By S Haslam
Many consumers just want their meat cheaper, and don’t really want to know how that’s done. Often the only descriptive word applied to meat is ‘tender’, but how about ‘high animal welfare’ or ‘processed on farm’?
Sending cattle to an abattoir stresses the poor creatures. Some of the stresses are physical, such as lack of food and water, plus the unfamiliar environment involves mixing with unknown cattle, slips and falls that cause bruised meat, loud noises including bellowing that increase stress, as well as prodding by the staff focused on maintaining an adequate speed of slaughter.
The resultant stress to the animals is not only a cause of animal suffering, it also reduces the effectiveness of the whole exercise because it uses up sugars, which in turn negatively affects the quality of the meat. Killing and processing the animals on the farm could reduce these sorts of stresses.
Those consumers who have decided to continue eating meat hold the economic power to change the lives of animals, more so than vegans, and somewhat encouragingly there are a number of meat eaters, a bit over a third, who say that animal welfare would be the main reason they would purchase one red meat over another. And more than a half of meat-eating consumers would actually pay more for that meat if it tasted better and had higher animal welfare, according to research by Provenir, a company that has developed a mobile abattoir on a semi-trailer to slaughter and process cattle on the farm.
While it might be considered a little depressing that only 79 per cent of meat eaters consider animal welfare at all when purchasing red meat, there are obviously a growing number of consumers interested in being what Matthew Evans (Gourmet Farmer, On Eating Meat) calls ‘ethical omnivores’, interested in grass-fed, dry hung meat with a certain provenance guaranteeing an ethical source with the greatest possible animal welfare.
Provenir only deals in grass-fed cattle, and their mobile abattoir is housed in a truck trailer. Despite the widespread use of the term ‘paddock to plate’, the correct phrase should be ‘paddock to abattoir to plate’; meat slaughtered on the farm can be used for family consumption but cannot be sold – the cattle need to be live transported to an abattoir. Farmers are concerned about the fact that their cattle, which they have cared for for their whole life, need to be sent thousands of kilometres to an abattoir, and then often stay there for days before they are processed. In addition, farmers often don’t know where their cattle end up, the hard work they have done ensuring top-quality beef is undone in the abattoir process and there is little feedback to the farmer regarding quality.
With the backing of Meat & Livestock Australia, Provenir commenced operating in June in southern NSW, although they are available to operate throughout NSW and are also moving into Victoria.
According to general manager Sarah Butler, they supply selected restaurants, some boutique retail outlets and home delivery boxes to certain areas in Australia. ‘Each piece of packaged meat sold can be scanned so the consumer can access information on the farm, farmer, land practices and breed etc so that they can see exactly what they are eating and where it came from,’ she said.
More info at provenir.com.au.