Easter feasting

Will you be feasting on meat this Easter?

Being naturally contrary, I’ve always taken a peculiar, and slightly perverse, pleasure in maintaining our status as a non-brand. I’ve always thought that being exactly as big as the sum of our tangible parts makes us real and that’s what we want to be. Cynics might say that it’s easy for us having big brother Riverford Organics doing so much to build their brand – and very well they do it too but they’re an internet business and need to.

We’re just three shops, kitchen and butchery in the country, firmly rooted in Devon mud. Having said that, here’s a newsletter – it does contain some views, but mainly news and hope, very much, that it doesn’t become a snooze-letter.

So far this year, Riverford comms have mainly been about meat – or rather how little meat. I’m still Riverford’s Mr Meat and you can read my thoughts on the relative merits of different animals. Looking at the wider argument – yes, we all eat too much meat, particularly soya bean and grass fed beef, but thanks to the film ‘Cowspiracy’, it’s become the bad boy whipping horse of the climate change movement – almost a covert diversion from the unpalatable truth that there are too many of us and we’re in for some major pain, across all sectors, in the years to come.

A quick glance at pie charts on the internet seems to guesstimate GHG emissions from agriculture at anywhere from 10 to 30%. If we split it down the middle and call it 20%, that doesn’t seem like a bad price for feeding the planet. Whether you’re a Prof Tim Lang 75g a week man or a 2kg a week American, there is always a place for the occasional carnivorous celebration – like Easter.

Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle. 75g a week is only slightly more than our recommended salt ration while 2kg is obscene.  The good news is that less meat means we won’t have to worry about a bit of fat in our sausages but it will also provide challenges such as optimising the whole carcass; including the fifth quarter of bones, offal and extremities.

Campaigners tell us about inefficiencies in agriculture, but farmers are just satisfying demand. It’s us (the consumer) who demand chicken breasts while leg meat goes into pet food and carcasses get binned, or at best (or worse depending on how you look at it) get put in a stock cube.

The painful thing is I’m preaching to the converted – we/you can’t get enough chicken carcasses and thighs and drumsticks are always in demand. Easter is a classic example. While Christmas turkey just about fits in to a yearly breeding cycle, leg of lamb certainly doesn’t. Even autumn lambed Poll Dorsets will be fed on forage and harvested crops rather than nibbling fresh grass so bear some of the inherent inefficiencies of arable agriculture.

But, it doesn’t have to be lamb and whatever you choose, bones or fillet steak, Ali and his team of singing butchers will be happy to see you. In thirty years, they’re by far our best crop yet. In fact, I think I’m safe to say the same about all the staff, in all the shops and, particularly, the kitchen.