You’re choosing some beef to cook for dinner. But is the decision just about whether you’re grilling a steak or making stir-fry, or do you juggle and struggle with thoughts of budget and the environmental impact of your choice?
For some, the answer is “eat better meat, less”, and it’s a mantra that will be a focus of conversation at the Australian Slow Meat Symposium, a three-day event in Daylesford, Victoria, that starts this weekend. Paul West, host of River Cottage Australia, and Matthew Evans, our Gourmet Farmer and host of the 2016 documentary series For the Love of Meat, will be among those who’ll be taking a closer look at farming and meat eating.
Founder of the Symposium, ethicurean farmer and mindful meatsmith Tammi Jonas, was inspired by a Slow Meat event she attended two year ago in the USA. “I came back and knew that I wanted to galvanise the community to do something about industrialised meat production here,” she tells SBS. Of the slow meat mantra, she adds, “I bang on about all this everyday but we need more people and to call more loudly, and it is starting to happen.”
The symposium, which runs from Sunday to Tuesday, is organised by the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance and the Central Highlands Slow Food branch. The program includes farm visits, butchery and cooking demonstrations, feasts and talks.
Over the three days, events are aimed at different parts of the community. Farm Day on Sunday is for the public. Jonas will explain how to raise animals and she’ll demonstrate butchery, and slow- and quick-cooking of different cuts, allowing visitors insight into how to get the best out of each part of the animal.
Monday is industry day. “Everyone is welcome but we are deliberately focussing on the industry and on breeds … and plan to talk to butchers and chefs as a group,” she explains.
SBS’s Matthew Evans, who will be taking part in Monday’s events and also visiting the Milking Yard on Sunday, will discuss what a ‘slow meat future’ might look like and how to implement it. He takes holistic view of the “eat better meat, less” mantra. “We consider the instinctual needs of the animal, the ecological framework of how we rear them, and the health and wellbeing of the communities who eat and those who rear animals for meat,” he tells SBS Food. "Nothing is isolated, and Slow Meat is about how thinking, caring foodies can have a impact on so many lives around them.”
Paul West, presenter of River Cottage Australia is MC on the Monday and sees the symposium as an opportunity to connect with key people to discuss - among other things - how to bring the issue of meat consumption to a broader audience.
“I don’t want to wag the finger or be preachy,” he says, “as there’s more to celebrate here than anything. I want to encourage people and say, ‘taste this!’, how good is it?”
West’s background as a chef means he’s experienced in cooking offal and secondary cuts and he wants to spread the word on how easy and affordable it is.
“If you’re a family on a budget and you want to buy some meat, $50 per kilogram is too much! So for me, as a cook, I am looking forward to sharing my knowledge about different cuts and sharing how I fell in love with my slow cooker! I can get dinner on in the morning and it’s ready when we’re home for the day.”
He and his family eat meat “two or three times a week, and we don’t eat chicken often”. And says he’d rather eat grass-fed beef or lamb as it’s more accessible. “It’s about educating people,” he says, and just one part of his moderating will include leading group discussions centred around key questions such as how can we get more slow meat into butcher shops and restaurants?
Organisers say that change will take time but hopefully making the choice of which beef to buy will become less of a quandary. One answer, as Matthew Evans says, is “Eat less meat, eat better meat, eat more of the animal and waste nothing.”
Timetable and booking information is available here.