My quest to eat more sustainably has inevitably led me into more consideration not only on where I source my meat, but on a nose-to-tail approach to cooking parts of the animal you can’t find in the plastic wrapped, uniformity of mass supermarket meat retailing.
I am very much aware that there is a wide spectrum of opinions on all-things meat consumption related, depending on whether your perspective focuses on feeding people, animal rights or sustainability. The opinions expressed here represent my own, sourced from a vast number of reliable online sources. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section.
Yes - it is simply more efficient to eat plants than to feed those plants to animals and eat meat, taking into consideration water use, greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, land-use footprints, and just about anything else. Yes - there is a connection between the increase in the world’s livestock numbers, their consumption of grain and human malnutrition. But no, I am not of the opinion that the sole ethical response is to stop eating meat altogether.
I strongly believe it’s OK to continue to eat meat, let’s just farm it properly, invest in learning about its provenance and traceability, and get back to consuming each and every part of an animal so nothing is wasted.
My standpoint is to focus on low energy, low waste, fair, diverse and small-scale animal farming – a structure that offers higher quality/taste, invests in improving environmental and welfare standards, and essentially delivers better returns to producers and the local economy. Instead of reducing meat consumption, let’s not just devour chicken breasts, pork chops and steaks, if you kill an animal you should do it the honour of trying to eat every last scrap of it – liver, trotter, heart and all.
Sustainably raised meat is fantastic; it tastes amazing, it’s produced with much greater consideration on the environment and threatening public health and its sales supports responsible farmers who choose to use sound agricultural techniques. Meat that ticks all these boxes can only be found at your local butchers - the scale and standardisation required means that the major retailers cannot match the local distinctiveness, or choice of cuts. Although steps to improving welfare standards have been made, there is still despair at the state of meat available on our supermarket shelves.
Yet - the latest figures from market analysts Kantar Worldpanel indicate that 91.7% of the meat sold in the UK is sold in supermarkets. These corporate giants are busy eroding the quality of our beef, lamb and pork by sourcing poor, intensively-reared meat.
The issue? Convenience overrules, with 97% of British food being purchased at a supermarket. For many of us, with a mere 6,000 or so independent butchers left in the UK, the supermarket is the ‘easy’ option. And these supermarkets lead us to eat the same joints, the same cuts and follow the same recipes time and time again. 90% of UK families cook a limited range of nine meals on a regular basis (YouGov) – therefore the desire to step out of our comfort zone and cook something perceived a little “unusual” is at an all-time low. A bit of a challenge, in terms of both cooking and eating, is a good thing if you ask me.
The stats are somewhat encouraging. Despite a 2014 YouGov survey for Eating Better showing that more than a third of people in the UK (35%) reported they are interested in eating less meat, 39% indicated a concern for animal welfare in their reasoning for reducing meat consumption, with 33% stating the importance of meat’s provenance (origin). Reconsider where you source your meat from, and you’ll have no less cause for concern. Support your local businesses, find out where your local butchers is.
For the past 6 weeks, I’ve been avoiding supermarkets and sourcing all my food from local businesses, which you can read more about here. All of my meat has been sourced from relatively newly opened Dorking Butchery in Surrey – led by a passionate team with a strong passion for high quality British produce. The Dorking Butchery have helped me choose cheaper and less popular cuts of meat that are often unavailable in supermarkets but can be cooked slowly to prepare flavoursome and affordable meals. I’ll be posting my musings on my “shop local” challenge later this week!
Like all campaigns, celebrity endorsement have also helped nudge us in the right direction. The “less and better meat” message is also endorsed by campaigner and chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall: “I’ve always said we should be eating less meat, of higher quality, and the highest possible welfare standards ... It’s right for our health, right for the planet and only fair to the millions of farm animals we raise for food.”
Every two weeks, I’m going to be posting a new recipe utilising a less popular cut of meat. In time, my goal is to eat my way through all of the cuts (bear with me though, most of the time I’m cooking for 1!). First up - lamb breast. A quick search on BBC Food’s website returned just five recipes for lamb breast compared to 489 lamb chop recipes. Point made.
Watch this space for a Caribbean spiced lamb belly recipe with grilled pineapple salsa, which I'll be posting very soon!
Wonky Parsnips is an awareness-raising blog that aims to change the way we engage with food.
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17th November 2016: Taking on the Breadline Challenge
21st October 2016 - Recipe: #Goatober Jalfrezi Kid Goat & Butternut Bhaji Burger
3rd October 2016 - Recipe: Rack of Kid Goat with Moroccan Couscous
1st October 2016 - Putting Kid Goat on the Menu for the UK's first #Goatober Campaign
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8th September 2016 - Nose-to-Tail Recipe: Pomegranate Beef Cheeks with Butternut Mash
16th August 2016 -
Nose-to-Tail Recipe: Caribbean Lamb Breast with Grilled Pineapple Salsa
16th August 2016 - Sustainably Sourced Meat + Nose-to-Tail Cooking: The Beginning
10th August 2016 - Volunteering with FoodCycle
7th August 2016 - How Slovenia Tackles Food Waste
2nd August 2016 - Recipe: Raw Broccoli Stem and Green Apple 'Ceviche' Salad
18th July 2016 - Eating Locally - The Challenge
13th July 2016 - 10 Practical Tips to Reduce Food Waste at Home
7th July 2016 - 8 Brands Tackling Food Waste