I have meat on my mind. Not the usual thing on my mind and a little less exciting than the next sourdough to construct, but non the less it’s there.
A few things in blogland had prompted the thinking and also just a natural progression I guess of wanting to know where my meal comes from.
This household doesn’t eat a lot of meat. Monkey Boy and Mr Chocolate really enjoy it, but Little Monkey and I can take it or leave it. Free range chicken, organic minced beef, free range ham, and organic sausages seem to be the usual selection of what we choose from. Nothing too exciting there. Over the years, other meaty items just slowly got bumped off. Canned tuna, daily ham on sandwiches, fresh fish…all for various reasons, now don’t usually find themselves on our every day dinner table.
In my little world, the majority of our meat is bought from the supermarket, butcher, or if I’m lucky enough some farmers markets. Ideally what am I looking for? Meat that has been ethically raised, sustainably produced, not compromised on taste, and at a budget that doesn’t hurt the hip pocket. Is that just too hard though on a day to day level for most people?
Many people can’t argue with the convenience of a supermarket. However there is an increase in buying organic, local, free range pieces. If I can manage to get it, I love being able to buy meat either straight from the producer (easier at a farmers market) or at least knowing the area in which it is from and buying through a middle person.
Some of my recent meaty prompter’s…
Pick a pig– Friends put me on this link from the UK. A system that lets you buy your animal, it’s reared by the farmer, slaughtered and then gets delivered to you in the cuts you ask for. A large up front cost, but….you are getting a whole lot of pig there. Also you know where your pork cuts are coming from. I would love to know if there are any people doing something similar in Australia. On a large scale this is a really interesting way of cutting out the middle man. Another similar scheme again in the UK is Yorkshire Meats
Perennial Plate, an online short documentary style programme on sustainable foods- warning it is a little graphic.
Gourmet Farmer– you know I am a fan. What the man has documented on his show is his journey of going from city fella, to small town living. Rearing animals for his own consumption, learning how to kill chickens, and send his heritage breed pigs to the slaughterer.
Slow Living Essentials- cute fuzzy ducks, and I was thinking dinner.
So whats my beef? (every pun intended.)
Have we become completely desensitized to seeing animals being killed for our plate? I know I don’t feel completely comfortable with it. I would like to think I could do it. Raise an animal, bump it off and then eat it, but could I? I feel if I am willing to eat it, I should be willing to admit that cute little piglet is going to get its head taken off and make some truly delicious ham. It could be a real turning point to vegetarianism for me. However… I would like to think I could rear an animal and either assist in some way in the slaughtering process or do it myself…. Confronting as it most certainly would be.
When you see the meat being sold in the supermarket all wrapped in styrofoam and plastic, all cut up and ready to go. There is usually very little to show you that this pink piece of flesh was once a mooing four legged creature. Feathers still stuck to your chicken pieces? Most people get rather unhappy if this was the case. I remember unloading some groceries from the supermarket in Italy once and there tucked away under the cling wrap and styrofoam was Ms Guinea Fowls head still intact. In my world, I’m not used to that. If I see meat I don’t expect it still to look like the animal it once was. I don’t want any happy memories of a life it once had floating around the room still. But this also seems ridiculous…almost a little precious. It is meat, which means it used to be an animal. Is that as silly as denying a chip in front of me used to be a potato growing in the ground?
Is it merely enough to know what you are eating and where you bought it from? There being no need to kill it yourself, when some one else can do it for you? Will more people begin to choose their meat while thinking of it being sustainably sourced, organically produced, locally harvested and ethically raised. I would like to think so, but feel we have a loooong way to go first. It’s turning around a whole mind set. A whole meat eating culture that needs to be slowly changed.
Should we be taking a moment to acknowledge and honour the life that has been giving up for our plate?
I understand why someone would become a vegetarian for ethical reasons. I also understand why people truly enjoy eating meat. (we still talk about that pork dish at ARIA.) I do think however, that people should know where their dinner came from if at all possible. How many primary schools would teach young children about where their meat comes from? How many parents would talk about it to their young children? How many highschool students would get to study the make up of an animal, different breeds, how to raise them, slaughter, and then cook them? (Agriculture is a chosen subject, in very few highschools.) If this is a part of our every day lifestyle why wouldn’t we be able to learn about it from the beginning.
