Joe and Eileen Condon's organic hill farm on the edge of the Knockmealdown mountains, in Co Tipperary, is a model farm for “Farming with Altitude”, a state initiative to encourage sustainable use of commonage in Ireland.
Wishing to produce entirely grass-fed beef, the Condons selected Galloway cattle which, thanks to a double coat of hair and thick skin, thrive outside all year - and they fertilise the land, eliminating the need for artificial fertilisers.
The stocking level discourages scrub and encourages plant diversity: a recent ecological survey revealed 64 different plant species per hectare - an ideal diet for producing well-flavoured beef, it is also thought to increase levels of omega 3 and reduce methane emissions, as well as helping to build up the soil and prevent flooding.
Nearby, in Lismore, a respected craft butcher undertakes slaughtering, and the carcass (including all the less popular cuts, which are now often dumped) is returned to a new unit on the farm for packing.
Their company, Omega Beef, employs a modern traceback system, also an open farm gate policy meaning that customers are welcome to visit by arrangement and see this unique low-impact organic beef farm first-hand.
Joe and Eileen Condon's achievements in sustainable farming have been recognised by the Irish Food Writers' Guild's Environmental Award.