When I grew up Australia was in the grip of a rabbit plague. Fertile ground was being destroyed as rabbits built warrens of rabbit holes. The clever little animals would run in one hole and out another as you watched. Catching one rabbit didn’t hold back the population for a day.
The proliferation of rabbits meant a lot of my protein came from them. They ran free and catching them required no great skill. Our mother stewed them in white sauce and had another twenty ways of disguising the fact that we were eating rabbit again. I got to dislike rabbit meat. Now if I was to eat rabbit it would have grown fat on a farm and it would be served when it had reached its prime weight. Free range rabbit is a bit hit and miss. A young rabbit in yesterday’s pot might just as easily be followed by a tough geriatric one today when randomly caught.
We rarely ate chicken because chooks were kept to produce eggs. In those far off days when a bird was eaten it was presented on a special occasion. Not for us the 10 week old almost force fed, frozen meat bird of today. I can remember my father experimenting with cockerral growing late in his life. He had purchased some hormone tablets that he injected into the young birds neck. They were supposed to aide the rapid growth of the bird. I suspect today the rapid grown comes from the same hormone fed to the birds with their feed. In either case artificial hormone stimulation does not make good meat.
On those occasions when we ate chicken we ate almost everything. I do not remember eating chicken feet as I have in Asian cafes but the feet were probably consumed in soup. We ate much of the innards, the heart, the liver – made into pate, and the kidneys of the bird. Very occasionally we ate duck, geese, and turkey, consuming much of the bird in the same way.
In the 1950’s we ate lamb but more often the sheep we ate were old. (At the time there was a wool boom. Australia earned much of its wealth selling wool and the animals were first exploited for their wool.) We ate much more of the old sheep we did get from the butcher than is eaten today . Mum pressed tongue into a meat loaf and this was usually served cold. We also ate it hot when served with white sauce. We ate the heart and the kidneys. The fat around the kidneys became the lard used to make Christmas cakes, for example. Some ate the eyes but nearly all of us ate the brains of the animal. Chops at our place were usually fried, the forequarter and the legs were baked. Nothing was wasted.
Some people ate goats but in our place the most often consumed animal meat after rabbit was beef. Housewives knew the cut of meat they wanted and when visiting the butcher they would ask for a pound of rump steak. The butcher would drag the partly consumed hunk of meat from his cool room rails and cut the steak from the hanging piece. Or catch it on his shoulder and walk a few paces and then throw it onto a wood chopping block to break down. Nothing was wasted the off cuts were thrown into a bucket and later ground into sausage meat. Then forced into the gut of a sheep and made into sausages.
It is only in very recent times a new movement has emerged encouraging people to eat, “from head to tail.” This movement is encouraging people to understand meat come from the life of a living animal and if an animal is sacrificed to feed people it is only right of us to honour that life by not wasting anything of its meat.
When presented in the supermarket wrapped in plastic it is hard to imagine your piece of meat was once part of an animal. And that is but part of its story. Once all animals ranged free and the hunter gatherer fed from what was available within the local range. Today more animals and fish are intensively farmed in contained areas as a single species.
The voices of scientists are getting louder and louder. “Animal farming is unsustainable. To produce protein in this way requires too much water. Fattening animals takes too much energy, we must find new food. We need to become vegans.” For carnivores like me this is terrible news. Is this true?
In simple terms the answer is yes. These calls are not new. We may not have to become vegan but we will have to find new food stuff. In researching this subject I discovered in 2014 some authors produced, perhaps the first recipe book for westerners on how to prepare meals of insects. Orientals have eaten many foods we would perhaps consider revolting; scorpions, grasshoppers, different beetles, all manner of creepy crawly things. It seems many of these foods are richer in protein than the meat we eat. For instance Mealy bugs once roasted and crushed into flour make great biscuits. All are much kinder on the environment.
We are in for some quick learning because today in the western world we waste millions of tonnes of good food each year. We toss out food we have over bought and taken home but not eaten. We cook more than we need and throw it out. The animals we feed in intensive farming waste foods too. In fact the food we throw out produced harmful methane gas and we must reduce our waste.
In many parts of the world companies are now producing food stuff from this waste. They gather the leftover scraps and feed this to maggots. It has been discovered the larva of the black fly will eat almost anything organic within hours. These fat maggots in turn are better feed for chickens and fish than the manufactured meal we have been feeding them. We are changing our feeding patterns simply because our current methods are not as efficient as we have been led to believe.
I do not plan to become vegan but it is very likely we, (you and I) will soon be consuming foods we have not believed possible in a very short time. I don’t limit this to soy bean hamburgers but artificial meat made from protein extracts from living animals. Start reading the labels on packaged food. It is surprising what some of this stuff has unimagined ingredients.
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