What is ethical eating?
I guess eating ethically can mean different things to different people. For some people it means eating food that is grown and sourced locally. Others might be interested in the Fair Trade aspect of the crops that they eat or the coffee that they drink. Other people are concerned with soil sustainability or organic farming.
When I think about ethical eating, I think about how the meat I eat was raised, and the life of the chickens who laid the eggs I eat. Have these animals lived a life as nature intended.
By this I mean "has the animal lived its most natural life, or the most natural life that it can in a farming environment" Has the animal been pasture raised and treated well? Is the animal free to roam outdoors, forage, give birth to babies and raise them outdoors. Are the animals free to roll in the dirt and feel the sun on their bodies. Do they have enough room to move around with good access to food and water.
You might think that these things are a given when it comes to farming animals, but they're not.
We exist in a time where industrialised farming is incredibly prevalent in our food chain. There is a HUGE demand for meat these days, and a HUGE demand for cheap meat. This means that our meat can be looked at as a commodity rather than an animal with needs and the ability to feel pain and suffering.
Often the produce from these industrialized, or "factory farms" are confined to small cages that are barely big enough to hold the animals bodies. Some times a small cage can hold more than one animal in the case of battery egg-hens. An alternative to cages is an over-stocked barns where the animals can hardly move just so we can have a cheap piece of chicken or pork. Often animals (especially poultry) are bred to grow so fast that the weight of their bodies literally crush their bones and renders them unable to walk to their source of food or water. Sheep and cattle can spend a good part of their life being "finished off" on grain which means weeks and months standing in concrete floored feed-lots.
So why don't I stop eating meat? I LOVE meat, I love the taste of it and how easy it is to cook with. I also want to support those small producers who are farming ethically...I'm putting my money where my mouth is. We try to only buy free-range eggs and meat at home, and when I eat out I try to make ethical choices which means often not ordering meat. Sometimes when dining with other I just have to "go with the flow" and sometimes the temptation of Chinese BBQ Pork is too much to resist...I'm not perfect, just trying to do the best I can.
Below is a list of suppliers, markets and restaurants that I've found use meat raised from ethical sources. Read it and EAT!
I like shopping at ethical butchers as they understand my questions (or they understand why I'm asking them) and I trust them 110%. I feel that we're on the "same page" so to speak.
Often free-range doesn't mean "free-range" as there are actually no guidelines that govern the industry, so I like to ask A LOT of questions before buying. Free-range can often mean the animals are raised in a barn, but there is a door to the outside world...if the animals can see it or get to it then more power to them.
If you really want to ensure the meat you're eating has lived it's life outdoors ask if it is "pasture raised".
There are a few ethical butchers around Sydney, and these guys are my favourites:
- Hudson Meats - these guys have various locations around Sydney and have a strong "pasture to plate" philosophy with much of their stock being pasture raised (though they seem to have many different suppliers so I'd clarify what is what). They do stock small goods like salami so I'd ask about the provenance of things like this"just to be sure".
- Farmgate - has a shop at Redfern and a stall at Orange Grove Markets.
- Feather and Bone - has a shop/ factory at Rozelle.
- The Free Range Butcher - has a shop at Pennant Hills and stalls at Orange Grove and Castle Hill Markets.
- Urban Food Market- has a shop/ factory at Marrickville.
There are some restaurants who really put it out there that the meat they cook with is pastured raised and ethically sourced. Others just quietly go about there business and if you didn't ask you wouldn't know their meat is free range. The moral of the story? If you don't ask you don't know.
I'm listing below the places that I've been too - so my experience is first hand. If you know of other places please let me know as I'd love to visit them.
Who's putting it out there?
These restaurants make a point of being upfront on their menu about what comes from where. I like this A LOT! Some places mention "free-range" on their menu with regards to certain dishes, but I think the few restaurants below could probably tell you the name of the chook your eating and its date of birth.
Because I'm an anal-retentive control freak with slight OCD tendencies I often have a quick chat with the waitstaff about the products anyway, just to see that the particular dish I'm ordering is happy happy happy.
- Billy Kwong
- Lochiel House
- Moo Gourmet Burgers
- Quattro Paste
- Red Lantern
- Two Peas
Who's free range by stealth?
This list is quite large, but as the provenance of the meat isn't listed on the menus at these places I usually ask every time I visit if their meat is free-range. Things change after all.
The other funny thing is that sometimes only some of the meat is free-range. Or they use free-range eggs, but not meat. It can be confusing, so again I like to ask.
- 4Fourteen: on my visit I was told the chicken and pork were free-range.
- Bar H: the last time I visited Bar H they were getting a lot of their meat from Urban Food Market.
- Booth Street Bistro: use free range eggs (or eggs from hens running around in the mud as owner Teresa tells me).
- Cafe Ish: generally all the meat here is ethically sourced.
- Circa Espresso: uses free-range eggs.
- Crown Street Assembly: use mostly free-range meat but the don't mention it on their menu
- Grill'd - this burger joint uses free-range eggs and grass-fed lamb + beef. I hope they come to the party soon add free range bacon and chicken to their menu.
- Hartsyard: nearly everything on the menu is free-range and I think the chef goes to a lot of trouble with his produce sourcing...he's just quiet about it.
- Morena: the Alpacas are all pasture raised (and damn tasty too).
- Porteno; on my last visit they used Saltbush Lamb and free-range Pork.
- Restaurant Atelier: generally all the meat here is ethically sourced.
- Room 10: uses organic free-range eggs. Not sure about their ham/bacon as went ham-less on my visit.
- Spencer Guthrie: the whole philosophy here is "sustainable, local and ethical". The menu doesn't specifically mention this in relation to meat but when I asked I was told the meat is all free-range.
- The Baron: uses free-range eggs and bacon, the other pork products on their menu wasn't free range the last time I asked. They tend to change things up here a bit, so ask.
- The Commons: I know from the Feather and Bone website that The Commons is one of their customers...this plus the produce map in their restaurant is a good clue that they use free-range.
- The Carrington: the last time I visited I was told the that generally all the meat here is ethically sourced, with the exception of their chorizo.
- Three Ropes: uses free-range eggs.
- Tomislav: I know from the Feather and Bone website that Tomislav is one of their customers.
What more information?
The organisations and people below are a great resource if you're wanting to know more than little old Miss Piggy can tell you about:
- Animals Australia
- Humane Choice
- Simon Bryant (you know, the guy from The Cook + The Chef on the ABC)
- The Sustainable Table