THE first time I saw my dad kill a sheep for meat, I was far from impressed.
My piggy-tailed, indignant, school-girl-self pleaded with him the whole way home in the ute to make sure that never happened again.
I vowed to never-ever again eat lamb.
That only lasted until Sunday when my mum served, ahem, roast lamb and gravy and crispy potatoes (baked in animal fat; Olive Oyl was Popeye's girlfriend, not cooking oil back then).
My dad assured me we weren't eating the lamb that only that week had met its maker. (It was still hanging in the homestead cool room waiting to be processed!)
Funny how that lamb never seemed to be served at our table, though, of course, it certainly was!
"Nope, it's not that lamb!" my dad would say, meeting my gaze across the kitchen table where we sat down to eat lamb at least twice a week.
Having binged Matthew Evans' new book On Eating Meat over the weekend, those childhood experiences of the ethical dilemma of eating meat came flooding back.
A chef, then journalist, now farmer in the Huon Valley of Tasmania, Evans has put together a thought-provoking and compelling read.
Like I probably knew at the time, deep-down, animals killed on the farm for meat were less likely to be as stressed as those that travelled miles away in trucks to the unfamiliar surrounds and strange smells of abattoirs.
Still, I willed any sheep targeted for slaughter on the farm to escape the pen. When one eventually did, I couldn't have been happier! But, therein, lies my omnivore's dilemma. I really love meat. I really enjoy cooking it. I really relish being creative with secondary cuts of meat.
Still, I willed any sheep targeted for slaughter on the farm to escape the holding pen.
When one eventually did, I couldn't have been happier!
But, therein, lies my omnivore's dilemma.
I really love meat.
I really like cooking it.
I really relish being creative with secondary cuts of meat to feed a crowd.
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On top of realms of riveting information, going to university teaches you how to make a mound of mince meat stretch for miles!
But, however, educated or well-read we think we are, most of us are happy to leave the unpleasant business of how animals become meat to someone else to deal with, preferably a stranger.
As a small scale pig and cattle producer and vegetable grower, Evans goes into bat for beef production (excluding intensive farming such as feedlots).
I speed read Chapter 12: Beef is killing the world? What about asparagus? Or golf?
"A little bit of beef, from animals raised on grass that is close to where the beef is eaten, raised on land that isn't suitable for other crops? That won't kill the world. It may help feed it. But beef that is grain-fed, from areas being deforested or overgrazed? That has the potential to bring all good farming undone."
He says people who want to blame beef for its carbon-emitting use of land, may just as well take a swing at golf.
Built on premium land suited to farming, golf courses are fertilised and mowed using fossil fuels, sprayed with herbicides, often gated for a select few and add nothing to the food system.
On the subject of veganism, Evans says vegetable production is not always devoid of animal suffering.
He cites a mixed farmer in northern Tasmania who destroys 1500 animals (mostly possums and wallabies) a year to successfully grow 400 tonnes of peas for our freezers.
Evans calls for less radicalisation, greater understanding and for ethical omnivores to stand up for the welfare of animals and farmers alike.
He doesn't want people to go without meat; rather to eat less of it but make it the best homegrown product they can afford.
Having grown up on meat and three veg, I still enjoy red meat three days a week, more often than not as mince we've made from a piece of beef or lamb or a shoulder or brisket joint roasted in the oven on low and slow.
It's not quite as fresh as I got on the farm but back then I didn't know how lucky I was.
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