I’ve written before about reducing meat consumption – the amount we eat – and I’ve also covered tips on cutting food waste, but I wanted to tackle a crossover aspect; reducing meat waste specifically.
Usually when I write about meat topics, comments are made about the fact we shouldn’t eat it at all – that we should pursue a vegetarian or vegan diet.
That’s probably quite true; but meat consumption isn’t going to go away any time soon – in fact it probably never will; so aside from how we source meat and how much of it we consume, we also need to look at meat waste in relation to the products we buy.
Something that has helped me greatly in addressing this issue in my own life is remembering a simple point:
A living, breathing creature has died to provide me with that meal.
.. and there is also a possibility it didn’t live and die well.
That being the case, that meat we obtain deserves a very special kind of respect and no part of it should be wasted.
Abattoirs and slaughterhouses, for all their other issues, can be quite efficient in this aspect – not out of respect for animals, but profits. Cuts that can’t be sold for human consumption go to pet food manufacture, other waste might be made into fertilizer or feed for the same type of animal that the waste has come from. The latter is a bit of a frightening prospect, but the point I’m making is that is used.
We need to practice meat waste reduction in our own homes too.
For example, have you checked your freezer lately? You may have meat products in there heading towards their expiry date. Perhaps consume those before buying or using anything else to ensure they don’t wind up being thrown out and winding up in landfill. The same goes for items in your refrigerator and even canned goods.
A frozen chicken that you have to throw out is one whose life was totally and utterly wasted – regardless of how it was raised and slaughtered.
Also ensure that meat you don’t have frozen is suitably wrapped – sandwich meat slices can go off incredibly quickly, particularly if they’ve been already sitting in deli section of a supermarket for a while already. In fact, I’ve just about given up on buying deli meats due to what seems to be an increasingly shorter shelf life. Sealed sandwich meats will last a lot longer, but then there’s the packaging aspect.
When meat is served, encourage your family to eat it all and in the case with meat on the bone, not just the bits that are easy to get at. I think once children are a certain age, mentioning that an animal died to provide that meal may be worth considering. It seems obvious I know, but we’ve become so disconnected from our food, we often forget these truths and it can also lead to further discussions about meat in our diets – the ethical and environmental impacts.
If you have pets, pick over what’s left to give to them – you might be surprised how much you can get off a chicken carcass that is perfectly fine for a cat or a dog’s next meal.
While throwing meat waste such as bones into a normal compost pile or worm farm isn’t recommended as it can attract vermin, something I remember seeing at a house I lived in was the previous owners had a bunch of bones in what was the vegetable patch.
From what I could gather, they put fresh meat waste into a hole, covered it up for a while to allow for any meat scraps to decompose (and probably put something over the top to stop animals digging down to them), then dug them up, broke the bones up and then redug them into the garden. Bones have all sorts of nutrients beneficial for plants.
Aside from animals dying to provide us with meat, an awful lot of resources go into producing it. Meat is really a luxury that has wreaked a terrible toll on the environment; and it’s something we need to remember.
By the way, mock meat products have come a long way – you can have your burger and eat it too :).