Slow meat: Eat less, eat better
Slow meat takes commitment — to organic principles, to sustainability, to treating animals ethically and to slowing your own life down enough to enjoy food again.
You are also going to pay more to eat less meat, but devotees say you might not care.
“Once people make a decision to eat heritage pork, grass-fed beef or organic chicken, they don’t tend to go back to factory farmed meat,” said farmer and fledgling butcher Julia Smith.
“The meat is denser, more flavourful, it has healthier fats. It’s not even the same product. It should really have a different name.”
A growing body of research suggests the composition of fats and cholesterol in pastured chicken and grass-fed beef is different and probably better for you than regular fare.
Even lard — the most vilified of fats — is making a comeback as recent studies can’t seem to link it to heart disease after all.
While the organic and local food revolution is fully ignited, the slow meat militia is still fumbling with its lighter.
Slow foodists regard most industrial-scale meat production as environmentally unsustainable, culturally destructive and inhumane.
Smith started her young career as a farmer growing vegetables alongside idealistic and ambitious women who are trying to reinvent farming at a human scale, often in urban environments.
But she and her romantic partner, Ludo Ferrari, are now focused on raising heritage-breed pigs at Urban Digs Farm in South Burnaby, B.C.
They also offer custom but chering services for small producers like themselves at the Vancouver butcher shop they purchased with business partner Rory Holland, a “slow money” investor who supports sustainable and artisanal enterprises.
Conventionally raised pigs usually live their entire lives in dimly lit barns, while breeding sows are typically confined to crates.
The pigs at Urban Digs are raised outdoors where they root and muck and snort all day long, while receiving visitors to the South Burnaby farmgate store.
“The rest of the local food movement is completely focused on market vegetables, but I really believe meat is the next thing,” said Smith.
“From an environmental standpoint, we just can’t all keep eating so much meat. We need to eat less meat, but better.”
Pastured meat can cost anywhere from 50 to 100 per cent more than conventionally raised meat, so it pays to reduce portion sizes.
“Pigs and chickens that can run around burn calories that animals in confined conditions don’t,” said Smith.
“It takes more time and more feed for them to reach market weight, so you are getting an animal that is older and that has used its muscles. That’s why there is so much more flavour.”
Smith’s pigs eat “quality waste products,” such as spent grain from craft breweries, cast-off organic veggies and outdated bread and they drink whey left over from cheesemaking.
Here’s a slow meat recipe: