I visited ‘Piglet in Portugal’ today and was really interested in the February 3rd post “Health Warning – if you’re squeamish look away now” and also in the comments that accompanied the post. One of the detrimental things that our fast food culture has done is to divorce the knowledge of the production process from our eating habits.
We humans are omnivores which means we can eat just about anything that doesn’t contain poisons (and quite a few things that do) but we waste huge amounts of food because we are fussy and won’t eat certain parts of an animal. How many people under sixty have eaten stuffed heart for example, it was a favourite meal for my father who also loved liver and bacon and steak and kidney pudding although he hated tripe. Eating offal and other strange parts was not so unusual 50 years ago, cold tongue was considered a delicacy and while dealing with a pig’s head was a complicated series of actions most of which I can’t remember, I was once shown how to do it. How many people now even know how to gut and scale a fish or pluck and prepare a bird for the table? Only the hunters and fishermen I suspect.
All these things are part of being a meat eater and yet we have lost this knowledge and have handed it over to mass market food producers many of whom have very poor standards in terms of animal welfare. Factory farming is abhorrent to me because I think it always results in exploitation of the animals and probably of the farmers as well. If we are to eat meat then we have a responsibility to ensure that the animal has a good life while it is being raised, that it dies humanely and that every part of a slaughtered animal is used in a productive way. Everyone who eats meat should understand the kind of life the animal had before it reached the table. If that happened I think that fast food outlets might well see a huge reduction in their profits so don’t hold your breath while you wait for them to open the doors to their abattoir, processing plants, chicken houses and feedlots.
So where does my meat come from? Well I eat meat maybe twice a week on average much less than I once did, I never buy it in the supermarket unless it is organic or at the very least free range, although there are now some question marks against that label. I am very lucky because there are still specialist butchers in my area and also two butchers who have their own beef and lamb supplies and refrigerated vans that travel to local markets. I have visited one of them on the farm and seen first hand his healthy happy herd. Similarly there are locally produced free range and organic chickens that are periodically available at the butchers. They are more expensive than supermarket chooks but the difference is huge. I often pot roast them and when the meat is gone I use the carcase to make stock which is then a basis for soups and other vegetable dishes.