Ethical omnivorism is a tough call. I mean, my vegetarian years (all 15 of them) called for a kind of well-formulated ethical and political stance when it came to food. I thought vegetarians were people that thought carefully about what they chose to cook and eat; meat eaters were the unwashed masses that weren’t paying attention. But since I’ve started eating meat again, I’ve realised that I was entirely wrong.
Sure, there are plenty of people that simply turn a blind eye to where their food comes from, how it’s produced, and what exactly they’re eating. But there’s also a huge move towards greater awareness. Everything we cook and eat comes from somewhere. Some ways of farming that are respectful to animals, and plants and the earth. Others aren’t. Some use chemicals and hormones and hideously cruel practices. Others don’t.
I read a lot about ethical consumerism – buying organic, or free-range, or sustainably produced food. And whilst Woolies and other supermarkets are catering for the demand for fresher, better, sustainably and ethically produced foods, they’re also creating a super-luxury niche out of it. You can expect to pay a premium for the “organic” or “free-range” badge, and sometimes it just feels like an expensive label that’s making very little difference.
Also, trying to find free-range meat in this city is not quite as straightforward as finding a six-pack of free-range eggs or a bag of organic carrots. A free-range chicken is probably the easiest to find, but I haven’t seen much in the way of free-range beef or lamb on supermarket shelves.
So I was delighted to be offered a share of a grassfed steer from Spier’s biodynamic herd. The clever girls at Slow Food Mother City organised this initiative – members each had the opportunity to buy one of 30 shares in the animal. We were notified when it was slaughtered, and when it was hung, and then when we could collect it. So Kolya and I took a little walk to Kate’s house yesterday, and carried home two bags of biodynamic grassfed beef.
Most of it went into the freezer, except for the massive rump steak, which Lara and I cooked last night with some little baked potatoes and some mushroom sauce. It was probably the first or second time I’ve ever made steak, so I’m no expert, but it tasted fantastic.
What’s particularly brilliant about this way of buying meat is not just that you know where it comes from and where it was farmed. I liked the fact that each stage in the process, we received information about the production process. That meant that the steak didn’t just materialise on a polystyrene plate: we had to acknowledge that an entire animal’s life went into making it. I won’t be buying any other meat for a while – firstly, I have a whole lot now (and so do about 30 other people), and secondly, I have little desire to buy a pre-packed box of something that comes from an unknown source. I would far rather eat meat rarely, knowing its quality and provenance.