On the crest of a vegan wave, FSC resident carnivore Geoff Campion argues there will always be a place for meat at his table, but that we should absolutely be focusing on eating better.
I love meat. I simply can’t get enough of it. The thought of not cradling a bacon sandwich to help me through the morning after a night before, or tucking into a rare steak on a chopping board with a sharp knife, is the stuff of nightmares. I’m in a cold sweat just thinking about it.
But, that’s not the case for everyone. This year has seen a growing number of people take a step back from meat-filled lives to try out vegetarianism and its much stricter cousin veganism. But why now?
After winning the account to work with Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, at the start of this year, and receiving a brief to shine a light on the credentials of quality Irish grass-fed beef, this issue has taken on a new importance. It’s no longer just personal, it’s professional.
For me, the issue boils down to a lack of trust. An unsavoury cocktail of highly publicised meat scandals, liberally sprinkled with sensationalised documentaries about meat’s impact on the planet, topped with an assertion that vegan and vegetarian diets are more healthy has created a trust vortex whereby the finger is pointed firmly at meat. I, for one, think it’s unfounded.
While there are highly credible schemes, such as Bord Bia’s world-leading Origin Green scheme, that champion transparent sustainable practice, there is a murky haze looming over meat production. Buzzwords such as ‘provenance’ are thrown about more than a beach ball at a Nickleback concert, but recent revelations have shown such terms are often misused and misrepresent the source of an ingredient. I feel these terms have been over used and everyday people have become desensitised about what they stand for and their importance. We’ve lost our link with the land.
Growing up in rural Worcestershire, I have always been tuned into the farm-to-fork narrative. I fondly remember visiting butchers and watching the Old Man barter to see if there was a great bit of pork with an extra half inch of fat lurking in the back, or turning his nose up at a rib of beef because the marbling wasn’t up to scratch.
At the time I took this for granted. But, for many, the process of how meat comes to the plate is perhaps less well understood. As a whole, we’re unsure about where different cuts of meat come from and what to look for when purchasing meat. The relationship between us and our butcher has all but dissipated, and people much prefer to shop in the pre-packed aisle than fire some choice questions.
But hope is not lost. Bastions of quality meat are visible all over the capital and across social media. Chefs and restaurants, such as Neil Rankin at Temper, Shaun Searley at Quality Chop House; Lee Tiernan at Black Axe Mangal; or Honest Burgers; are all championing meat in all its glory.
Whether it’s butchering animals in house and offering butchery courses; buying a butchery to create your own burgers; or creating Instagram stories depicting the farm-to-fork narrative; these restaurants are giving total transparency on their production and celebrating the wondrous thing that is quality meat. Marvellous.
This has started creeping its way into retail, with certain online suppliers allowing groups of people to buy a whole cow amongst themselves and have constituent cuts sent out – making the practice of buying directly from the farmer friendly on the wallet.
In the end, it all boils down to trust and knowledge. I would urge everyone to swerve the cheap chicken breast in the supermarket and step away from the miscellaneous meat ready meals. Go to your local butcher, search for a quality accredited stamp or look online for quality meat.
Yes, you will pay more, but simply eat less and better. Your taste buds will thank you.