English, maths, science, food*.
Incorporate it in to learning how to grow, and harvest vegetables. Surely these are important principles that people seem to be so far removed from these days.
I’m still trying to work out where I stand with it all. It’s not easy. Do you eat meat because it’s there, it’s healthy, it’s what everyone else does? Do you eat all parts of the animal avoiding any wastage? I’m not a fan of any kind of offal, however it does seem rather silly to breed a huge beast for consumption and then only eat half of it.
I would like to think that any meat I ate was treated as humanely as possible in their life beforehand. A chance to live as a young calf, piglet, lamb should, before going ‘down town’. Being mindful of every mouthful of meat that I eat. Being thankful that a life has been given up to feed my families belly’s. Thinking about it where it came from and not taking it for granted that I am here and I need and deserve to eat that eat meat! Happy paddock loving animals look differently to large production ones. Australians are one of the top meat eating countries in the world. A weekend BBQ isn’t usually a success unless there is an array of meaty goodies on offer.
Now I could waffle on and on about this meaty topic and go round and round in circles. For the sake of not boring you all to numbing tears I wont. However I will pass this over for discussion. (Feel free to disagree.)
What do you believe in?
Is buying our meat at the supermarket simply progression? Modern times. We have moved on from backyard butchery. A time now of convenience of food…
Do you consider where you meat comes from when selecting it for the dinner table?…
Do you like having that distance between you and that furry beast/ succulent juicy steak on your plate?
Could you rear and slaughter your own animals for eating if you had access to it. (Either via someone elses farm and livestock, or your own.)
…and would you want to?
* I know that in some wonderful schools the Edible School Yard programme or Kitchen Garden programme is up, running and doing really well. This is still a minority in most schools as far as I am aware though. It is also still dependent on the community to get it up, running and maintaining it.
I could, I would, and I have. I also hope to again – if I am lucky.
I am glad that you fairly address the issues of the slaughter. Many people anthropomorphize the animals; many others categorize them as somehow a lesser species and blast away.
Everyone should have the wonderful experience of butchering their food and knowing where it comes from and where it goes. It makes you much more thoughtful and much less wasteful. It also teaches you that there are more cuts than Fillet Mignon.
I do understand what you mean when you say that some meats just sort of slip off the table. With just the two of us, it is harder to justify buying a side of beef, just to let it sit in the freezer. I prefer venison, since it is leaner and probably healthier. With vac packaging extending the safe freezer life, we now get a pig every other year. Chickens are now a treat, much like turkeys were years ago.
And, as I get older, and less likely to hunt, I have also become much more selective in the shots I am willing to take. It has to go down in one shot, and it has to be retrievable as well. There is no way for me to justify a shot at a duck that lands in the cat-tails and gets lost.
I also seem to hunt and fish for fewer varieties than when I was younger, but that does not stop me from trying new things. But I am also much more appreciative of the incredible variety available, and the pure joys of being a hunter-gatherer. It is not about quantity, it is about quality.
A great and very interesting site for this sort of thing is :
Although it is largely West-coast US, a lot of the ideas are universal. Little things, like using that turkey neck skin for a sausage, and recognizing safe berries and mushrooms make this a truly interesting site.
Thanks for your good work! I enjoy reading your blog.
A big thank you Steve, for taking the time to write that. This is the sort of subject, that would be great around a long table and debated back and forth. I’ve had a quick look at the link and will go back for a better one. Lots of interesting things in there.
I actually bought a fishing rod just before Christmas, with grand intentions of catching dinner. I managed to snag it twice both times I went and have decided I need to go out with someone that knows what they are doing. My intent is still there though.
I have been thinking a lot about this delema. I was raised on a dairy farm and raising animals for meat was just part of life and we understood the reality of our actions. I think that if people actually took the time think about the trail of carcases they are leaving behind, they may quickly change their eating habits.
Gavin, perfectly put…”the trail of carcasses they are leaving behind”…certainly makes you pause and think doesn’t it.
