I’ve got meat on my mind
We're testing a book with that simple title and it begins with an examination of the arguments for and against eating meat. And I recently watched Food Inc., a documentary that exposes some of the horrid conditions under which animals are raised and slaughtered. Images from the film will stay with me for some time - like the feeling I get after eating a ballpark frank...
Also, I’ve been reading about a diet that is popular among Hollywood hotties like Hugh Jackman. Among other things, the regimen banishes meat and diary. Hugh got that bod by cutting out meat? Hard to believe. A spindly wimp he isn’t.
All this has me asking myself why I eat meat. And I don’t just eat some – I eat a lot. I’ve tried it all and will eat most of it. A certain amount of meat can be part of a healthy diet, but obviously we don’t really need it in our diets to be healthy and strong. But going vegetarian sounds like a whole lot of work and not that much fun.
For me, eating meat just feels natural. It’s what humans have done for thousands of years. If we all stopped eating meat, I’m not sure what we’d do with all the goats and cows and pigs that have come to depend on us. Just let them roam free? Eventually they would need to be culled. And then what to do with the carcasses? Everyone going vegetarian feels like it would throw the planet out of whack.
But I’m not here to debate the choice of whether or not to eat meat. Rather, if you’re going to eat it, where will it come from? One thing that has changed for me over the last 10 years as I spend more time in the kitchen and become increasingly interested in where my food comes from, is where and how I buy my meat. I now only shop at one or two butchers who I know are happy to talk my ear off about where their meat comes from and how it was raised and “processed”.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s little reason to buy the mass produced stuff. I know it is sometimes cheaper, but I for one would prefer to eat less, feel good about where it came from and ultimately enjoy it more.
There’s been a resurgence of the corner butcher. Wherever you live, seek out a local butcher and develop a relationship. Educate yourself on the difference between grain-fed, free range and free run. Get to know the people you buy your steaks from. And get to know your meat.
I’ve started buying whole chickens and unprepared cuts of beef, lamb and pork. Having the butcher do it is a great time saver, but cutting meat up myself allows me to gain a better understanding of what’s connected to what. And that makes me a better cook and a smarter consumer.
Or you can always ask your butcher if you can come behind the counter to watch his or her technique. You can learn a lot from your butcher! And whether it’s beef or chicken or pork or fish, always ask to smell the meat. Shopping with your nose will never steer you wrong.
Later this month I’m going rabbit hunting in the UK as part of an upcoming episode. Kristina won’t take part because she doesn’t like the thought of shooting a bunny between the eyes. I can’t say I look forward to it either – and I’m pretty sure my aim is horrible – but I am indeed looking forward to spending time with a local farmer who hunts for his food and uses every part of the animal. I feel a lot better about getting meat this way than from a store that stocks meat from animals raised in dark, tiny cages.