If you’ve found us a touch serious, harried and quiet this week, it has much to do with financial year end, starting a new company on Pastel and our annual stock take.
All very necessary but very dull, dry evils.
A quirky issue with uploading year end batches to a new company had us down on systems for 2 days and we’ve all been a touch tense, though returning to normal finally. Whatever that is, we have no clue. 🙂
All it takes to return the joy sometimes is just seeing some of the produce that comes in and feeling that sense of being blessed that I feel so often here. It’s the small things that are the large things, without doubt – in this place and on this gravel road.
Like the produce that came off in sterling condition again from our favourite local Jozi organic patch, Chartwell Veggie Patch. Their cocktail tomatoes this week are just so beautiful I had to photograph them and put them up on Instagram. I love it when produce inspires dishes for me. I think that is the heart of the difference cooking needs to be in this revolution of all of ours.
Planning dishes upfront will have you dependent on conveyor belt and factory farmed food. Cooking in this way means thinking about it and approaching it differently. You let the produce dictate the meal. You want to cook with the best you can find from our most sustainable farms and then design meals around what is available.
It pains me when I see people come in with recipes with lists and lists of ingredients that just aren’t seasonal or available and to know that if they want to cook that dish, they are going to have to buy conventionally farmed produce out of season and include cocktails of pesticides in their meal and in the case of animal produce anti-biotics, growth promoters and the upside down inflammatory fat profile of meat raised on GM maize, stress, strain and soy.
It takes more planning to think off the cuff and first buy the best organic seasonal ingredients you can find and then design your meals around them but it’s a joy and that extra time spent on doing so is an investment in connection, energy and nourishment and less time spent at Doctors that I know is well worth it.
Buying from South Africa’s most sustainable farms means everything being done differently.
It means we commit to one farm, the best that I have been able to find in my search to represent the most authentic, a journey I will never stop. If this model doesn’t work in the long run, I’ll find another way but I’m not going away, this vocation is in my bloodstream, this mission too important to give up on.
It means compromising on factory farmed efficiency which is why it has to mean a complete overhaul and redefinition about how much we pay for efficiency and the lack of planning around food that has come to characterize the consumerist culture we find ourselves in.
As I’ve highlighted in previous articles, there is a huge cost to ‘convenience’ and when it comes to talking about meat, we need to cast a lens on what convenience costs animals behind the scenes once they have to be handled in huge volumes to meet the modern day convenient need of having fresh meat available every 3 days on retail shelves.
Which brings me to a rather contentious point that it is time to put my voice behind – I am going to argue that at this point in time – while the food (r)evolution is as small as it is, though gaining in momentum – for the most – endless supplies of fresh meat is not a sustainable nor eco-friendly practice and that frozen meat from one farm is a very necessary sustainable practice for now.
I’m a little fatigued with trying to defend and explain this so I’m going to stick my neck out here and explain my reasoning more concretely. It’s such an obvious concept to me and I realise that it isn’t obvious if you don’t have a picture of the behind the scenes system that makes fresh meat available topped up in supermarkets every 3 days or less.
When I find a farm to believe in, we’re at step 1 of our ability to get this kind of nourishment as a real reality onto Jozi tables. We next have to find a way to get the produce from that farm to us and here is where as small businesses and farms operating outside the industrial and commercial paradigm, plans make or break.
In order to have fresh chicken, lamb and pork on shelves endlessly, I need to give you a view of what that looks like behind the scenes and why it is not something we can support here.
You have 3-4 days real shelf life on meat on the bone especially. In order to have glossy, perfect packets of fresh cuts available around the clock – you need to be firstly moving very large volumes of those cuts to keep the transport and slaughter scene behind the scenes going to accommodate this and for the cost of transport to make sense.
I hate to be crude but this is the reality of it. If I wanted to make sure you have fresh cuts of chicken for example endlessly available and all moving within 3 days before it goes off – I have to have an endless conveyor belt supply going behind the scenes – a model that is dependent on volumes and efficiency. The transport system to get this to the fridges can only work on large volumes and a round the clock slaughter and transport system. That is the very real nature of it. And that is not a pun – there is nothing much relevant to nature about it.
You must have batches of chickens being slaughtered every 3 days – huge volumes to make that work – we aren’t a volumes based business, we are a business based around selling sustainably produced food from real farms that are for divorced from this system and don’t do ‘volumes’.
