CONSERVATION charity Rare Breeds Survival Trust is urging shoppers to choose the 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 the Christmas roast, or a cheese plate filled with products from the country's native dairy breeds could help the conservation of Yorkshire’s rarest breeds of livestock.

In Craven, advocates of rare breeds include Gam Farm, Grassington, and The Courtyard Dairy, near Settle.

Helen Wray, of Gam Farm, keeps rare breeds including Tamworth pigs and Wensleydale sheep. She said: “The festive season is a great chance to give delicious native breed meats and cheeses a try. It is really important to buy produce locally, provenance is so important when buying meat and in the UK we can choose to buy from farmers dedicated to raising animals in a high welfare environment.

"Being slower-grown, native breed meat is high quality and delicious, with different breeds having distinct tastes and textures, ideal for a Christmas feast.”

And Andy Swinscoe, of The Courtyard Dairy, said: "We're very lucky to have quite a few rare breed cheeses in the shop such as Stonebeck from Native Northern Dairy Shorthorns and Ingot from Golden Guernsey Goats.

"The great thing is, not only do they support Britain's heritage and small scale agriculture but the milk from rare breed animals is perfectly suited towards cheesemaking and produces more complex flavours in the final cheese; it's win-win."

Alongside Swaledale sheep, some of the UK’s rarest livestock breeds originated in Yorkshire including Large White pigs, Wensleydale sheep and Old English Pheasant Fowl chickens. Many rare native breeds have been reared on Yorkshire farms for generations such as British White and Norfolk Black turkeys, Embden geese, Northern Dairy Shorthorn cattle and British Saddleback pigs.

Christopher Price, Rare Breeds Survival Trust Chief Executive said: “Native livestock breeds are a wonderful part of our national heritage and they continue to provide us with fantastic, high-quality and high-welfare 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 in Yorkshire 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."