Just a quick reminder of our AGM next week. We still have space if you would like to share the evening with us.
For more than 100 000 years Southern Africa has provided both the hunter and the hunted. It’s not surprising that meat plays such an integral role in our daily lives, so deeply ingrained in the psyche of a nation. Rich and poor alike share this obsession, defining both culture and lifestyle.
The launch of Slow Food SA’s initiative “SLOW MEAT” during 2015 was indeed a watershed project for Slow Food. It was the first time that a major multi-city food event was held that brought together farmers of indigenous breeds, food processor (in the form of butcher and charcuterie maker), chef and consumer and was not sponsored by large food companies.
SLOW MEAT is an international campaign by Slow Food to highlight the importance of good, clean and fair in regards to a staple of South Africa’s plates – meat. Attend any gathering of South Africans, of every race and social status, and chances are you will be brought around a braai and probably snack on biltong and droewors. Chances are at the same braai many would know about organic veggies and free range chickens but have no idea how most of the meat consumed in cities is raised and culled. Until now there has not been a single national focus on where our meat comes from and the serious challenges faced by our fast declining animal farmers.
SLOW MEAT in South Africa has 5 objectives –
- Know your farmer and food processor – The easiest way to avoid meat scandals in the future is to buy directly from a farmer if possible. If this is not possible then form a relationship with a butcher – not the meat aisle in a supermarket where the expertise and reliability of a qualified butcher are reduced to fancy labels with misleading descriptions and glossy photos. By getting as close to source as possible means being able to verify that the animals are raised as close to nature and culled as humanely as is possible.
- Biodiversity in the pot – We live in a country blessed by a large variety of animals but few species are eaten today. From the vast numbers of game species to the smaller species like veld rabbits, we still cling to huge consumption of beef, lamb, chicken and pork. As long as we do this, we are encouraging the mass production of this meat which results in the ever growing intensive feedlotting that is occurring which spells the end for our indigenous breeds and small family farms. In addition biodiversity means knowing what cattle, sheep, chicken and pig species are indeed indigenous to our country and choosing these.
- Nose to tail – Whilst this is fashionable at the moment with many local chefs following international trends by using more of the lesser known cuts, consumers still cling to the steaks and primal cuts (less than 20% of the whole carcass). The nutritional importance of the secondary cuts and offal are starting to become known thanks to discussions around diets like banting and paleo but mostly people cling to rejecting these parts. The quickly rising costs of food, but meat in particular, is lowering the resistance of middle income families to swapping out the more expensive primal cuts. However there is still a lot of work to be done.
- Preserving meat – One of the most important ways meat can be used from nose to tail is by preserving meat. Immediately we think of biltong and droewors. Most of us growing up remember a relative who in winter would hang strips of cured meat in the garage to make biltong. This tradition has been lost with our younger generation so far removed from the food chain that many cannot even name the animal a “chop” comes from. Preservation of meat includes getting back to making at home our own stocks and using tallow instead of oil for cooking.
- Eat South African – Should you ever be fortunate enough to read early South African recipes or ask your elders for recipes for what they ate, you quickly discover 2 important truths –
- There is no 1 iconic dish but various most based on the consumption of non-primal meat cuts; and
- There was a lot more biodiversity on the types of meat eaten in the past.
The launch event of SLOW MEAT held appropriately in the Cradle of Humankind so an entire Afrikaner heifer cooked by 10 of the top chefs in Gauteng. The public were asked to vote for their favourite dish on the day and this honour went to Phil de Villers of 54 on Bath.
In Durban a conference was held on the day prior to the event where everyone in the food chain was present and a healthy debate was held into what the barriers were to sourcing, cooking with and eating good, clean and fair meat. On the Saturday once more 10 of the top chefs from Durban competed at Durban Country Club for the top honour. This time it was Gerard van Staden who won for the best dish. Slow Meat organisers, Caroline McCann and Chef Arnold Tanzer, were asked to host a dinner for Conservation South Africa and its international branches in Cape Town late last year. This culminated in Conservation South Africa officially becoming a partner to Slow Meat.
SLOW MEAT 2016 will see another round of this exciting event hosted at Country Club Johannesburg (Auckland Park), Durban Country Club and the first ever Soweto Theatre Eat In. There is also plans afoot to host similar events in Cape Town, the Karoo, Eastern Cape, Polokwane and Limpopo.
In addition SLOW MEAT SA will be given a restaurant one of the evenings during Terra Madre in Turin, Italy, in September 2016, where we will be asked to cook a traditional South African meal for guests. The team will be made up of Chefs Arnold Tanzer, Phil de Villers, Luxolo Tabat (Young Chef’s Alliance), Geoffrey Green (10 000 Food Gardens of South Africa), Gordon Wright (Slow Food Karoo) and butchers Caroline McCann and Sydwell Ledwaba. This is a fantastic honour for us to show the world what South Africa eats and bring our food to the fore in one of the largest food shows in the world.
The aim of SLOW MEAT SA for 2016 is to spread the word far and wide – eat South African meat, raised by South African farmers, processed by South African butchers to ensure the security of our food system, which is primarily based on the consumption of meat.