Review: Confusion over ethics at The Grazing Shed, Cardiff

Picture of farmer

I decided to kick off my hunt for the best guilt-free burger around, with Cardiff’s hottest new fast-food restaurant, The Grazing Shed. Recently opened just behind the shiny St David’s 2 complex in Cardiff’s city centre, I was keen to see what the fuss was about.

The introduction

Unfortunately, the Grazing Shed and I got off to a shaky start. After seeing the buzz on twitter (many enthusiastic claims of ‘best burger ever!‘) I crossed my fingers that their supply chain would excite me as much as their menu had titillated others. Unfortunately this was not the case. Though The Grazing Shed make a lot of noise about using ‘local suppliers and local produce’ one look at the menu revealed that their chicken isn’t free range or higher welfare, and their beef is simply labelled ‘100% welsh’.

Knowing that the Grazing Shed were were a brand new business, I tweeted them and asked if perhaps some more ethically sound menu options, such as a free range chicken burger, might find their way on to the menu in future? Was it something they would perhaps consider further down the line? Their response was simply to point me in the direction of their ‘Red Tractor Assured’ chicken burgers.

Like I said, we did not get off to a good start.

The truth about the ‘Red Tractor’ label

This has been identified as laying down the the lowest animal welfare standards of any quality mark on the market; simply guaranteeing the UK minimum levels of animal welfare have been met. In a 2012 report by One Kind and Compassion in World Farming, it was revealed that animals reared under ‘Red Tractor’ conditions can be subjected to mutilation (e.g. tail docking without anesthetic), tethering, and zero access to grazing territory. The stamp also allows for genetically modified or cloned animals and their offspring. You can read more about the findings of the report in this article here.

Perhaps the founders of The Grazing Shed don’t know what the Red Tractor label actually means.

So why am I including The Grazing Shed on this blog? Well, because the one thing they did get right was their Veggie Burger Menu. Rather than feeling like a carnivore’s afterthought, the 3 veggie options available at The Grazing Shed seem to have been given the same creative love and attention as their meat-lovers menu. From the ‘Super Tidy Burger’ topped with lime & basil mayo and cider apple chutney, to the ‘Naughty Shepherd’ which includes a honey glazed goats cheese fondue, these burgers bring a real sense of excitement to the often sad and disappointing prospect of the veggie burger.

I chose to feast on the aptly named ‘Hell Fire Hippy’ Burger, and it was absolutely divine. The veggie burger itself was a soft patty – so huge it spilled out of the sides of the sesame seeded bap. It was topped with a glorious jalepeno-infused sour cream, a spicy Caribbean hot sauce and a creamy avocado mash (and was joined of course, by the obligatory but pointless lettuce leaf found in every burger in the world). The burger had a really satisfying kick to it, and what’s more, it arrived at my table nestled in a basket of perfectly cooked, skin-on chips in less than 5 minutes.

It really was one of the best veggie burgers I’ve ever tasted.

So what do I think of The Grazing Shed?

I think that their burgers are delicious. Judging by the reaction of customers on Twitter, and by my experience today; these guys know how to do a bloody good burger in a bun – veggie or otherwise. I don’t think this was ever in question.

The thing that really irritates me about this new business though, is that they are building their brand on the idea that they that they care. They shout about their locally sourced beef, about their Red Tractor Assured chicken – and when I say they shout about it, I mean it – there are images of their ‘local farmers’ all over the walls (see above). On their website, they claim that ‘sustainability and eco-friendliness are cornerstones of their philosophy’, and they mistakenly claim that using local farms as suppliers will keep the Welsh countryside ‘alive and beautiful‘. Sadly, quite the opposite is likely the case, as the intensive practices used in bog standard ‘Red Tractor’ farms represent a fast track to leaving our countrysides bereft of great British wildlife in a matter of decades.

You can read more bout how the intensification of farming is damaging our wildlife here.

