Slow Meat Symposium 2018 report

Slow Meat Symposium 2018 report

At the end of last month, a motley crew of farmers, butchers, chefs and fair food advocates gathered together in Daylesford, Victoria, for the Slow Meat Symposium 2018 to discuss the trials, tribulations and progress of the 'Slow Meat' movement in Australia. 

Last year was the inaugural Australian Slow Meat Symposium at which our Mr Bone was a guest speaker. This year, our Mrs Feather participated as a guest speaker and facilitator.

The Slow Meat Symposia are supported by the local Slow Food chapter and organised by the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance. The event is actually the initiative of the irrepressible, smart and passionate fair food advocate, farmer and butcher, Tammi Jonas of Jonai Farm who attended the US Slow Meat Symposium and decided we needed one here too. 

The Symposium's aim as stated by AFSA is as follows.

'The aim of the Slow Meat Australia Symposium is to enable the critical discussions needed to enable a shift away from the unsustainable and unethical practices of intensive industrial livestock production. Slow Meat Australia aims to educate the public and industry about the ecological and social costs associated with intensively-produced meat and highlight the regenerative and ethical alternatives. Over time, advocates for Slow Meat want to see an industry move towards the highest welfare, pastured farming systems that nourish land, animals and people.'

This year, the Symposium brought celebrity butcher and educator Adam Danforth out from the US to contribute to the discussion and conduct a butchery masterclass. (We were fortunate enough to inveigle Adam to come up to Sydney afterwards to run a class here at Feather and Bone - read about that here.)

The Symposium started on Sunday 23 September with farm tours to Vue de Volcan duck farm and Brookvale mixed farm where we all huddled in the freezing wind, gazing admiringly at Churchill, Brookvale's splendid, heritage breed, British White bull.

The next morning we gathered at the Daylesford Town Hall for a day of discussion and workshops, facilitated by our MC, the veteran food writer, Richard Cornish. We started with three, short 'lightning' talks - loosely around the topics of heritage breeds and the idea of 'Eat better meat less' - given by the excellent Michael Hicks, pig farmer and owner of Extraordinary Pork near Dubbo, our Mrs Feather and Adam Danforth.

Lunch was a fascinating, four station meal pairing local female chefs with local produce and illustrating ingenious and delicious ways to use the whole animal. At the close of the day, Matthew Evans, TV presenter, author and farmer at Fat Pig Farm, gave an eloquent summary of the conversations and reminded us all that food is about celebration and that we will win hearts, minds and stomachs by concentrating our efforts on reinforcing the joyful and positive power of food to bring people together.

Day three of the Symposium, Tuesday 25th, was a fascinating, information-rich, half day craft masterclass by Adam Danforth, assisted by Tammi Jonas, during which he demonstrated breaking down a whole, 10 year-old dairy cow. As it turned out, several of the butchers in the audience couldn't resist Adam's invitation to join in - including our excellent apprentice, Will Heath - and it ended up as a sort of wonderful, group butchery session and discussion. Here's Adam at the start and later our Will at work with Adam looking approvingly on.

Adam Danforth Slow Meat

Will cutting at Slow Meat with Adam looking on

After another delicious lunch prepared by local chefs using locally-produced ingredients, everyone settled down for a discussion about slaughter.

This is a very difficult subject for livestock farmers because of the shrinking number of abattoirs in Australia and the pressure that places on farmers who are producing small quantities of animals for local consumption. Consequently, there is a growing move to set up on-farm abattoirs and take back control of the process.

As you'd imagine, this isn't a straightforward exercise. Farmers are permitted to slaughter their own animals for personal consumption but not for public sale and the meat processing industry is rigorously scrutinised and regulated. This is a good thing but it also means that anyone trying to set up their own, on-farm slaughtering facility must comply with a very strict and onerous regulatory system. Several of the farmers we represent are in the process of installing on-farm abattoirs but the closest to operating is Michael Hicks at Extraordinary Pork.

All in all, Slow Meat 2018 was a rich, informative and rejuvenating experience and we're grateful to AFSA, Tammi Jonas and all the producers, chefs and volunteers who gave their time and produce and made it happen. 

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