new things
Any self-respecting amateur cook knows chicken thighs are superior to chicken breast, as they have a high fat content and bones, creating extra flavour. But did you know that duck wings are the new chicken wings? If not, you heard it here first. Warning: they need marinating (preferably overnight) and at least a couple of hours cooking on a low temperature. Remember this and you won’t be disappointed – the deep flavour and good-amount-of-meat on the bones are well worth the time investment.
This box was designed to make the most of every carcass that passes through the Coombe Farm butchery, so they are less popular cuts of meat, offered at a discount. But, order this box and you’ll wonder why. These under-the-radar cuts are our favourite discovery of 2021, so far.
Balancing meat box includes: 1kg organic beef silverside; 4 x 130g organic chicken thighs; 550g organic duck wings; 250g organic beef stewing steak; 2 x 250g organic pork mince; 225g organic lamb neck fillets
Buy now £40.00, Coombefarmorganic.co.uk
The Ethical Butcher 'the unlocked' BBQ box
Best for: Exciting flavours
If you’re looking for a barbecue box with a difference then look no further than this box. The Ethical Butcher knows how to blend superior quality with superior taste and their portions are generous, too. The sweet harissa lamb fillet kebabs and lemon za’atar chicken kebabs were stars of the barbecue, offering incredible depth of flavour and sense of satisfaction. But, even the 100 per cent ground beef burgers, which have nothing added to them, are unlike anything else we tasted.
The Ethical Butcher puts its ethics where its name is, building up a network of farmers using regenerative agriculture, working with them to prove it is running carbon neutral – or even carbon negative – systems that are good for the environment and biodiversity. And do you know what else this is good for? The Ethical Butcher is on a mission to prove that you can taste the difference when meat comes from regenerative farms, and, so far, they are excelling.
‘The unlocked’ BBQ box includes: 600g sweet harissa lamb fillet kebab (makes 4 kebabs); 600g lemon za’atar chicken kebab (makes 4 kebabs); 4 x 125g ground burgers; 500g bovis sausage; 4 x 120g lamb loin chops; 6 x 120-150g chicken drumsticks; 6 x 85g mixed herb pork sausage; 6 x 85g cheddar and chive pork sausage; 2 x pork cutlets, pork ribeye steak, or beef steak
Buy now £85.00, Ethicalbutcher.co.uk
Farmison the family staycation box
Best for: A weekend away
Many of our summer holidays are going to be in the great British countryside or seaside this year. As you book your cottage retreat, why not order the perfect treat box to go alongside it?
Get your day off to a great start with top-quality bacon and sausages, and fire up the barbecue for steaks and spatchcock chicken. It even includes corned beef and a pie, which made us feel like we’d travelled back in time to the good ol’ days of packing up the car and the kids and the dog before cheap flights lured us to the continent.
Farmison guarantees their farmers preserve rare and precious native livestock breeds which may not otherwise exist, contributing to local biodiversity in Cumbria, Yorkshire and Lancashire. They say: “The meat from Heritage breed livestock has a mature flavour and is decadently marbled, ensuring tenderness and succulence”. The thing nobody can promise, of course, is the Great British weather.
Staycation box includes: 220g unsmoked streaky bacon; 66g farmhouse breakfast sausage; 1.4kg fennel & lemon spiced spatchcock; 4 X 150g flat iron steaks ; 1 x 195g english corned beef; 4 x 100g the angus burger; 1kg chicken, leek & bacon pie
Buy now £59.50, Farmison.com
Deersbrook Farm monthly box
Best for: Those who like surprises and variety
Deersbrook family farm in Essex was certified with the Pasture For Life Association in 2015, meaning their cattle are 100 per cent pasture fed without any grains in their diet. They send their beef for nutritional analysis and this has shown an elevated content of protein, iron, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, as well as a good Omega 6:3 ratio and essential fatty acids. It’s also tender and packed with flavour – the steaks providing a quick and tasty dinner option.
Deersbrook is part of a stewardship scheme, and the grazing land works in line with a carbon sequestration cycle, locking in carbon. There is an on-farm butchery and farm shop, and you can even grow your own pork by choosing your own piglet from the litter. You’ll receive updates on your pig’s progress, a weigh in and pictures, and when the time is right you can choose the exact cuts you would like from your pig. You don’t get much more engaged in where your food comes from than that.
Monthly meat box includes: a seasonal selection including Deersbrook’s 100 per cent grass-fed beef, rare breed pork, local free range chicken and poultry, free range lamb and wild game as well as recipe cards and a spice mix. We received a whole sutton hoochicken, six chunky sausages, bacon, steaks, mince meat, bacon and pork tenderloin plus a chicken Tikka mix
Buy now £58.00, Deersbrookfarm.com
The verdict: Meat boxes
Cotswold Beef wins this year’s best buy because of their consistent quality and, this year especially, because they provided a box which we feel provides excellent value and nutrition.
An Honourable mention goes to three farms we haven’t included because they’re on the smaller side, so don’t always have consistent meat boxes in stock, but are well worth getting in-line for when they do or even to make your own selections. These are Hampton Gay, English Farm and South Ormbsy Estate.
For the latest discount codes on meat and other foodie buys, try the links below:
For nutritious food sent straight to your door, read our review of the best healthy food subscription boxes