MAKING quality the priority is the key message, and slogan, of Good Life Farming, a business that produces rose veal, rare breed pork and Shetland lamb, as ethically as possible, at Upper Muirhall Farm, Perth.

The business is run by Karen Steel and her partner, Donald, as well as help from her parents, Jim and

Karen and Donald also have two daughters, and they are four-year-old, Hannah, and one-year-old, Ailidh.

Good Life Farming’s backstory is simple – Donald felt that bull calves were, quite literally, going to waste, and, although Upper Muirhall is a livery, Karen felt that more could be done to utilise the farm, and that’s when she and Donald decided to take the plunge and start up Good Life Farming.

Karen explained: “We started off by having a livery yard here, and then I met Donald, who is a dairy man through and through.

“He has always had an interest in calves, and he just felt that it was a waste, all these male dairy calves which are not really used for anything.”

After having Hannah, the couple wanted to generate a more regular income, and so they decided to purchase and rear male calves for rose veal production.

As well as this, they purchased a litter of eight pigs in order to star producing rare-breed pork, and in order to give Hannah an investment for when she was older.

Dairy calves are purchased for the set-up from all over Scotland, with some coming from as far away as Ayrshire. They are reared until around eight to 10 months, an age which may surprise many people.

Karen said: “I think people have a misconception about veal, and I think they believe that it is slaughtered at 12-weeks-old.

“That may be the case for white veal, but rose veal is a lot more ethical, and it is not slaughtered until it is at least eight-months-old, which is a lot older, for example, than the age that lamb and commercial pork is slaughtered at.

“It’s also worth bearing in mind, also, that some beef cattle is slaughtered at 12-months-old for certain meats, which isn’t all that much older than veal.”

Calves at purchased from farmers at any age between 10 days and one-month-old, and they are purchased in batches, where possible, which, Donald explained: “Ensures we know where everything is coming from, and that it has been treated well before coming to us.”

From the day they are born, the calves are fed on colostrum by the farmers, and that continues until they are three-months-old, at which point Donald puts them onto a mix of cake, draff, and either hay or haylage, as well as some oats, which is what they are fed until they are sent to slaughter.

Although the dairy calves are presently bought in, it is Karen and Donald’s intention to start up their own dairy herd eventually, at around 70 head, and produce milk for Yew Tree, meaning their veal will be bred, reared, and produced on the farm itself.

“We want to keep them on the colostrum for as long as possible, and we know that the farmers we are purchasing the calves from are giving them the best possible care, and they really do care about the animals, which is of utmost importance to us,” Donald commented.

Discussing some of the preconceptions that people have about purchasing and eating veal, Karen believes it stems from negative publicity, which is mainly portrayed through the media and social media.

She said: “I think a lot of people have this image in their mind that the calves are locked in a dark room for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for 12 weeks, and are then sent off to be killed, and that couldn’t be further from the truth for us.

“We put our calves out to grass as soon as the weather is good enough, and they are given the best care possible.

“I think another problem for people is that they don’t really know how to cook veal, but we are trying to change that, and prove that you can make almost any kind of meal with it, from spaghetti bolognese to steak and chips.”

It is the family’s mission to change those preconceptions, and they are already starting to see a shift in attitude.

“Rose veal is a lot more tender than some other red mead, and it has less fat on it, and that’s definitely been an advantageous selling point.

“We also attend a lot of food festivals and farmers markets, and that’s been a great way to alter people’s perceptions, because it allows them to come and ask questions, and find out about how the veal is reared and produced.

“It’s also been a great way to sell our product, because it is so specialised, it’s not something you can sell through the supermarket, and so the festivals and markets have been excellent for us, particularly due to word of mouth, because we often sell our products to people who have heard about us from somebody else,” Karen explained.

With the veal taking off, the family wanted to introduce other meats into the mix, and that’s when Hannah’s litter of eight pigs were introduced to Upper Muirhall.

For the rare-breed pork, the family rear Large Black and Gloucester Old Spot pigs, and these are sold in the same way as the veal, after they are bred and reared on the farm.

When Ailidh was born, Karen and Donald wanted to make an investment for her, as well, and so they made another purchase – a small flock of Shetland lambs, which came from Shetland itself.

“We wanted to go with something else that was a bit different, and that’s why we ended up going for Shetland sheep.

“Although they are a smaller size of lamb, they have a really good flavour, which is a great selling point.”

In all, they purchased 24 lambs after Ailidh was born, before purchasing three ewes for breeding with, which

came with six lambs at foot. This lamb is all bred and reared at Upper Muirhall, and is fed on a grass-based diet.

Looking to the future of Good Life Farming, Karen and Donald hope to continue their positive practice, and keep changing some of the negative preconceptions that people have.

“I think people need to consider the welfare of other animals before writing off veal altogether. If you look at chickens, for example, they aren’t always necessarily treated that well, but people don’t think twice about eating it, and the welfare of our rose veal is 10 times better than some chicken, and we hope to help people realise that.

“We don’t have an overly quick turnaround, because we want to ensure we are making that great quality product, because that is our main aim here – bringing two farmers together, and producing a top-quality product,” Karen concluded.

To find out more about the company, or to place an order, visit the Good Life Farming website at, or find Good Life Farming on Facebook.