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Tuesday 2 August 2011

I’ve been listening to some fascinating podcasts of late. Two consecutive Science Shows (from ABC National) have focused on the future of meat in our diets. I’ve found the debates interesting & well-informed and many of the conclusions in line with my own thoughts. A future where everyone eats great slabs of red meat, such as in the Steakhouses of America, is not only not sustainable, but probably not even possible. Only by culturing meat or keeping animals in impossibly cramped factory conditions, could such quantities of meat be produced. The commentators on the Science Show, instead advocated a more respectful approach to meat, where animals are kept in mixed, free-range humane conditions, slaughtered close to home and eaten sparingly. It’s exactly the model we try to follow here on our little smallholding. I see nothing paradoxical about caring passionately about animals but nonetheless eating ones that are bred for that purpose. The important point is that at every point of the animals’ life cycle their welfare should be the highest priority.

Likewise when it comes to slaughter, we should utilise as much of the animal as possible & make it last over several meals. Last week’s rooster was eaten as a roast one night, sandwiches and salad for lunch the next day, curry the following evening & then the last bits were picked off the carcass to flavour a barbecue sauce for vegetables and cheesy mashed potatoes. Usually I’ll boil up the bones for stock but ran out of steam last week.

The other issue is that there is so much sentimentality about the harvest & culling of native animals here in Australia. By clearing forest and planting pasture, we’ve created an artificial environment which enables grazing animals to thrive and breed to extremely high numbers. Here we have a major problem with pademelons, small wallabies which can breed all year round. Without some culling, we would barely have a blade of grass at certain times of year. Likewise, in mid-winter or in times of drought, the pademelons themselves are in such high numbers that many starve or become ill – dying in a much more unpleasant manner than when humanely culled. Some speakers on the Science Show were advocating the sustainable harvest of wild kangaroos for food, to replace some of our demand for cattle and sheep. This seems supremely sensible to me since kangaroos are lighter on the environment and emit very little methane.

On a related note, I’m pleased and relieved that the Cradoc Hill abbatoir has been bought, and not by just anyone, but by someone with vision, drive, business-mindedness and a commitment to the rural community. He’s a young lad, apparently well-educated - and I’m sure if anyone can make it work and pay, he will.