I could get you fresh lamb for example – on the shelves every 3 days – but then I would need to buy from a co-operative which is how most ‘free range’ lamb is brought. That means a broad network of anonymous farmers are delivering lamb to the abattoir under that protocol, it has to be to meet the volumes and it has to be to get the amounts out that make the logistics work. It is not meaningful, if it was, I would have done it.
An utter impossibility when we are buying the way we are. Let’s stick with the lamb example. I found one of the most authentic Karoo farms for true wild lamb farming in one of the cleanest regions in the world – named the second for soil, water and air cleanliness in the world by National Geographic – Tarkastad. We found a Karoo lamb family, the Venters, that have been farming in one time old way for decades. This is not ‘free range’ lamb, to call it that would be a dilution of who and what they are.
Driving around a vast Karoo landscape and seeing sheep and lamb dotted all over the wild terrain un-managed, foraging on Karoo fynbos and shrub- that is real Karoo farming and not comparable to free range where lambs are kept in more managed pens fed grass – is more meaningful than ‘free range’.
This farm is very far away. We are not doing volumes and volumes of lamb. We are committing first to this farmer and then have to design a route that makes sense – without the volumes and efficiency volumes gives you – to make it feasible.
Of course – we cannot have full trucks driving out of the Karoo to Joburg every 3 days – we aren’t in the volume, conveyor belt model and this farm can’t do volumes either, it’s not built for that and that’s why we want it in the first place. So to make the numbers work, one trip needs to be made when there is enough to justify the cost of it. To make that work, the lamb has to be frozen at the abattoir otherwise we can’t make this work.
It drives me donkey ratty when people think of frozen meat as backward as if this is a bad thing! Progress is not a holy grail in our world – progress is what got us into the food mess we are currently in that makes good food very hard to find.
Yes, it is backward. That’s why we call this a (R)evolution – we accept that we need to go backwards in order to move forwards.
If you want to buy truly sustainable meat, you would need, yes, to go back to chest freezers like your grandparents did. Like farmers did, farmers wives would cook what they could when it was available and when they had it and then freeze the rest to survive the year. Farmers wives didn’t run off to convenience stores to buy glossy packets of fresh chicken breasts. a whole animal would be slaughtered, they would make the best of it, live true nose to tail eating, make the most of the slaughter one one animal and they would freeze the cuts to last them until the next slaughter.
Fresh meat in endless supply on retail shelves is by it’s very nature a conventional practice and part of the efficiency of the anonymous, volumes based, conveyor belt, factory farmed system which props up big food and big retail to their advantage, not yours and not the animals, not the soil, not water, not air and certainly not the farmers. It’s the guys in the middle and at the end in retail that it benefits the most.
Of course this isn’t relevant when you are dealing with small, independent butchers as they are moving the volumes and only cutting as needed, I’m talking specifically about what it takes to have fresh cuts of meat endlessly available, being re-stocked in traditional retail and why this does not fit in with the sustainable model we are trying to carve out.
CTOrganics Pastured Chicken is another example. I stand for this farm in the Midlands because I believe it is one of the most compelling pastured chicken farms I have yet found. To get it up here for you from the Midlands, we have to order enough to make the whole exercise work for the farmer, he can’t come up with fresh packets re-stocking us every 3 days nor is it sustainable to be slaughtering every 3 days, these are not large factory farms like this churning out endless supplies of chicken.
They rear them properly and then at one time, they are ready for slaughter and it happens once in small groups. The chicken has to then get frozen immediately so that we can make the transport work to get it here and have it available in the freezers until the next slaughter.
Same with what are almost becoming iconic here, the large whole chickens from The Free Range Food Company – these chickens all get raised together – slaughtered in one go and then it’s months before there are more ready, he doesn’t have batches of different ages all over his farm, it is not a factory. It is a farm.
I had to bite my tongue a couple of weeks back when a grumpy sour man (it would be ok in other words if I never laid eyes on him again) muttered in the store that he was unhappy our chicken was frozen. I tried to explain to him that we buy from one farm and to make it work the meat has to be frozen immediately, that fresh chicken would mean I had to buy from co-operatives that have mass systems working behind the scenes to accommodate the large numbers of animals that need to be involved to make it work.
He wasn’t interested and I shut down bothering to go any further with him when he snapped ‘I don’t care, I can get fresh free range chicken down the road’. He’s not my customer. I relaxed inside. My case rested and my point made. There is a reason I do not buy from the farm he was talking about, yes I can get fresh ‘free range’ chicken from them – because the damn farm looks like a conveyor belt system behind the scenes.
