Trust in meat suppliers eroded

This is my 30th article in the Mercury Food and Wine supplement.

In recent weeks food issues have gained prominence in the media. Most notably we have had the results of the Stellenbosch study on retail meats in which it was found that meat had been incorrectly labelled and contaminated by meat from animals such as donkey and water buffalo.

This scandal to me was indicative of the moral and ethical decay of our food system.

Food and especially meat has become commodified and decoupled from the traditional, open, farm-to-fork chain.

The farming of animals is now done on an industrial scale. I have written in an earlier article on the evils of feed-lot and battery production, but what I would like to touch on here is how the system of distribution has further destroyed the integrity of our food system.

The documentary “Food inc” featured the phenomenon of “pink goo”. This is ground and processed meat destined to be made into the hamburgers and sausages for the retail shelves. It was an eye opener to hear the claim that one hamburger could contain meat from up to a million different animals.

As a consumer one has no idea what you are eating, apart from taking on trust what the retailer claims on the product’s labels. That trust has been severely dented with the latest revelations.

Even if that burger does only contain beef, it is likely that it came from many different animals. There is no longer a connection between the animal and those who will partake of it.

In contrast I had the privilege to spend this last weekend at Zingela Safari and River lodge on the banks of the Tugela River. This idyllic spot is located in a hunting area and venison features prominently on the menu.

An animal was hunted and shot to provide the main course at the wedding feast. I know some would react with horror at this, but consider the context carefully.

This animal lived a natural life in wild surroundings where it could express its innate behaviour freely.

It was hunted with some measure of skill by a hunter who has a love for the bush and for nature. That same hunter butchered and dressed the carcase with care and it was evident by the way he talked about the animal that he had great respect for it.

No part of the animal was wasted. It contributed towards a sumptuous feast and was also eaten by the staff and their families. Yes, this is not for the faint-hearted but it is real and has undisputed integrity.

The industrial meat system has destroyed our trust and sacrificed what should be a humane, ethical procedure on the altar of Mammon.

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About Rob Symons

My name is Rob Symons. I live in Pietermaritzburg, kwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. MuthiMuthi is my Zulu nickname which means tall tree. I am an Organic Farmer and an environmentalist. I live and work on Broadleaze Farm in the Mkondeni valley on the eastern outskirts of Pietermaritzburg.
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