We eat meat and fish. If I had to kill it myself, I think I would be vegetarian. I know this is gutless, but there you have it. Like you, I would like to think that the animal had been raised in a reasonable environment. I would like to think that its short life had been OK. I have lived on a dairy farm and heard the cows calling out when their calves were taken away from them – horrible. I can’t bear to hear about the way pigs are kept in tiny pens. I think people are beginning to ask where their food is coming from. It is a start.
It is a start. I really hope it continues to grow…
It’s funny, with killing a fish I feel reasonably comfortable about it. It’s the other animals I hesitate. Conditioning?
Yes – but I’m a country girl, I was raised this way. I would rather know what my meat ate and how it was raised. This is why people are raising their own. I live in the City now and don’t have room for it, but I do buy ethical as I have many fond memories of my dinners (before they were my dinners), and as a throw back to my roots I would like to see more of the animal used and less of it wasted…
I think it does have rather a lot to do with the way you were raised…
This is a big subject to tackle in a blog post and I applaud you for having a crack at it. Are you heading towards vegetarianism? I would like to but haven’t managed to shock myself sufficiently into doing it. Maybe all I need to do is visit a slaughterhouse and look into a cow’s eyes while it dies for my dinner. It’s probably that simple at the end of the day. None of us needs to eat meat. We choose to do so. All the rest of the stuff around meat consumption is post hoc. Sure we should be mindful and not waste food and care, but there are billions of us and the numbers game will take its toll soon, and like the fish that are almost extinct in European waters, meat will either be farmed ever more intensively or become out of the reach of many people. The hunter gatherer lifestyle is simply not possible for the world as a whole and I would argue that it is a cruel fantasy to dangle it, as is done on so many TV shows, in front of people on limited incomes, with tiny homes in overcrowded cities surrounded by depleted and intensively farmed surroundings. For every person who can catch their own lobster how many people are scavenging on a rubbish tip i Calcultta?
Well said Joanna… and it is a big subject for a little blog post. However I thought I would throw it out there as it really has been on my mind for quite a while now. Not heading to become a vegetarian for the moment, just selective. Which like you said, is a generous luxury that yes, we can afford to do for the moment. In times to come who knows whether that availability or choice will be there though.
I doubt it very much indeed! I became a vegetarian for all those ethical reasons, and it’s probably been way too long now for me to go back there without an exceptional reason.
I can’t bear to think of the living and killing conditions of some of the animals that are reared for eating, but do agree with “…Is buying our meat at the supermarket simply progression? Modern times. We have moved on from backyard butchery. A time now of convenience of food…”, which is truly unfortunate.
I also find it incredibly sad that there are children in this world that think that their “food” just comes from the supermarket!! They have no conception of the origin of it beyond that fact.
A very thought provoking a well written post Brydie! Thank you.
I do take an effort to teach The Monkeys where their plate comes from. They think it’s quite funny sizing up an animal and deciding which part would be the juiciest to eat!
I struggle with meat eatsing also. Although i’ve started to feel comfortable recently with my decision to eat meat very rarely and to stick (mostly) to sutainably harvested wild meat, like Kangaroo, goat, and rabbit. Goat and rabbit are great choices cause they are pest meat and eating them helps the environment. Wild animals live a happy free life up until the moment they were shot/caught. I’d love to be able to find a supplier for these meats locally, but the only supply I can find is at the supermarket. Its overpackages, but atleast its easy to source.
I’d never be able to kill an animal for food. I’d love to try because I feel like I should, being a meat eater, but I know i’d be traumatised. I went along on shooting trip with some of my sisters friends years ago. A gorgeous male roo was shot. They left him there. Dead and wasted. I sat in the back of the ute and cried and cried. I held my tongue for my sisters sake. It was awful.
Tricia I tried to like kangaroo, I really tried. Just couldn’t do it though. The taste I couldn’t get past. Goat I don’t mind at all though. You are right though, finding a good reputable supplier is the hard thing.
Have you tried Kangaroo in recent years? I initially found it too gamey, but when I tried it again was surprised by the lack of gamey taste. I was wonderfing if butchering techniques had improved. I actually can’t stomach the smell of lamb or beef now. If you decide to try Kangaroo again check out this new cookbook which you can download for free: https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au/items/10-186
It was about 18 months ago. Kanga Bangas were the culprit. (Kangaroo prosciuto as well.) The smell, the taste, I think will be embedded in me for some time to come. I’d give it a go again if someone else cooked it, (maybe) but not me.
I don’t think I could kill a big animal like a cow although I have seen that done. I have caught and eaten fish. I have bought free range chicken for a long time and buy grass fed beef if I can (I think feedlots are cruel) but I am frustrated that free range pork is not readily available – I hate the way pigs are kept. I have been saying to my family for ages that we should eat 2- 3 vegetarian meals/ week and now my teenage son as declared that he no longer wishes to eat meat so that has made it a lot easier for me. My parents had a farm when I was growing up so we ate tons of beef including offal but I would prefer to eat free range chicken. I agree that I think we are pretty disconnected with our meat sources – take kangaroo, many people would be horrified at eating what they see as cute animals. When my son said he was no longer eating meat for ethical reasons I said to him that’s fine but if he did decide he wanted to eat some meat that ensuring the animals had been raised ethically was the main thing. I do hope battery hen farms become illegal in my lifetime.
I think it would be rather eye opening for many people seeing a cow killed. It certainly would be for me! Such a big beast that so many people unthinkingly just consume.
This is a great post and very thoughtful indeed. I must admit that pigs are the animal that I feel most bonded to and although I adore the taste of pork, every time I do think of the pig. I hope that buying free range pork will mean that it had a better life but I know I’m still not 100% comfortable because I adore the dear creatures.
There is nothing cuter than watching piglets frolic in a paddock is there, and yet they are so darn tasty. You can taste a happy pig though.
Not sure how to respond to this.
My husband is not going to give up meat. He grew up on a farm- killed the pigs and chickens. And he doesn’t feel any compunction about eating them.
I eat chickens and fish- free range chicken and farmed and wild fish.
I have gone fishing although I have cleaned a chicken, I never had to kill one- but I probably could if necessary.
I buy local and when my boys were younger we went to the farms and butchers – I am certainly aware of the need to kill animals in order to eat them.
I don’t feel particularly guilty.
I like meat. 🙂
No right or wrong way to respond to this Heidi. I know you love your bacon 😉 Just wanted to see how other people felt in the meat eating world.
I grew up on a farm in South east Kansas. I raised hogs and bottle calves from the age of seven or eight. My step-father would name them things like Bacon and Steak and then after they were sent to the butchers I was forced to eat them. My mother would make jokes at the dinner table about how good my steers tasted. This was a traumatic experience for me as a child. I would cry and cry every time one of my animals was hauled off.
Now I’m a vegetarian. My husband and kids still occasionally eat organic free range chicken but not often. I am very aware that the meat at the grocery store was once moo-ing. I think I could raise and butcher chickens if I had to, but probably not any other animal.
I would like to have a milk cow, but what would I do with the bull calves? I don’t want them to be butchered. I could train them to be oxen but what use are oxen in this day and age?
Ahh oxen… Now there is a word you don’t even hear much of these days. That must have been really hard as a kid. Do you think if things had been done differently, you would feel differently about animals to eat now?
It’s funny where different people draw the line. I think I could raise and butcher chickens as well, but like I said before, thinking is one thing, doing is another…
Fantastic post. I wonder about many/most/all of the same issues to do with meat.
I was vegetarian for a numbers of years but now I think eating sustainable, humanely raised meat is more natural – carnivores, omnivores, herbivores and detritivores are all essential for the sustainable functioning of planet.
Could I kill my own meat? I hope so, but I’m not sure. I know I can kill and eat seafood but somehow that’s much easier than a chicken or cow.
We eat free-range pork which is nicknamed “happy pig” around Chez Bee. I find it very interesting how many people (including massive carnivores) get queasy and ask me to stop when I talk about how they’re eating “happy pig”. Wouldn’t you rather eat a pig that had a happy life than one which had a sad life?
Keep these sort of posts coming Brydie! They are definitely food for thought (my pun most definitely intended too)
Thanks Bee. Its great to get so much feedback on this topic.
It’s funny about the ‘happy pig’ thing. I happily eat a ‘happy pig’, and have the opposite effect if confronted with an every day pig. Happy pigs taste better.
