Sustainable development may seem like an oxymoron of sorts. Leading scientists like David Suzuki believe that infinite exponential growth is impossible, yet we continue to pursue it like our entire existence is ready to collapse the moment we slow down, even if only for a moment... Hmmm.. Something to ponder over...
It's an exciting time to be in the thick of learning all about environmental science and the flow-on effects of human activity. For the first time in human history, more people are now living in urban areas than anywhere else. While many of us may never see a productive plot bigger than a 2 x 4m terrace yard or splash knee-high through a spring stream teeming with fry, we all eat and agriculture is central to all of our lives whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.
Pick a supermarket. Any supermarket. Traipse down an aisle and already we're completely overwhelmed trying to make head or toe of the nutritional content of breakfast cereals let alone delve into the complex world of sustainable food production. Luckily we have Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) to do the dirty work for us. They invest bajillions of dollars a year into improving and refining the sustainability of our country's meat production.
MLA copped a fair bit of flack in recent months over the live export shit in Indonesia which is a little silly if you ask me. Solutions have to be culturally appropriate if they're going to work out in the long term without requiring constant babysitting. Jumping the gun would be like giving my 90 year-old grandpa (shrivelled hippocampus, dementia and all, who has taken to waltzing around his home naked) an iPad to read the paper with and then wondering why it's hiding in the dishwasher two months later. But anyway... As usual, MLA is a proud supporter of homegrown Aussie produce and soldiers on with what it does best - promoting sustainability and better industry practices.
With a global population of over 6 billion, we have a huge influence on the wellbeing of our habitat, and we have an inherent responsibility to minimise the environmental impact of our everyday lives. As an omnivorous species, each and every meal we consume provides another opportunity to support environmentally friendly practices and steer away from those that do more harm than good. According to food writer Richard Cornish, one of the most practical ways to eat more sustainably is to have a relationship with the butcher. Not on the side of course. The milk man would never get over it. Mortal enemies they are.
Jokes aside, Richie makes a solid point. Laughing at the occasional joke, smiling, asking about a favourite recipe and building a rapport with the people behind the counter allows you to sneak in special orders for butcher's cuts, beautiful sweet meats and things that may normally be harder to find like venison, wild rabbit, marrow, brains (if you swing that way), dry-aged beef and whatnot. An animal is killed every time we want to eat and what we don't buy gets pulped and goes into rubbish like pet food. Venture out of the pre-packaged cuts and experiment with lesser known parts. Give every part of the animal the respect that they deserve. Try something new! Be bold and daring!
Secondary cuts such as brisket, flat meats, neck, shin and shank are all beautiful and can be braised gently for hours and hours and hours until they're melt-in-the-mouth tender. As a general rule, darker parts of animals contain a higher level of myoglobin and are more flavoursome. They've had a bit more of a workout and take a little more love and care to prepare than overly popular (bland) cuts like steak and fillet, but they're more forgiving and the rewards can be bloody amazing. I promise you'll be pleasantly surprised and if you're lucky, you might feel the twinge of a warm and fuzzy feeling creeping into your belly after eating a little more sustainably. :)