MAK­ING A SILK PURSE OUT OF A SOW’S EAR

From nose to tail, root to shoot and beak to claw, Emma Hen­der­son looks at the waste-less food move­ments in res­tau­rants, striv­ing to throw away as lit­tle as pos­si­ble of the animals and plants we grow to eat

The Independent - - The Magazine / Food & Drink -

Sus­tain­abil­ity is the buz­zword of the mo­ment. It’s quite lit­er­ally on the lips of con­scious con­sumers who want to know where their food has come from, how and where it lived and how it came to be on their plates. Be­ing sus­tain­able is about re­duc­ing waste, and one of the most ef­fec­tive ways of do­ing this is by us­ing as much of the an­i­mal or vegetable as pos­si­ble. But this isn’t a new con­cept. Far from it. It’s a re­turn

to the post-war no-waste at­ti­tude where every part of the an­i­mal was used, pre­served and lit­tle was thrown away – just like Na­tive Amer­i­cans lived off the Buf­falo, from the brains to their hides. In­stead, decades of con­ve­nience have changed per­cep­tions, where peo­ple are more used to see­ing veg­eta­bles wrapped in plas­tic than in the ground.

Aside from agri­cul­ture, sus­tain­abil­ity has firmly moved into the food in­dus­try where win­ing the Sus­tain­able Restau­rant Award re­places the pres­ti­gious Miche­lin star, cat­a­pult­ing it to be on par with taste and aes­thet­ics of dishes. But there is still a long way to go as an es­ti­mated one in every six meals ends up in the bin in the UK, and 30 per cent of hos­pi­tal­ity waste is from cus­tomer’s plates, ac­cord­ing to De­fra’s lat­est fig­ures from last month.

Across UK house­holds, hos­pi­tal­ity and retail in­dus­try, the coun­try throws away 10 mil­lion tonnes of food an­nu­ally, where 61 per cent could have been saved if it had been man­aged bet­ter, ac­cord­ing to Waste and Re­sources Ac­tion and Pro­gramme’s (Wrap) lat­est fig­ures. This is at a time when 8.4 mil­lion peo­ple are strug­gling to feed their fam­i­lies. And we’re not the only ones guilty of it. In the EU, around 88 mil­lion tonnes of food is wasted each year — enough to feed the 55 mil­lion Euro­peans liv­ing in food poverty more than nine times over.

Tris­tram Stu­art, food waste ac­tivist and founder of Feed­back, a food waste or­gan­i­sa­tion, calls food waste a global scan­dal – and even 15 years ago he nan­lived for months on food taken from bins in north west Lon­don’s af­flu­ent Prim­rose Hill known for its or­ganic food shops. Feed­back wants to see food busi­ness halve their food waste by 2030, in line with the UN global goal. Ca­rina Mill­stone, Feed­back’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, says: “Eat­ing meat is one of the big­gest im­pacts hu­man be­ings have on the planet, and when we rear an an­i­mal for food we should at least eat the whole thing.”

As con­sumers, we need to be more con­scious of our ac­tions in­stead of be­ing all-con­sum­ing and numb to the dam­age waste causes. But a large part of it is down to fash­ions and trends, when at some point we be­gan turn­ing our noses up at us­ing all types of of­fal, from kid­ney to tongue. But why, when we still eat sausages made with in­testines, pate and caviar which all come un­der the in­nards um­brella.

A cut above the rest

An es­ti­mated bil­lion animals are reared for slaugh­ter each year in the UK, ac­cord­ing to the Viva char­ity.

And if we are rais­ing th­ese animals for one sole pur­pose, we should use them as ef­fec­tively as pos­si­ble. “Con­sid­er­ing the ex­traor­di­nary amount of en­ergy, re­source and time that goes into get­ting our food from the farm to the fork – it’s shock­ing to think just how much is wasted. The nose-to-tail eat­ing move­ment is an im­por­tant one, re­mind­ing us all of the high value that should be placed on the food we rear and grow,” says food sup­ply or­gan­i­sa­tion FareShare chief ex­ec­u­tive Lind­say Boswell.

