Kitchen Garden Guides

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

An old cow for dinner

I try very hard, passionately even, to do the least harm in an educated and informed way. I am not vegetarian; I am a locavore; an opportunistic gatherer of food. Tonight I am having beef stew for dinner. The cow gave milk for years to a local family then spent the rest of its 10 years munching the grass in the same paddock it had always lived in. This winter has been extraordinarily wet and the old cow's legs were having difficulty with the mud so it was decided it would be kindest to end its life and remove the daily stress of walking over the extremely wet and boggy land.

I was given some of the meat. I hate the thought of that cow's body being turned into blood and bone at the abattoir. To me, the ideal use for a dead cow is to share it amongst friends and eat it. Then the remains are turned into blood and bone at the abattoir and sold by the trailer load.

Barely a drop of fuel in that 10 years was used to care for, kill, butcher and share this cow. Same could be said of the turkey I ate at Christmas time and the rooster, pork and beef I have bought since I came to live here. A few animals kept by caring people,  on farms almost visible from my garden and killed at the Cradoc abattoir only a few kilometres up the road. I eat small serves of meat and these opportunities to buy from friends and neighbours are sufficient for my needs.

Compare the above with someone who gets their protein in other ways than meat and tell me that it is less harmful to the animals of the earth. As I see it, the more processing and transporting that is done, the more harm is done. Processing and transporting and big ag require a lot of mining to get the ore to make the metal to make the machines and all the parts have to be brought to some location and assembled before anything can happen. All this requires land to be cleared, buildings to be erected and people to drive daily to work at the mines and shops and factories..... and so on and so on. (This piece is not about employment, it is about doing harm to the earth and its life.) Consider a bag of tofu and all the people, machines and oil involved in getting it onto your supermarket shelf; all the invisible deaths due to land clearing, oil extraction, manufacturing and road kill....

I have lots of friends who are vegetarian and I do not for a moment want them to think I am criticising them. No. Everyone has the right to choose. But they must be informed choices, not emotional ones, if those choices are made in order to do least harm. We are especially lucky here in this part of the world to have food growing all around us. There is not one right answer for everyone in the world so it is necessary to weigh up each situation, remembering to look out beyond the final product on the shelf, all the way back to its source.

Eat, think and be merry.


Tanya said...

Well said. I met quite a few vegetarians at the National Green conference who said meat was bad for the environment (and it is in the megalomaniac meat at every meal and slapped cheaply in fast food bun way)but at the same time these same Green vegetarians were happily eating tomatoes in winter and oranges from California! By all means be vegetarian or carnivore BUT make sensible conscious choices.

africanaussie said...

Very well said Kate. Variety in colour, texture and taste is recommended to get our full spectrum of minerals and vitamins. I think the more varied our diets the better, and the beef that you got, raised so close to home must have been very tasty and nourishing. It is in the large scale farming of anything that we have really failed.

Apple Island Wife said...

All good thoughts. Being mindful of where your meat comes from, if you choose to eat meat, is a great thing to do, and it's easy here in Tasmania. I love knowing that when I buy from my local butcher it's local meat. Sometimes I know which farm it's come from. Like you, we buy produce from friends, and soon we'll have our own to share when the piglets are grown. Living in the country and seeing the growing and producing of all foodstuffs changes the way you think. For the better, I believe.

chaiselongue1 said...

As you know, Kate, I completely agree with you on this. Local food, including meat, is better for the environment than big business and transportation. All you've said in this post is true, and there's also the consideration that animals are part of the natural cycle of self-sufficiency, providing manure for the soil, as John Seymour found 50 years ago when he wrote his books about self=sufficiency. I'm glad you enjoyed your stew!

AlexF said...

Multiply the land required to raise that cow by 7 billion and it turns out that this approach just can't feed the whole world. If you took the protein the cow consumed and gave it to people directly then you would have fed many times more people with exactly the same ecological footprint.

I like the sentence about informed rather than emotional choices.

And I know, I'm being the contrary commenter again :).