Meet the native beef farmers who opened the Rumpus burger restaurants in Slaithwaite and Saltaire

Grazing native breeds of cattle on the hills in a natural, low-input, high-welfare manner is a story that an enterprising young farmer in West Yorkshire is keen to tell through his recently extended burger business, Rumpus.

The original Rumpus in Slaithwaire is in a building that was once public toilets
The original Rumpus in Slaithwaire is in a building that was once public toilets

Harry Garside farms at Highfield Farm, high above Slaithwaite near Huddersfield, where he, father Tim and uncle James operate a suckler herd of around 100 breeding cows with 80 Stabilisers and 20 Longhorns.

Harry said the idea of creating the farm-to-consumer relationship that they started with their first burger outlet in Slaithwaite in 2017 came from his work placement while studying at Harper Adams College.

“I’d worked on the Newbottle Estate, in Oxfordshire, where they had Longhorn and Angus cattle and the beef went into their own butcher’s shop. The beef produced by purely grass-fed native breed cattle really impressed me for its marbling and I felt we could do something similar up here.

Harry Garside with his beef herd

“Our farm is just over 1,000 acres with half of it good grassland and the other half moorland rough grazing. Consumers want to see cattle on grass and know that they have good lives.

“That’s why we have changed our farming system from continental cross cattle to what customers want to see, which is good looking, well looked after breeds that don’t get pumped up with artificial additives.”

Harry said he totally understands the public’s attitude to seeing cattle grazing outside and that he believes this will play a part in the long-term popularity of beef.

“Last year we outwintered the suckler cows on the moorland until February for the first time and bale-grazed them. It worked really well and we’ll do that again this year.

“We particularly like the Stabiliser and Longhorn breeds because they are easy calvers and enjoy being out to grass. It’s their natural environment.

“People are talking about regenerative farming and I wouldn’t say we are quite there yet, but we started rotational grazing two years ago and now our cattle are outside grazing most of the year.”

Harry’s cattle, as with most native breeds, carry a little more fat. It is this that Harry said he believes sets Rumpus burgers apart from the rest.

“I want our burgers to be the juiciest, most succulent burger that our customers have ever tasted. It is from the marbling, the fat that is in the beef. Sometimes I think people like what they are tasting without even realising why they do.

“Everything in the more recent past has been pushing towards lean meat, but then you lose the flavour that you get from the marbling. We get a fantastic response to our burgers at Slaithwaite and now at Saltaire and have some great chefs.

“Making and cooking burgers isn’t rocket science. It’s not Michelin-star food. It’s a simple dish but it still needs to be prepared well and for us to carry on meeting the standards we have set.”

Having started the first Rumpus by converting what had been the village’s public toilets, the second, in Saltaire was previously a butcher’s shop. They are now both offering takeaways and a restaurant-style experience. Harry said they have been delighted with the start they have made.

“My uncle James is brilliant at designing buildings and he has been the driving force in terms of getting them to the stage where I can get them open.

“Our new place at Saltaire came about through my dad who supplies butcher Paul Binns, who was looking for bigger premises and mentioned that this would be available when he moved. Saltaire is a vibrant, upcoming town and we love being here.

“We have learned so much. When we launched in Slaithwaite it was like a crash course in managing people. We started with two members of staff. We now have 45 over both sites, many just taking two or three shifts a week.”

Harry said that while the farming story, the way in which the cattle are looked after, the way they live, is important to some, it is what is consumed and where it is consumed that comes first in customers’ minds.

“Quality of the food is our number one priority, although some would argue that the experience is just as important. The story about the farm is somewhere after that. I wouldn’t say that we are right where we want to be in offering the full restaurant experience the way we would like just yet, but we are working towards it.

“We have an app and we have some who will order from us every week, come in, collect and take their burgers back home. During lockdown we undertook deliveries which was quite challenging. We did well but I think deliveries works well when you have a high density of addresses in a small area and anyone who knows Slaithwaite will know why it was a challenge."

Rumpus is only one aspect of Harry’s beef farming enterprise - with 450 head of cattle on the farm only a small proportion of the beef produced goes into the Slaithwaite and Saltaire outlets.

“Everything in our two Rumpus burger bars comes from here, but not everything from the farm goes into them as we produce quality prime beef on contract for supermarket customers and butchers.

The Garsides’ beef from their suckler bred bulls goes into Morrisons at between 12-14 months and their heifers go at 18 months after having had a second season on grass. They also buy-in Angus-cross-Friesian calves that are finished at 18-20 months.

Harry said that the beef used in the Rumpus burgers comes largely from mature cows that have been in the herd a number of years.

“The older cows also have developed much greater marbling, which adds so much to the taste of our Rumpus burgers. We also buy in mature cows from neighbouring farms to meet seasonal demand. We graze them here for a few months so that they fit into our system.”