Will try and keep the meatier topics coming 😉
This is something I have thought alot about since reading, The Ethics of What We Eat a couple of years ago now, amongst others, and seeing movies like Fresh and Food Inc.. We have Ethicurean and SOLE Food tendencies, and this is going to be my focus for 2011… I am in the process of finding the best SOLE shopping place in our area, so we can step up, esp. in terms of meat. We don’t eat alot, but at times I find buying supermarket meat is so much more convenient, though like all supermarket things, not as good as farm fresh and organic! But, we have good options for ethical, organic and local meat here in Canberra, and it is important to us, so worth making the effort. We’ve been on farm visits for some of these places, I am interested to see and learn more. We teach our kids and do not hide the truth from them.
I’ve heard some good things about Canberra in terms of food choices. There are a couple of farmers markets aren’t there?
Another book you might be interested in is A life Stripped Bare- Leo Hickman.
I think many people have this issue…When a chicken does not grow up to be one of our layers (aka…that “hen” is growing spurs and starting to crow) we do slaughter and consume. It is part of how we afford to keep our hens. I am putting in an order at our local meat market (they raise, slaughter, and sell all their own meat) today. A “pick 8” where you pick 8 items from the list will last us for a few months when supplemented with the 1/4 cow we bought earlier this year. On my husband’s way to work he passes several jr. feed lots (where they breed and sell off the young) they live in horrible conditions even as young calves. It is so muddy and jam packed. We are so fortunate that we are able to go to the farm…look over the conditions the “meat” is raised in and decide if it is something we are willing to eat vs. the grocery store where you never know what you are eating.
Thankfully, here in Australia our meat industry doesn’t seem to have quite reached the same lengths of large production farming that the U.S has.
Being able to choose where your meat comes from, knowing where it was raised and for this to be accessible and budget friendly is great.
Wonderful, thoughtful post. I am with you. I read an article by a farmer who said when people ask him “how can you kill an animal you have raised?” He replies with “How can you eat an animal you don’t have a connection to.” That really spoke to me. We are primarily vegitarian unless someone we know has harvested the animal. I agree, the killing part of my own animal is not for me, but if someone I know does I am all for partaking.
Thanks shayray. Your farmer quote certainly makes sense.
This sure is kicking the hornets nest and a topic I have often pondered. I actually sit with a foot in multiple camps in this debate. I am 7th generation on our farm and grew up in a venison slaughter house along with everything else that goes on with a farm upbringing. Our family is also pioneers of gourmet specialty food products (see taste blog) along side broad acre farming. I am also completing a PhD in molecular genetics specialising in enhancing long chain omega-3 content in sheep meat fed on pasture so I see this topic from many angles.
As a regular hunter and gatherer killing still doesn’t sit well with me and I honestly would prefer to not look into the eyes of the animal I am killing. I don’t think this is necessary and looking at the carcass trail to associate it with your meat only decreases it appeal so realistically it will never happen even at farm gate level. It is a bloody unpleasant business and highly emotive and only a small proportion of the population can handle it and even less would enjoy it. Respecting the source of your food and understanding that everything comes at a cost is the real issue of meat. Not utilising the entire animal, basing menus around the lowest yielding cuts, wasting cuts and not understanding that every action has an equal and opposite reaction are the epitome of mass meat consumption.
Livestock is an essential component of many balanced farming system and in many cases the best use of the landscape. We have 6000 acres and I can only crop 400 of it if I am bloody careful! The rest is native bushlands, native pasture, hills and improved species. Most of the soils are shallow and fragile but with careful animal management I can produce food and fibre from it sustainably. How do you harvest a steep hillside? A 2 inch header is how – a sheep’s mouth not a John Deere on tracks!
