Did you know In 2007 almost 1.4 billion hectares of land were used to produce food not consumed? This represents a surface larger than Canada and India together. One-third of all the food we produce globally goes to waste when 870 million people go hungry every day. 28% percent of the world’s agricultural area – is used annually to produce food that is lost or wasted.1
Running an ethical meat business is REALLY hard and is why many high street butchers no longer buy animals from local farmers or abattoirs. Many butchers now go straight to massive wholesalers where they can just order what they know they can sell. But with this comes consequences…
When we talk about the environmental issues around eating meat we focus on the inefficient use of land or cows farting! These are serious issues – yes really – which I discuss here and here. There is, however, a simple solution available to everyone that could make a HUGE difference:
Eat everything you buy.
In 1950 approximately 40% of our wage went on our household shopping and nowadays it is less than 10%. We have driven down the cost of production of our food – the supermarkets say we demand it! Then we attach so little value to it that we throw it in the bin! But the problems start before we even get the food on the shelves.
I have been running meat business for nearly ten years, and I can tell you the biggest issue we face by far, is what we call ‘carcass utilisation’. This is the art of making sure you sell all the bits of one animal before moving on to the next. If you have a lot left over all your profit is gone. This problem is made worse by the fact that you only have about 5 days in which to sell all these cuts.
Running an ethical meat business is REALLY hard and is why many high street butchers no longer buy animals from local farmers or abattoirs. Many butchers now go straight to massive wholesalers where they can just order what they know they can sell. But with this comes consequences (I talk about the ‘con’ inconvenience here), loss of accountability, and knowledge of provenance.
Did someone just say ‘horse meat’?
Ten years ago in our butchery we filled several wheelie bins a week with beef bones and offal that nobody would buy. Now 100% grass-fed beef bones are in such demand we have a waiting list!
So what is that all about? Well, overall a meat business has to achieve a certain profit margin on the sale of every carcass – this is straightforward business. The complicated part is that there are many different cuts of meat in vastly different quantities but they all need to sell equally. Out of a carcass that weighs 300kg you may only get 3kg of fillet steak but trust me there is a whole lot of mince and stew to sell before you can move on to the next animal. Yes you can freeze some to delay the issue but ultimately you still have to sell it.
The meat business decides on the price of the cut of meat depending on how much people demand it. You think that you pay more for the fillet because it is the ‘best’ but it has a lot to do with the fact that it is scarce too. In reality some of the most delicious and nutritious parts of the animal have become undervalued by the public because they are cheap.
What is even funnier is that 100 years ago we were valuing this stuff and eating it as a treat. In Eastern cultures the offal meat, connective tissue, joints and heads are highly prized and used in many celebrations. We have forgotten the value in our own wise traditions.
Offal meat is considerably more nutritious than muscle meat. Including ‘bone broths’ (formerly known as ‘stock’ by your Grandma) and ‘cheap’ cuts with connective tissue in your diet you can add considerably more important nutrients to your diet than just eating muscle meat. Why do you think Chris Kresser keeps banging on about Liver?!2
There is a phenomenon popular in the USA which neatly gets around this carcass balance and route to market issue. ‘Cow share’ or ‘cow pooling’ is a fantastic way of bulk buying 100% grass-fed meat.
As Paleo and primal eaters we tend to focus on all the great reasons why it is okay to eat meat. We now know that we should not be concerned about fat and cholesterol so we have the green light to eating meat. We often use evidence of native populations and anthropological data to back up our meat eating habits and there is good reasons to assume humans are designed to be ‘meat eaters’. But ‘meat’, in these cultures and throughout our early history, means the WHOLE animal; brains, liver, kidney, blood, head, eyes – okay you get my point. The muscle meat was probably dried and used for rations during the lean seasons.
In fact perhaps we should be a bit more cautious about eating muscle meat with gay abandon! There are some credible concerns over the possible toxicity of the amino acid methionine in human subjects. Evidence to suggest that a diet excessive in muscle meat could cause a rise in plasma homocysteine. Homocysteine is used as a