Eating meat is so politically incorrect these days. Especially here in Ubud, where the population of gluten-free vegans per capita is probably higher than anywhere else outside south India.
Many would argue that the term ‘ethical meat’ is an oxymoron. There’s abundant evidence that commercial meat production is highly damaging to the planet and cruelly harmful to the animals.
The horrors of factory farming on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are well known, as are the terrible conditions in which live meat animals are shipped overseas.
But meat is a big part of many cultures and, especially for older people, it’s hard to change. My parents, born in 1920, ate meat at least twice a day and thought vegetarianism was downright dangerous. I grew up with the usual meat-and- two-veg dinners at home. When I went to my grandparents’ farm where I spent most of my holidays, we ate a lot of rabbit. It took me many years to connect the long shed where my grandfather raised 500 sweet albino bunnies with the savoury pot pies we often had for dinner. They told me it was chicken. I’m ashamed to confess how old I was before I thought to question the absence of wings on my plate.
We know that a carefully balanced vegetarian diet is very healthy. But some people, including the Dalai Lama, feel better with some animal protein in the diet. In any case, many of us are eating much less meat than we did 10 years ago. By endorsing ethical meat I’m suggesting that if you do eat meat, make sure that the animal had a good life and a good death.
“Raising animals for meat in good conditions and with natural food is expensive,” says chef Eelke Plaismeijer of Locavore. ”The animals take longer to mature. Without preventive drugs and hormones they require much more space and care. They need plenty of high quality food. So the resulting meat is of course more expensive than CAFO meat.”
And it follows that animals living without stress outside under natural light and eating wholesome food taste a lot better.When animals are raised in concentrated feeding operations they are very prone to contagious illness, so it’s become standard to feed them daily doses of preventative antibiotics. These antibiotics are retained in the meat and passed on to the consumer, which has contributed to the worrying rise in antibiotic resistance. Some poultry operations give probiotics instead but because these are not as effective in preventing disease in overcrowded conditions, the chickens are killed earlier before they can become sick. Yes, that’s why probiotic-fed chickens are so small.
Locavore recently opened Local Parts, which may be Indonesia’s first ethical butcher shop. “Local Parts sources high-quality, healthy animals directly from farms we know and trust,” Eelke explains. “The animals are all free-ranged and eat a high quality natural diet.”
Local Parts is an old-fashioned butchery offering whole ducks and chickens, racks of lamb, all cuts of pork, air-dried beef and a range of fresh sausages, country pate and charcuterie made in-house.
Locavore’s fresh organic lamb comes from the lush plateau of Wanasobo, Central Java. A cross between Merino and local sheep, these animals thrive on the region’s wild herbs and grasses which are fed by clean streams and rivers. The rich, free-range grazing results in a lengthy lambing season with the warmer lowlands producing their lambs first and the hardier uplands producing theirs later. This gives the Locavore kitchen access to lamb all year round.
They use Bali beef, personally selecting each steer and aging it themselves. Locavore’s Muscovy ducks come from a free-range duck farm located in Bali’s central highlands. on wide-open natural spaces, surrounded by organic cultivation. The ducks live outside, drink only filtered water and eat grass, grains, vegetables and fruits.
Most pigs in Bali have very sad lives, confined in small concrete pens and fed a slurry of commercial mash laced with antibiotics. (The situation is similar in the US, Australia and Denmark; although more hygienic, the confinement is even more extreme.) This animal is very challenging to free-range; I’ve kept pigs myself and can confirm that it’s almost impossible to dissuade a pig from going somewhere else if that’s what it wants. But Bali Highland Organik (BHO), a small company in Rendang, Karangasam, has developed a system of free-ranging pigs which is bringing prosperity to local farmers and a better quality of life to the pigs in its care. Impressed by its website, I recently visited BHO to see the operation for myself.
The business provides weaned piglets to participating farmers who keep them in grassy paddocks fenced with modular metal barriers. The pigs eat the grass and a mash of ground corn, soy and rice bran supplemented with fresh papaya and banana trunks. They receive no antibiotics or growth hormones. Every 10 days they are moved to an adjacent new paddock with fresh grass and shelter from the elements.
When the pigs reach about 100 kg BHO takes them back and kills them quickly by electrocution. (You don’t want to know how pigs in Bali are usually dispatched; let’s just say that it’s messy and traumatic.) Then the carcasses are dressed out and processed at the immaculate, state-of-the-art kitchen beside a field of rosemary, chilis and other sausage seasonings.
The farmers gradually pay back the cost of the piglets, feed and fencing through their profits. Bali Highlands Organik is currently working with five farmers and employs 25 local people, most in the processing centre. Here the meat is made into chops, bacon, ham and sausages, some smoked slowly over coffee wood. No chemicals or MSG are used in the process.
Locavore’s chicken is from a co-operative of farmers marketing through Wanaprasta, which trains poor highland producers to free-range their birds. This is also very challenging since hungry dogs and neighbours take a heavy toll, as does drought and rain. Wanaprasta works with farmers and fishers in the poorest parts of Bali to produce sustainable and high quality chicken, duck, pork, fish, fruit and vegetables. It pays the farmers a good price, then processes the harvest at its government-certified production centre in Tagallalang north of Ubud. Here they produce goat cheese, pork sausages, bone broth and an ever-changing range of other artisanal products according to season.
Local Parts (www.localpartsbali.com), Wanaprasta (Facebook page Wanaprasta), Bali Highland Organik (www.balihighlandsorganik.com) and a handful of other ethical meat producers I haven’t yet visited provide sustainable options for thoughtful carnivores. So if you’re going to eat meat, make an occasion of it. Have it once a week and pay the real price of ethical, free-range meat. Yes, it’s expensive. It should be.
Copyright © 2018 Greenspeak
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Ibu Kat’s book of stories
Bali Daze – Free-fall off the Tourist Trail and Retired,
Rewired – Living Without Adult
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