So, to conclude -The Grazing Shed’s attempt at food with ethical integrity is in truth, pretty poor. It wouldn’t annoy me so much if it wasn’t for those damn posters. They are not doing enough to claim that sustainability and eco-friendliness are ‘cornerstones of their philosophy’, however local the suppliers are. They make great burgers, but at the moment, that’s about it.

Update (October 2014):

Since I published this review, the Grazing Shed have since removed certain claims from their website, including the offending  ‘sustainability and eco-friendliness are cornerstones of our philosophy’ and the idea that simply ‘using local farms’ will keep the countryside alive. I would still argue that some of their claims are a little lofty, and there is still no free-range meat on the menu, but at least they are being a little more honest about their offering.

As for the wall art? You’ll have to let me know as I have not been back since writing…


Leave a comment

  1. November 18, 2013 / 3:51 pm

    That burger looks amazing- definitely going to try The Grazing Shed’s veggie offerings out! x

  2. Hungry City Hippy
    March 25, 2014 / 11:34 am

    Thanks Alice, the veggie offerings really are great – you should definitely give them a go, I just hate that they are trying to mislead consumers in to thinking that they are making an ethically sound choice by eating there. It might not be most people’s concern when they head out for a burger, but for some of us it is, and deceptive labelling is a pretty major problem in the food industry. Gah!

  3. The4fingastinga
    September 9, 2014 / 8:30 pm

    Great burgers but hey way to knife a new small business. The power of keyboard warriors. Haven’t got anything better to do I suppose?

    • September 9, 2014 / 8:41 pm

      Hi 4fingastinga, thanks for your comment. As I said in the post above, their veggie burgers are great, so I don’t persoanlly think this is what you can call a ‘knifing’. As this is my blog, I happily have the freedom to write about the things that I believe in, (which for me is clear and honest food labelling, high animal welfare and environmental sustainability). Feel free to disagree, and if any of my article is factually incorrect I urge you to let me know and I will happily amend.

  4. February 26, 2015 / 9:17 am

    Just out of curiosity… Does this mean that you don’t eat meat that is not free-range or organic? Which would be completely understandable. Just wondered whether or not you would have tried more of the menu if they were more honest from the outset and no claims to be greener than they actually are were made.

    • February 28, 2015 / 11:51 am

      I try to eat only meat that is higher welfare, yeah. I have occasional lapses of course and I’m certainly not a fussy dinner guest if someone has gone to the trouble to cook me a meal, but I think that essentially as consumers, we vote for what we want with our wallets, and what I want is better standards of animal care, an end to factory farming, and a society that doesn’t think it has a right to eat meat at every meal time for ever cheaper prices. I would have still ordered the veggie at Grazing Shed for that reason, but I wouldn’t have had a problem with them if they were upfront and not trying to dupe their customers in to thinking they are doing something special from an environmental / ethical perspective.

      • March 2, 2015 / 9:39 am

        I agree with everything that you say. It’s an eye opener and I admit that when eating out I don’t check where the meat I am eating has come from normally. I will try to find out more in future. I find the butcher is more open about where the meat comes from so at home I am more careful.

  5. InspectorMorsel
    March 18, 2016 / 12:21 pm

    I think that this review is right on the money. Overselling welfare standards with unqualified claims is just false advertising.

    Claim that you make the best burger in Cardiff – fine; this is subjective. Any discerning consumer is free to agree or disagree and be wary of those claims before visiting.

    Building a brand on unsubstantiated claims of superior welfare and environmental consciousness is wrong – you are absolutely right to point this out.

    Any update since then?

    • March 18, 2016 / 12:39 pm

      Hi InspectorMorsel, thanks for your comment – glad you agree 🙂 I haven’t been back to the Grazing Shed since, and I haven’t been to their new one on St Mary Street, either. There’s still a fair amount of guff on the website about local food bringing sustainable jobs and prosperity to the countryside..! I must have hit the nail on the head though, as no-one from Grazing Shed has ever been in touch to ‘correct’ or update me, and they’ve seen the post…


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