Award-winning US butcher, Adam Danforth & the value of older animals
Respect for maturity! In this article, Richard Cornish interviews Adam Danforth, the award-winning American butcher and educator about the growing appreciation for the superior welfare and flavour outcomes of eating older animals with slower-growing genetics.
(If you can't get to see Adam in action at the Slow Meat Symposium 2018 in a few weeks, then come to the class he's doing at our place on 29 September - get your tickets here.)
The modern meat industry is predicated on prioritising size and speed to market at the expense of welfare, genetics, environment, flavour and healthy eco-systems. It's very heartening to see that the move away from this is starting to permeate beyond just the Slow Meat fringe dwellers who have been advocating a different approach for decades.
However, it's worth noting that, while businesses like ours have spent the last 12 years advocating the benefits of meat from older animals, there are substantial barriers to negotiate before this becomes a viable option for many farmers and consumers.
For example, keeping your animals on the ground for up to three times longer than your competitors is expensive and requires a completely different farming strategy. If you're growing beef, older animals are, obviously, bigger and many abattoirs won't process animals over 600 kg for domestic consumption. Which brings you back to genetics and, again, a completely different farming strategy.
The appeal of using 'spent' dairy or breeding cows is undeniable but, as Peter Greenham says in Richard's article, "you can't just process any old cow and think she's going to eat well." Genetics and farming, again.
So, while the likes of Neil Perry celebrate the super-expensive, niche end of the market, the fact is that most of us don't regularly spend several hundred dollars on a steak.
If we're going to bring the rest of the country around to the idea that slower is better and that the war on waste needs to include meat, then we need a more inclusive strategy.
Feather and Bone is a Slow Meat business. Since we started in 2006, we've exclusively purchased whole, pasture-raised bodies directly from regenerative producers who work in direct opposition to the focus on speed to market. Our beef is always minimum 24 months old, we practise traditional dry-ageing and we preference heritage or slow-growing breeds that are developed for flavour and resilience.