Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Chopping Block Chronicles: Whole-animal butchery reconsidered

February 20, 2019 by Justin Bennett, contributing writer

In last issue, I talked about the horrendous amount of food we as Canadians are producing and wasting every year. However, I’m not the type that likes to rant about an issue without providing some sort of solution.

But this time I don’t have to provide a solution; it’s out there, it just means getting back to our roots and eliminating the commercialization of the food industry.

When you go to a restaurant, often you will see two cuts of beef—NY strip loin and rib eye—and for good reason: these are choice cuts when looking at tenderness and flavour. But where is the rest of that animal going? I’m sure that only so much ground beef can be processed and eaten in a year.

A lot of the animal gets scrapped.

The Chopping Block Chronicles is a column about food; it appears in every issue of Nexus.

One study I read suggests that 66 percent of the “live weight” of cattle is discarded in slaughterhouses, rendering plants, and wholesalers.

This includes things like bones, organs, blood, and lard… and don’t get me started on the amount of greenhouse gas that comes from this waste.

If you’re as much of a foodie as I am, you will likely notice a lot of restaurants opting for whole-animal butchery, which is knowing where the animal is coming from, knowing the farmer who produced and cared for it, and knowing exactly what to do with every part of it so that there is little to no waste. 

This is the same way that your grandparents and their parents ate their meat—why else do you think they ate liver and onions, or steak and kidney pie? So why aren’t all restaurants, grocery stores, and markets doing the same thing?

There are two major issues with whole-animal butchery: a lack of skilled and knowledgeable teachers, and a lack of knowledge in the general public of just how tasty “off-cuts” of the animal can be.

Still, we are seeing a resurgence of this craft, and in Victoria we are blessed to have many butcher shops and restaurants that believe in and practice the ways of sustainable use of these animals. They are paving the way for us to get back to our roots: creating valuable relationships with our farmers, wasting less, and respecting the animals that provide us sustenance. 

Choose to eat local, sustainable meats. You’ll be amazed at the exceptional quality, and your planet will thank you for it.

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