Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Spoiler Alert! Jimmy and The Giant Supermarket

Tomorrow night is the Australian (free tv) screening of Jimmy and the Giant Supermarket on SBS. 8:35 Jimmy And The Giant Supermarket "Meatballs - Rare breed pig farmer Jimmy Doherty goes inside Britain's biggest supermarket, Tesco, to come up with innovative ideas to produce equally cheap but higher-welfare alternatives to their best-selling meat products. In the first episode, Jimmy tries to transform Tesco's own brand meatballs. In doing so, he spots an opportunity to tackle one of dairy farming's biggest secrets - the killing each year of tens of thousands of male dairy calves because there's no market for them. (From the UK) (Documentary Series) (Part 1 of 3) PG CC" This guy has had a number of shows back in the UK… and as he is a ‘celebrity’ rare breed pig farmer, I am keen to see how he is as a host. (
As for the subject, the idea that the supermarkets own brand products can be ethically produced for the same price is AWESOME! I’m not saying it wouldn’t be a challenge, but Tesco has agreed that it will adopt these if it can be done. Now Tesco have been involved with a few innovative products /TV series- good PR, yes. But why not? To be fair the UK market is far more competitive than here (well Nth QLD at least). So I guess the saying any publicity is good publicity works. As Tesco remain the UK’s largest market share. I have to admit, I have read what this ‘opportunity’ is that they have mentioned. And its not a new concept and he’s not the first celebrity foodie to promote it. Personally I use the same sort of principle at our place when it come to producing chickens for laying and then chickens for consumption… meat. There are many out there that fail to realise that to produce milk, a cow need to have a calf. Much like any other mammal.
Now female calves, being girls, will obviously be of use to a dairy farmer in their future years. Or be viable resource for sale, so are raised as such. Males on the other hand, are not useful to a dairy farmer; who in all honesty is paid to produce a product. A product that they are required to share with the caves. So to achieve the greatest output possible male calves are culled. They offer no value to the farmer, for sale or stock and deplete the milk stores. Similar process happens in many hatcheries (producing laying birds). Roosters (cockerels) are not of use and therefore would decrease profits to feed. So most are killed, once sorted from day old.
We made a decision when we begun breeding our flock that males would be grown for meat or sale, regardless of their breed. Obviously certain breeds make better table stock than others, but chicken is chicken. I have often wondered how much ‘potential meat’ is lost through modern practices. I mean raising produced based on type, species or breed of animal for its ideal purpose makes sense. But on the other hand, what about anything that is produced as a subsequence that doesn’t quite fit the brief. I mean the potentials such as ‘pink veal’ of dairy billy calves (told you this was a spoiler) and the roosters from hen hatcheries. But can we go further? What about the chickens produced for meat sales that do not make their weight targets? It is common practices for birds that are below weight, by a set time scale to be culled… I have often thought that whilst they will not make the desired weight for roast chickens or whole chickens on the supermarket self. Surely they could serve some viable purpose. I understand whilst the farmer may not wish to feed it further, as it would be literally eating into its profits. But that bird still carries a food source suitable for other chicken products or uses. Just discarding that life as it doesn’t meet a standard and timescale appears pointless! The issue with my theory that these deaths should be utilised is that the farmer may not have a contact for such produce. And as this source is based on stock not meeting a standard, you can not guarantee supply, how could they? They may not be able to provide to another buyer, contractually. Furthermore, they have to transport that animal to slaughter, separate it and transport it elsewhere. So I am far from blaming the farmer for making a living. I guess I am merely pointing out that there are flaws in many of today’s practices, other than the obvious animal welfare conditions that often get discussed. Many farmer would like to farm more ‘ethically’, but it is’t financially viable. And not many have an ‘innovative’ foodie, backed by a large supermarket chain offering cash for diversifying into their bi-products. But there are ‘opportunities’ out there. I guess much of the problem is our expectations and preconceptions as consumers. I often get frustrated with people who will only eat certain cuts of meat; the popular ones, such as chicken breasts or certain chops or ‘the best steaks’… Well guess what? An animal was killed for that particular part. So by all means appreciate the cut and enjoy it, but have the decency to appreciate an animal was responsible for producing that. So subsequently it also produced less popular cuts. How many people turn their noses up at offal? It was a standard meal to my grandparents. Don’t get me wrong there are bits I have tried, which I have little interest in eating again. Like chicken feet and pig’s ears. But they are viable protein sources and should not be knocked. I admit with our birds, chicken feet are either fed to the dogs (as a treats for days to come), or I was delighted when a work colleague asked Matt if we could save the feet for his father in future. I was happy to oblige and he apparently serves up an awesome Yum cha. And I am not necessarily just discussing meat. Does it not strike you as strange that an apple or a capsicum (pepper) in Woolworths or Coles (Asda or Tesco) look significantly more pristine than those at your local greengrocer, farmers market or local veg stall. I am not saying they are inferior, quite the reverse. I mean the stuff I grow in my garden has far more lumps and bumps than the supermarket produce does. And I know this is not that they are far more competent growers than I am (even if that is probably true). Also I have far more exciting varieties of fruit and veg, that you just don’t see on the supermarket shelves. It seems ridiculous that so many people are struggling to put food on the table and farmers are struggling to get a decent price for their stock, when perfectly good potential food is going to waste. Am still looking forward to watching the show. How about you?