They stick to the bare minimum standard of ‘free range’ that the Department of Agriculture sets – which means they keep a token door open at the back of the barn that looks no different to a conventional one – feed the chickens pellets and keep them in an efficient system – the ammonium burns I have seen on the feet of those chickens testament to the green-washing nonsense this ‘farm’ stands for. It’s slick and yes convenient but in no way meaningful according to my standards which is the only place I can run this business from, what I believe in and am prepared to put my name behind.
When I first encountered the very farm he was talking about – they lied about the feed not containing growth promoters – I actually checked with the feed scientist who made up the feed, it was an utter green-wash and mis-represented. the chicken had been marketed as ‘free range, without antibiotics or hormones’ for years when the feed was littered with a host of growth promoters.
Not on my watch, not in my store – even though it would make my life a lot easier, my cash flow a lot less stressful and I would be able to meet the more mainstream demand for fresh chicken pieces.
It isn’t sustainable in our context right now to have the meat from the farms I stand behind for good reason, endlessly available in fresh packets, replenished every 3 days.
We are standing for your right to connect to produce from South Africa’s most sustainable farms first, doing what we need to, to make it work which means nose to tail eating and working our ways around the restrictions we face that make this a non-efficient exercise but one of the most meaningful and vital I know of to fix our relationship to nourishment and health.
Volumes and efficiency are bed fellows in the old paradigm. They aren’t in this (r)evolution. The quality of the farm comes first, the values behind the farm and whether it is truly sustainable are the core focus – and that’s hard to explain and hard to defend but that is my starting place.
I am not here to meet modern day needs for convenience in the Jozi world.
I am here to show you that there is another way if you put farmers, soil, animals, your own health, nutrient dense food grown without harm and the environment first, that it will connect you to something that will be worth your while. I’m here to help you get less dependent on a food system that harms all and I need to back every decision I make in this regard.
Frozen meat from one farm that is traceable is not efficient. It makes having a store difficult. It means asking people to plan their meals and thinking around that farm and appreciating that because this isn’t a volumes model – we need to accept that transport doesn’t happen in a system – that the farm gives us what they can, when they can and celebrate how that manifests.
This idea that frozen meat is backwards is absolutely true. We want backwards – this is a (R)evolution – going back in order to move forward as we now acknowledge that our grandparents and those that came before the industrial revolution had a sense to their chest freezers, had a sense to cooking in batches and freezing, had a sense to the slaughter one animal at a time and sense to then freezing the cuts and living with nose to tail eating that made their food last and made them not dependent on the convenience of running to a store to buy fresh packets of meat, that would never have made sense to them when they knew they had to not waste and make the best out of what was seasonal – and freeze for other months.
Thinking about the view behind the scenes I wanted to give you a lens on, I compare the truck loads of cattle for example that are a part of the beef industry to the 1 animal slaughtered at a time by Tom from Brennaissance. One animal that they carefully transport to the abattoir and this farmer who stays there to make sure it is treated well and not stressed or subjected to queues.
That one animal at a time, gets sent to the store and we have to sell every cut of it to make sense of it. Such a different model of eating with the farmer’s reality and needs as the focus point, it’s not comparable to what the scene looks like if we’re doing 100 cattle, or even 20 – then you are dependent on the volumes model and that is a conveyor belt system.
Yes, the price would come down on this beef if we were doing 10 – but we aren’t and for now the only way I can make this work for you, for the farmer, the animal and the store is to do it the right way, the price of this type of farming will never and cannot compete with volumes based beef. A farmer that is leaving his cattle for 5 years on a vast stretch of biodiverse veldt and not getting volumes based efficiency cannot compete with their pricing, it has to be sustainable and you are paying as much for the longer time it took to rear that animal right – without volume based efficiency as you are to connect to a farmer who is not leaving his animal untended to trucks and a mass slaughter. It’s an entirely different paradigm, in time, the pricing will come down when we can do more which brings all the costs down, bit by bit, but we aren’t there yet – we have to keep up the demand so that farmers like this stay in it and we have to pay for the fact that they are attempting to do this in small numbers which means they can’t be volumes efficient or compete with the price of other models, most especially not the factory farming one.
Having only eaten meat from my store for too many years now, I am utterly adamant that there is no loss of quality of this meat when it’s been frozen. I live on it, I have defrosted packet after packet for years and outside of freezer burn odd packs, there is no loss of flavour or quality in this meat and I can’t find any fresh cuts that compete with the quality of what these farms give us. I can’t. Where this notion came from that frozen meat, frozen immediately is inferior to fresh cuts came from – I don’t know but it is utter poppycock.
