Can Cook, Must Cook

The food adventures of Franka P, a Trinidadian journalist living in London, UK. I'll write about my forays into all types of food and cooking, particularly Caribbean food. I'll also review books and recipes by the leading food writers and talk about the issues making headlines in the gastronomic world.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I eat meat because...

Since I started this blog, quite a few people who knew me in my vegetarian days have asked what prompted me to eat meat again.
Two years ago, I began eating meat again after 12 years of going veggie. The reason was simple, I felt if I wanted to be a great cook, I couldn’t do so without knowing how to cook ALL kinds of food and that included meat. And how can a good cook not taste what they’re cooking?
So after tasty dish of venison fillet, I re-embraced the way of flesh.
This doesn’t mean that I eat just any meat. I'm still very mindful of the reason I stopped eating meat in the first place: intensive farming and its ills.

In his book, The River Cottage Meat Book, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall explores this topic in great depth. And although the description below is about the UK, in many cases, it would be quite appropriate for the Caribbean as well.
"The vast majority of our farm animals are now raised under methods that are systematically abusive. For them, discomfort is now the norm, pain is routine, growth is abnormal and diet is unnatural. Disease is widespread and stress is almost constant.
We have battery hens in wire cages so small they can’t turn around. We farm broiler chickens indoors for our fast food restaurants and supermarkets, in such close confinement and such huge numbers that premature deaths counted in the millions are considered the industry norm."
Hugh F-W is just one of a growing number who are concerned about this. In fact, the issue is quite big in the UK, and many are now choosing free range or organic meat. I do the same. I also tend to buy meat from butchers or game keepers who can vouch for the provenance of the meat: they know where the meat comes from, they know the conditions under which it was raised and slaughtered and for how long it was hung.
I’m a bit of a snob in that regard, I like good quality ingredients and to be honest, if I can’t have good quality meat, I do without. If I'm eating out and I’m not sure how good the meat is, I eat veggies. I’ll admit the only time I deviate from this principle is when I have the delightfully yummy but greasy fried chicken wings from Chicken Spot, my local takeaway.
That said however, chicken is not my meat of choice. I prefer strong meats like mutton, venison, game birds and lamb. Whenever I eat game, I wonder why our own tasty wild meat is not more popular in Caribbean cooking. Anyone who has had a good curry lappe or agouti will agree with me. Maybe no one’s found a sensible or profitable way to rear some of these animals while still giving them the space to be 'wild'.
I hope people in the Caribbean will soon wake up to the ills of the meat industry and demand better quality but the downside to better quality is higher prices and in many parts of the Caribbean, food prices are already too high.
Are any of our regional governments doing anything about this? Are they offering incentives for farmers who want to rear their animals in a less intensive way? I know that governments of the banana producing countries in the region already give their farmers incentives to go organic, so why can't this happen with livestock?
I can only remain hopeful this will happen sooner rather than later.
To hear an interesting discussion about the complex relationship we have with meat, listen to this edition of
The Food Programme from BBC Radio 4.

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