Our journey to go Free Range was documented in SBS Documentary “For the Love of Meat”
See what Sydney Morning Herald published about this:
This look at how we produce and consume meat in Australia uncovers some ugly truths, and some delicious recipes.
Worldwide, each person consumes an average 34 kilograms of meat a year. But in Australia, we each gobble 90 kilograms, more than anywhere else except the US. However you carve it, that is a lot of flesh.
This rather shocking statistic is the launch pad for food writer turned gourmet farmer Matthew Evans’ three-part series, and it sets the tone immediately. Yes, he has an agenda. But don’t fret, carnivores – he’s not pushing the vegetarian barrow. He just wants us to become “conscious carnivores”, more knowledgeable, thoughtful and respectful about the meat we consume.
Each episode focuses on a particular meat: chicken in the first week, pork in the second, beef in the third. Each looks at the means of production, subjecting it to scrutiny on ethical, economic and environmental grounds. And each looks at consumption, and how eating a little differently might make a huge difference in a whole raft of areas.
If this all sounds rather earnest, it’s not really. Evans is a likeable, engaging, occasionally funny frontman. He’s not afraid to offend – as a string of defamation actions against him during his tenure as Sydney Morning Herald restaurant critic attests – but his aim here is to educate, entertain and, ultimately, to influence.
If there is a villain in this story, it’s the industrialisation of meat production. Evans is far from the first to explore this territory, and he is careful to avoid throwing in his lot with the animal liberationists. He shows snippets of secretly filmed footage of sow stalls and battery farms that activists have posted online, then tries to gauge if they represent general practice or just the worst of it. He concludes it’s probably the latter.
Of course, that job would be made a lot easier if the big operators would just let him and his camera crew inside their livestock sheds; after all, if they have nothing to hide, why hide? But hide they do.
The outfits that do let him film mostly represent best practice. He visits an organic chicken farm where standards allow for a density of 25 kilograms a square metre (an adult chook weighs two to three kilos). It’s crowded, but in a conventional farm it would be 40 kilograms. He shows a bunch of school kids what that looks like: 20 birds crammed into a crate, unable to move. They are shocked. We all should be.
If you’ve been to a branch of the Mexican-themed fast-food chain Guzman y Gomez in Melbourne recently, you’ll know it has switched to Lilydale free-range chicken. It seems Evans and his production played a part in that. The company claims the switch – which eventually will be rolled out in other states – will add about $1 million to the bottom line. But that could be offset by the move’s enormous marketing value. Maybe.
There is a lot on the menu here: there are recipes from SBS stablemates Shane Delia and Adam Liaw; demonstrations on nose-to-tail butchery; footage of chickens and cows being processed (relatively humanely) in abattoirs. It’s all designed to make us aware of where the meat comes from, to engender a sense of respect for the life that has been taken for our enjoyment, to encourage us to eat more bits of a 500-kilogram cow than just the four kilograms of eye fillet it produces.
It is simultaneously both a less-is-more and a more-is-less philosophy; Evans even finds a butcher who wants us to eat more of the animal but less meat overall.
That might at first glance seem a bit surprising. But after considering the evidence presented here, you would have to be a little pig-headed to find it unreasonable.
What: For the Love of Meat
When: SBS, Thursday October 20 at 7.30pm
This article originally was posted to Sydney Morning Herald, and written by Karl Quinn.