6 March 2007

Where does your meat come from?

The BBC has a new program that I watched recently called Kill it, Cook it, Eat it which I found very interesting and informative. The program basically takes you back to the how your food gets to the supermarket before it is packaged so nice and sterile.

I have been on both sides and had I not many years ago, been in an abattoir and saw for myself how meat arrives to my table I might have found it shocking. But I'm a firm believer that you should know where it comes from before putting it in your mouth. If you cannot trace your food origins then my question is why are you putting it in your mouth?

This process for me hasn't been an overnight modification but a gradual change - an evolution in my ethics and responsibility as another person on this planet. I cannot do everything perfect - far from it. But I do try to be as responsible as my purse strings (and salary) will allow.

Many years ago when touring that abattoir I began a process of excluding meat from my diet. There was no special reason other than I liked other things. I had by 1989 cut all beef out of my diet (for a later post on why I did not enjoy beef) and was slowly working out pork. By that time I hadn't had a hot dog for some 10 years and still could not stomach the sight of them. I ate more poultry and fish and slowly lessened the poultry as well.

I then came to the UK and went on to becoming a vegetarian and excluding all animal products. This wasn't a 'choice' but rather a way to keep harmony among my partner and me. But I had a problem with eliminating fish as there was no acceptable substitute within the veggie world and I just plain liked it. So fish was incorporated into the diet but all the other animal products excluded.

But after about 5 years of this I began to miss being able to make things that my mother made. I was afraid I would lose those skills and recipes if I did not use them. I was inventive and made similar things that made them vegetarian but they of course never came close to the real thing. However, I didn't just plunge into buying any type of meat.

During this time of being a vegetarian I had done a number of studies on our household which gave me an idea of our ecological footprint. We paid a lot of attention to where our food was coming from and how far it was travelling before we got it in our mouths. The test in my opinion is skewed a bit but it is worth doing if only for you to get an idea of how much your fresh grapes which came from Chile cost the rest of the world in carbon emissions.

In any event, when going back to eating meat we opted for organic or free range meat only. We were both opposed to eating battery farmed anything. I buy only free-range or organic eggs as prices dictate and we only eat organic or free-range meat. We try to buy local produce when available and if it is not we then look at where the food has come from. Is there an option from France versus South Africa?

While we try our best it is often impossible to buy entirely local but you begin to see how difficult it will be for people to change. What I found most saddening was that people were unaware of how meat came to the supermarket but also did not seem to care - only that it was there and they could buy it. While the program gives people the option of finding out how meat is slaughtered if people are not interested in the first place - how will it affect them? Already the picture has widened and as yet no answer from the masses.


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