I received a medium fruit and veg box, a litre of whole milk, and some meat a couple of weeks ago. The company is Riverford Organics which is a chain of (I think) five farms throughout the country. I didn't fully realise that this was a chain until they sent me tons of leaflets about themselves with the first boxes. They also sent some recipe cards to get me started and to tempt me to purchase more produce. Here is my evaluation:
Fruit and Veg Box---Well I obviously ordered the wrong one because although I received some really lovely produce (including mushrooms, bananas, and fennel), I did not receive onions, carrots or potatoes. This came as a bit of a disappointment and now I have to go and purchase these items because I am all out. Looking through the catalogue I have chosen a smaller veg box for 2-3 people, which has the basics, and a fruit box for next time. (If there is a next time). And I might add to my order avocados and lemons. And make sure they do not ever put in grapefruit, red lettuce, or red cabbage.
Milk---When I ordered this I was thinking that this was from a local farm. The packaging says it is from Devon which is miles and miles away. So I am not any better off than ordering organic milk from Ocado in this respect. However, the milk is non-homogenised. Some would argue this is healthier, and it is certainly less processed and therefore "greener" in terms of fuel consumption. I really need to consider this. It is £.99 a litre. This is comparable with Ocado prices.
Meat----They insist that you have a minimum order of £25 for meat. This means that we cannot purchase fresh meat products weekly because we cannot afford to buy this much weekly. So, we would need to purchase every other week and freeze some. I am not against freezing meat, but I would find having to defrost meat every day for the second week both a hassle and a potential food hygiene hazard. So when it arrived:
Firstly, I was actually disappointed to see how commercial the packaging is. It isn't like my old scheme at all. My old scheme was a farm which reared and slaughtered their own meat. All of this meat says it was slaughtered in the UK and the labels, again, say Devon. I am not better off than using Ocado for meat. But I might be better off using a different local scheme. The only thing to save the day is the taste. The one drawback from my previous scheme was that the chicken and beef all tasted the same---very gamey. Now some people love it, but I didn't appreciate it. (Sorry to all food lovers, etc). So here is our critique of the meat:
Sausages---I chose their regular pork sausages, which are gluten-free. They are very meaty and way too salty. I cannot possibly buy them again. This is not great. I do love a quality sausage if I am going to eat them. I will definitely be feeding back to them about this.
Chicken carcass for soup---I won't critique this for a while because I a put it in the freezer. I have loads of stock in the freezer at the moment anyway.
Beef bones for stock----I have never made beef stock before, and we don't often have meat on the bone, so it is hard for me to do so. So I was glad, firstly, to find that they sold bones. There were a lot, so I put them in two pots. I think this was a mistake. Because although the stocks smelled good, they were watery and took a full 24 hours in the bottom of the AGA to make a decent flavour. This is, of course, down to my skills rather than the bones they provided!
Chicken breasts and cubed beef--these organic meats had a bland flavour much like organic meats you buy from the grocery stores. Some would complain about this, but I enjoyed it.
So, overall: I liked the quality of the products except for the sausages. Everything is a bit pricey, but that is to be expected with organic produce. I am really wary of the food miles involved with using this company. After a few weeks I am still really unsure about using them again. I will be writing to them with this critique and see if they can answer my questions about food miles. I would rather use a more local farm to support them.