On the Farm - The quest for good meat

By: Beth Trowbridge

Well, it’s that time of year again when we’re all on the hunt for that something special for the Christmas table. Also when the old/new dilemma rears its head more strongly about how much meat we should be consuming at this festive time of year.

Perhaps the more important questions we should be pondering are more nuanced. Where exactly do we source our meat? Is it ethically produced, without cruelty? Is it sustainably reared in a farming regime that has a positive carbon footprint and looks after the wider environment? Is it locally sourced (good for reducing emissions and for the local economy)? With so many things to weigh up we could be forgiven for just going for fish – but wait, there are moral dilemmas there, too!

Your best first port of call, of course, is to grow your own. Then you can make sure that all the right boxes are ticked. There’s nothing more rewarding than tucking into your own home-reared produce, and with meat even more so than the more universal veggies and fruit. The taste difference is often the biggest surprise.

Growing your own pork is particularly well worth it, and pigs can be such fun and responsive animals to care for. They will also eat up all your garden waste, and do some digging for you if you wish. Pigs can easily be contained behind electric fencing and moved around. They just need a small shelter. Of course, I’m duty bound to point out that you aren’t legally allowed to sell your meat from your own land from home kill, but many of us have family who do have land, and this source of produce is unbeatable year-round.

Our next option is to source locally produced and retailed fare, which might sound easy, but there is a problem. The vast majority of our meat comes to us from centralised sources in the hands of a small number of big meat companies. The biggest impediment to trying to operate a local meat business (selling your own farm produce direct to your customers) is the inability to secure legitimate access to slaughtering facilities. The few slaughterhouses that remain in operation are owned by the meat companies, and they do not kill for farmers. Instead, you have to sell to them. This is why you don’t see locally produced meat for sale.

We have first hand experience of trying to do this ourselves back along when we bought up the old Stubb’s butchery in Warkworth and tried retailing our own plus other local farmers’ meat through the shop. We had to truck our livestock all the way to Hamilton or Hikurangi for slaughter, but the slaughterhouses would always get bought up and close out the small guys like ourselves. There are a few small local family meat operations that do manage to make a go of it dotted around the country, but they are few and far between.

So yeah, if we want to open up the market for local, sustainable meat produce, getting access to slaughterhouses is where we need to start!

Beth Trowbridge


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