The fore­fa­ther of bring­ing sus­tain­abil­ity back on to our radar is Fer­gus Hen­der­son, who coined nose-to-tail eat­ing with his restau­rant St John, which opened in 1994, where he used long for­got­ten of­fal cuts such as brain, snouts and bone bar­row. Shane Hol­land, ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of the Slow Food or­gan­i­sa­tion, says the “fifth quar­ter” cuts (the things we of­ten throw away) are right­fully be­ing cel­e­brated again. “Th­ese cuts are an eth­i­cal and flavour­some choice, and are very of­ten the tasti­est.”

But if you’re not quite sold on it, think back to only a few years ago to the rise of pork belly. What was once a dis­carded cut for its lay­ers of fat, has soared in price thanks to the likes of Jamie Oliver. Now it’s a reg­u­lar fea­ture in cook­books and TV shows which was re­flected in the soar­ing price.

His ethos has since made way for oth­ers, such as root to shoot and lately, beak to claw. Chicken is the most wasted meat in the UK and that’s be­cause breast is one of the most com­mon cuts used and the rest is largely for­got­ten about will most poul­try. At Duck and Waf­fle Lo­cal, head chef Dan Do­herty’s menu has duck in al­most every dish, us­ing the likes of long lost cuts in­clud­ing giz­zards and necks, and soon there are plans to even in­tro­duce heart, tongue and feet. He’s taken it away from its shack­les of dishes such as duck a l’orange and in­stead mod­ernised it into a duck burger, mak­ing it more ac­ces­si­ble and imag­i­na­tive.

They’ve set them­selves apart from the vast ma­jor­ity of the rest of the in­dus­try, as Dan de­scribes it: “We’ve not tied our­selves to a type of cui­sine, but an in­gre­di­ent and we can re­ally make the most of it.”

Af­ter chicken and pork, beef is the third most wasted meat where £260m worth of the stuff, raw and cooked, is chucked an­nu­ally. Dar­ren Broom, chef of Nan­car­row near Truro in Corn­wall, is plan­ning a week­end of feast­ing in Oc­to­ber to feed 1,000 peo­ple from a sin­gle bul­lock reared on their or­ganic farm, in a bid to show how beef can be con­sumed sus­tain­ably.

“Although a whole leg of beef, whole pig or lamb on the fire looks im­pres­sive, we also work with the lesser­known cuts and some are more chal­leng­ing in their ap­peal than oth­ers. For ex­am­ple, of­fal served as part of a small bite or canapé, makes it more ap­proach­able,” says Steve Cham­ber­lain, part­ner at Nan­car­row .

He says grilling is a great way to cook ox kid­neys and liver, which he serves as a starter with a bone

mar­row salsa. “We re­cently served a starter with de­hy­drated and cured ox heart. It was in­spired by a Nordic dish which uses rein­deer heart.”

Mark Hart­stone, chef of La Fosse in Cam­borne, says the sup­plier food chain is of­ten in­ef­fec­tive. Sourc­ing cheeks is only slowly be­com­ing the norm in the UK. “I re­mem­ber work­ing in Ray­mond Blanc’s kitchen at Le Manoir, 11 years ago, where I was pre­par­ing 30 odd ki­los of ox cheeks. Back then, there were only a few chefs us­ing them. Or if they were, they wouldn’t ad­mit it and would just put them in a beef bour­guignon”.

Mark Har­stone uses pig cheeks in a stew on his menu at La Fosse in Dorset

Stu­art thinks the amount of food wasted is a global scan­dal (Getty)

Hart­stone, chef of La Fosse, uses as much of the pig car­cass as pos­si­ble

Broom is plan­ning a feast to feed 1,000 peo­ple with a sin­gle bul­lock from the or­ganic farm (Ross Talling)

The duck burger at Duck and Waf­fle Lo­cal gives the meat a mod­ern twist

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