Will Your Christmas Feast Help Cumbria’s Rare Breeds?

Try local rare breed produce at Barrow Natural Christmas Market on 9 December

Conservation charity Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) is urging shoppers to choose the delicious produce of the UK’s rare native farm animal breeds over the festive period this year. 

The charity says that choosing pigs-in-blankets made with native breed sausages and bacon, a native breed turkey or goose for your Christmas roast, or a cheese plate filled with products from the UK’s native dairy breeds could help the conservation of Cumbria’s rarest breeds of livestock. Two of the UK’s rarest cattle breeds originated in the North West region – Whitebred Shorthorn cattle and Northern Dairy Shorthorn cattle, and many more of the UK’s rare native breeds have been reared on Cumbrian farms for generations such as British White and Norfolk Black turkeys, Embden geese, and British Saddleback pigs.

Shoppers can sample native breed produce at the Natural Christmas Market at Barrow Outdoor Market on 9th December (10am-4pm). As well as local produce stalls, the Natural Christmas Market will also feature live entertainment, crafting activities and the chance to meet some of the UK’s rarest native sheep breeds (Castlemilk Moorit sheep, Hebridean sheep and Derbyshire Gritstone sheep) as well as a Shetland pony at the Rare Breeds Survival Trust / Foundation For Common Land stand. 

The Natural Christmas Market is collaboration between RBST, Barrow BID, and Westmorland and Furness Council.

Rare Breeds Survival Trust Chief Executive Christopher Price said: “The UK’s native livestock breeds are a wonderful part of our national heritage and they continue to provide us with fantastic, high-quality and high-welfare local produce. There are all kinds of different tastes and textures, and the festive period is a great time to give native breed produce a try.

“The farmers and smallholders in Cumbria who keep herds or flocks of rare native breed animals are key to saving these breeds from becoming extinct. Every person who buys native breed produce this Christmas will be helping create the vital markets needed for these farmers to carry on this work. It’s a great way to enjoy delicious food in the knowledge that you are making a real difference to the survival of these irreplaceable native breeds, and we look forward to seeing people at Barrow Natural Christmas Market for the opportunity to sample local produce and celebrate the people who make it.” 

Maria Benjamin keeps rare breeds including Whitebred Shorthorn cattle and Teeswater sheep at Nibthwaite Grange Farm near Ulverston, and will be displaying her native breeds produce at the Natural Christmas Market in Barrow on 9th December. Maria said: Christmas is a time of year to celebrate the people you care about with a thoughtful gift. Buying from small businesses not only supports local producers, but you have a gift with a unique story, something made with love and care. I'm looking forward to sharing stories about the native and rare breed wools we use in our tweeds and throws at the Natural Christmas Market.” 

As well as at the Barrow Natural Christmas Market, look out for native breed produce at farm shops, farmers markets, butchers, selected supermarkets and cheesemongers throughout Cumbria. Many of Cumbria’s native breed farmers also sell their produce online. 

Take the Common to Town: Foundation for Common Land and RBST

The RBST / Foundation for Common Land stand at the Natural Christmas Market is part of a yearlong series made possible thanks to a grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Take the Common to Town


Sam Caraway, Project Manager at The Foundation for Common Land, said: “Commoning is a unique part of our heritage, a way of managing the land that’s older than the Magna Carta and is still at the heart of some of our most cherished landscapes. Take the Common to Town is a great opportunity to learn more about it and to meet some of the special breeds of animals that make it possible.”