I feel reducing your meat intake and taking the vegetarian source is merely promoting factory farming of vegetables – remember that organics cannot feed the world as the arable soils are already maxed out. The reality is we have a declining production area with climbing population so is it really fair to insist on low yielding organics for those with the cash? Everything is a balance and I feel that is how we farm, we are not aggressive landscape punishers but take a balanced approach to conserve our farm for the 8th generation. We aren’t organic or full blown conventional but a balance of what feels right and pays the bills with the minimum adverse impact. I don’t make much more for my efforts but I feel good about it and I feel I could not sell all of my products off the farm to people who want to buy ethically like the readers of this blog but I do know where all my products go. This is how I met city hippy farm girl. I am not advocating factory farming and may sound hypocritical/confused but the reality is there are a lot of people to feed who don’t care about what we do (taste, ethics etc) and then the minority who do. The more we teach people to care the more farmers will change – the bulk of farmers are price takers not setters. The consumer has to pull the change through the production pipeline. Buy ethically etc and convert a friend to make a real change and build the economies of scale required! Food for thought…
Ahh Will, I’m blown away that you have taken such time to comment. Thank you. It’s wonderful to have a respected farmers perspective on this.
I won’t pretend to know any thing about fragile soils and the best ways to produce food within it. As I don’t know a thing. Or, what it is like to expel a life, as I simply have never done it. Am I willing to try, yes…I think I am. If I’m willing to eat it, I think I should at least once follow through with the whole process, at least once in my life.
What I do feel though, is that living in a city like Sydney, so many people have become completely disconnected with what they are buying in their plastic wrap and styrofoam. I also think consumers forget that they hold a position of certain power in that if 1 person, then 100, then 1000 people ask for something, well then someone is going to listen (hopefully) and get that supply happening.
Teaching that next generation, (school kids) what they are eating and like you said …”respecting the source of your food…” I think just makes sense…
It’s a huge topic that I’m still musing on and will probably do for a long time to come. A really big thank you to you though, for sharing a point of view that’s from the other side of the meat eating industry.
Excellent post and so very thought provoking. I won’t ramble as I think you know my thoughts, I will say that we are eating less meat now than a few years ago and it makes me feel better to steer our meals towards vegetarian options. Pleasing the man is the hardest part as he is constantly looking for meat on the plate. Buying local and free-range is a big thing for me and luckily I live in a town where I’m not alone in these thoughts. Oops! I guess I rambled just a little, hey? 🙂
Not rambling Christine.
Do you have a lot of choice in your locally produced meats? I mean are there many producers actually out there that you can buy from?
…and how are those cute little ducks going 😉
A very interesting post, and a subject that I’m sure many have spent a good deal of time considering. I’ve come to the place where I think the issue is far more complex that mankind is willing to admit.
On one end, it’s a very simple issue, man is hard-wired for survival, and our evolutionary success is as a carnivore. Yes, it is possible to intellectually reject that fact – but when we do that, we’re also rejecting the fact that plants too are living things, and that they too give their life that we may eat. Over the years, books such as The Secret Life of Plants (http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Life-Plants-Peter-Tompkins/dp/0060915870/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1294844838&sr=8-1) and other similar books have suggested that mankind has a very limited knowledge of the complex nature of the plant world, and its relationship to mankind. There is much yet to be learned.
Thanks for a thought provoking post – I guess I’d have to admit in being comfortable in my position of moderation in all things, including a diversity of all things protein. But I do agree with others above that our world is gearing up for some serious future problems that -if history is a good indicator- mankind will not solve well – I’m just glad I won’t be around then!
Good post! People need to think more about where meat has come from.
Brydie, we don’t have a lot of options but are luckier than some areas. We buy our lamb through a local farm that is the best lamb we have ever tasted. We also have an excellent abottoir/butcher about 20 minutes drive away for beef and lamb (has unbelievable bacon too!). This same place processes the lamb we buy direct from the farm. Chicken is a little trickier, I find I’m limited to the Lilydale brand at the supermarkets. Quite frustrating.. I despise entering the major supermarkets.
The little duck (only one made it)..you wouldn’t recognise! He/she? is white and nearly the same size as the adults now! Amazing!!
Very interesting subject. While at uni, I worked at an abattoir. It was a job I thought long and hard about taking, but in the end it came down to one thing – I ate meat, and it seemed hypocritical to then turn around and say I couldn’t work in the place that provided me with it.
I also studied agriculture at school – we had to raise a cow from a calf as a class project. Her name was Rhubarb. At the end of the subject, we took her to the Royal Easter Show, where she was entered into the ‘hoof and hook’ competition. One of my enduring memories is the cow being lead onto the truck which would take her away for the ‘hook’ part of the competition, with the rest of the class trailing behind in tears.
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