How we do this differently as we gather momentum, we’ll work this out bit by bit, it’s a new road and it hasn’t been done here yet before, truly sustainable produce from direct farms sold in a store environment with the normal overheads of traditional retail but with a fraction of the supply, a fraction of the consumer base and a fraction of the margin that conventional retailers make on low cost factory goods.
It’s a brave attempt but I have no choice than to stand here and do this because this is my calling and these are the farmers I want to eat from and connect you to for the rest of my life. Nothing makes more sense than being on this road less travelled for me.
It’s an unfolding journey in progress with little certainty and many challenges but it results in the fact that I can eat meat and produce from farmers I know and farms I have walked and trust and know that I’m eating the cleanest food I can find and that is what I want to connect you to.
Before I end off, while meat from our most sustainable farms is the topic, for those of you who were waiting for the lamb chop packs from Aldersyde Farm – Tarkastad Karoo – they’re in.
We are fully stocked on the Brennaissnce Boran Beef – wholly reared on a farm with no crops – only reared on the biodiverse veldt grasses this indigenous breed belongs with. This beef is in a league of its own in the true sense of the word. The only thing that is holding me up from the article to introduce you to the very special farmer behind this is waiting to get a photographer to finish the pictures. I have decided this is vital, if I’m going to write articles that do these farmers the justice they deserve, I can’t be taking rubbish pictures on my phone. I have a photographer commissioned now to capture these farmers with pictures as powerfully as I feel them in words.
I also wanted to share a quick snack, breakfast or lunch idea with you that i discovered this morning by accident.
I had left the house with bone broth inside me for breakfast. I had made a very rich gelatinous stock from the Brennaissance Beef bones that I had literally let slow cook for a week, it comes out as pure gelatine and I’m trying to heal an angry gut that has been very unhappy with my testing too much xylitol and maltitol chocolate lately and I also want an amino rich broth as it helps me so much with muscle recovery from gym, building lean muscle tissue, never mind the collagen which is a prerequisite at my age 🙂 Anyhow – I needed something else once I was in and grabbed some of the Life Bake grain free toast slices – made with just flax, sunflower and pumpkin seeds – smeared some of Mooberry’s raw butter over those with some Buttanut almond butter, a sprinkle of organic sweet paprika and then topped that with a generous handful of the ClannWilliams micro-greens.
It was delicious. I’d highly recommend it.
Barry Sergeant has sent us some buchette this week too and a sample so that we can have it out for you on tomorrow’s tasting table so look out for that.
Also look out for the great organic cucumbers – deficient in the 10 odd something pesticides that are a part of a conventional one – from Aloe Dale.
See a link here to a clip of the farm project she is supporting that you are directly supporting by purchasing them. In our spotlight on Jozi Real Food (R)evolutionary heroes and heroines this week, the focus was squarely on the force Merryn from Aloe Dale, read the article about why, here.
She is another gem of ours in this vital road we all walk.
I’m going to play this week-end with a cucumber and radish soup idea with the Gourmet Greek yoghurt that is calling me, just not enough hours in the day but I’ll get there.
Right, I shall shut up now and I think end off with the words of Barry Sergeant – the passionate farmer and true shepherd behind the Beatrix Mountain Goats Farm, about factory farming he says this:
Since it first stood up on its ugly hind legs during the 1970s, factory farming has steadily extended its grip of the world. It is a highly competitive force, unrelenting in its hunt for profits, and ruthless and cruel in its treatment of animals, and anything else. The proponents of factory farming have lots of power, excessively big mouths (which serve as drains for the industrial quantities of dribble produced by egos of a magnitude unknown in history), nothing resembling a conscience, and no guiding principle except for opportunism. They are hyenas without the beauty and diversity of hyenas. Rest assured, there are some of us that find factory farming, and its preachers and disciples, plain repulsive. We will continue to follow the ancient trails, until we are blown into dust.
And we will.
Thank you for the dialogue and for being on this road with us.
Your support of these types of farmers and your engagement with the topics of real food consciousness connects you to some incredible people – we are all walking this together and I hope to show you what a special group of people you connect with as you help us shape the very real, very here Jozi Real Food (R)evolution which belongs to us, a collaboration of you, these farmers, the best food artisans we can find and the best of SA’s real food heroes and heroines.
Endlessly blessed to be here, through the muck, mess joy and sense of it all – with you.
Yours in the Jozi Real Food Revolution,
The Organic Natural and Whole Food Emporium
011 514 0958
Shop 31b Bryanston Shopping Centre, rooftop entrance, Corner William Nicol and Ballyclare Drive, Bryanston