I’ve always been a lover of animals. Throughout my years growing up I’ve had many pets, including horses, dogs, cats, fish, a turtle, a rabbit, and now, our two beautiful cats Satine and Isis. Being such an animal lover, I’ve often struggled with a feeling of hypocrisy due to my being a meat-eater who abhors animal cruelty. I don’t believe that humans need to eat meat at all, however, many of us choose to. Including me.
I choose to eat meat, and because of my choice I want to know where the meat I buy comes from. I want to know the animal was treated as humanely as possible, and with respect, before its slaughter.
Like many Australians, I tuned in to the Four Corners report ‘A Bloody Business’ on live exports to Indonesia on Monday 30 May. I thought it would be an informative program to watch, to see what live export is about. I didn’t realise how horrific it would be. It was honestly the worst thing I have ever seen, in my entire life. Paul couldn’t watch it, but I felt a need to watch the whole program and learn. After all, this is / was happening, the animals endured that torture, and my eyes were opened.
I, like many, was in tears. And even now as I remember the scenes of the cows falling on the concrete floor, their throats cut many times by blunt knives while they struggled to stand and live, their tails snapped by human hands… It’s overwhelming.
The days following the program I was off meat. Just the thought of steak made me think of the torture, and although we have very different standards in Australia, it has definitely made me think more about where our meat comes from.
How is our meat produced here? Is there a difference in animal welfare and other practices between the meat stocked neatly in plastic trays in Coles and Woolworths and the meat stocked in smaller butchers and suppliers? The animal is still being killed for our consumption in the end, but is a higher consumer cost for better animal welfare worth it?
Free range eggs and chicken? Definitely. And I don’t mean Pace Farm free range eggs. After all, they still produce cage eggs.
But what about beef? Paul and I have been buying our meat from a small wholesaler for a while now, rather than the supermarket, but I wanted to delve a bit deeper. I had been reading about Urban Food Market on Twitter, and wanted to find out more about their sustainable, ethically produced meat, and what that really means…
The Urban Food Market warehouse, run by Tim Elwin, is located in Marrickville and opens on a Saturday – when you can buy quality produce and sample some of Tim’s dishes. We visited Urban Food Market last Friday night to buy a few supplies.
Tim is passionate about his ethically-produced range, and stocks grass-fed beef, free range chicken, pork and goat, as well as a variety of small goods. Their sausages, rissoles, and minces are produced at their Richmond processing plant using their Esk Pastoral Free Range Pork with their recipes, and the cured meats are produced at Salami Casa, which Tim says is “an old-school curing our meat out west, again using our pork etc”.
The fridge is stocked with vacuum-packed meat, including wagyu t-bones, goat necks, free range bacon, and spatchcock. There is also a larger cool room where the other goodies are kept – including wild rabbits.
Vine Drops provided excellent wine samples to go with Tim’s sampling menu, which was perfectly warming on this cold night.
Our first sample is the grassfed wagyu and double smoked bacon ragu. Paul and I reacted to this awesomeness with wide grins at each other, like kids that had stumbled upon a fantastic discovery – which seemed appropriate. We then wandered over to where Tim was dishing up some warming pots of soup.
Citty’s Chicken Broth is a revelation. We are instantly warmed and I was amazed at the depth of flavour within this clear soup. I had often wondered about the process when watching contestants make their own stocks on My Kitchen Rules for example, but didn’t really have a desire to try it myself. Tim stocks a free range stock made using the bones he supplies, but after us realising the difference in taste, Tim encouraged us to make our own and sent us home with a couple of kilos of free range chicken bones (results to follow in next blog post – sneak peak: the ‘real’ stock we made is SO good).
Next up was a Jerusalem artichoke soup, with free range bacon. Another revelation, it was rich and comforting; a bit sweet yet a bit sour, the bacon and olive oil drizzle really finished this off. We loved it so much that Paul’s bowl was almost spotless and Tim gave me the recipe – and a bag of Jerusalem artichokes to make our own!
Jarred sauces, oils, pasta, free range eggs
We didn’t buy any beef this visit, because we were after other meats… For around $50ish we bought a whole wild rabbit (we’re thinking confit), 1kg diced goat (delicious ragu), 1/2 kilo pork & fennel sausages, and a dozen free range eggs, along with the chicken bones and artichokes.
Our excellent food haul aside, what about the difference between mass-produced and sustainable, ethically-produced meat? What did we learn from this?
I asked Tim to explain it to me. He says:
“All the meat we sell is produced without growth promotants or any added hormones and definitely NO feedlots, NO cages, NO pens, NO concrete floors and NO Genetically Modified feed, simply animals grown the way they were intended to be grown. Naturally…”
And mass-produced meat?
“The mass produced is the complete opposite… cages, pens, locked in barns, they often use Growth Promotants and antibiotics to keep the animals alive long enough to fatten them as quickly as possible etc. They screw the farmer to get the lowest price possible.”
Cheap meat for us must come at a price somewhere, right? And are you also wondering what sustainable meat actually means? Here’s Tim’s answer:
“Urban Food Market sources products which have been produced in a sustainable and natural way, this means that we support the whole process from land, animal, farmer and you… We partner with sustainable producers where-ever possible to source produce which has a minimal impact on our environment as we strongly believe that without sustainable measures, we will not be able to enjoy quality food in the future let alone enjoy the world we live in.
We give more back to the farmer, we ensure the animal and land is looked after and we ensure you get a product that not only has been produced in an ethical, sustainable manner, but one that tastes bloody good too!”
We’re not perfect in our household consumerism, we’re still learning and changing our buying habits around meat and vegetables (I have a long way to go in knowing and using in-season produce), and I realise that a lot of families may baulk at the cost of these meats, after all, it’s not cheap. But maybe it’s a case of thinking about eating better produced meat, less often?
I’d love to know your thoughts. Did you watch the Four Corners report? Does animal welfare factor into your shopping or eating habits at all?
Urban Food Market
Unit 1, 168 Victoria Rd, Marrickville
Phone: 02 9516 0601
Open to public every Saturday from 9am – 1pm
By appointment only outside those times or order online