Orkney life has centred on farming for many centuries and Orcadians were called farmers who fished in days gone by (while Shetlanders were fishermen who farmed). Today, agriculture remains the most important industry and provides the highest percentage of gross domestic product of any Scottish county. Orkney meat is widely regarded as the best in the country and is sold in butcher shops across Britain and served in the finest restaurants. Orkney-raised animals fetch premium prices in auction marts here and in Scotland. And prizes are won at agricultural shows across the isles and further afield with judges always impressed with the quality of animals.
Orkney has its own mart and abattoir. Orkney meat is a premium product largely due to Orkney’s green and clean environment and high standards of animal husbandry. Orkney was one of the first areas to produce fully traceable beef and cattle have a forage-based diet. You only have to look to the fields in summer to see the green and fertile land on which the cows and calves graze. The result is delicious beef, available at independent butchers across the isles and in independent local butchers within the UK.
North Ronaldsay lamb and mutton from seaweed-eating sheep that graze on the shore is another much sought after product. Grass-fed lamb from Orkney is also available. Many butchers make haggis and also make the most of pork, producing prize-winning sausages, hams, air-dried bacon and black pudding. Pork production is not a huge enterprise here but farmers do produce some free-range pork. Likewise poultry is small-scale. Wildfowling and geese shooting attract hunters to Orkneys for sporting holidays.