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S5 E6 – Where does our food come from?

As time has gone on, we’ve become more and more detatched from the origins of our food. Pig is pork, cow is beef, chicken comes in nuggets and fish in fingers. How important is it to know how exactly our food is created and once we do know, would that affect what we choose to consume?

Best soundbite: “You see that lamb over there… go drop kick it.” – Jamie Spafford

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  1. Bender

    On my podcast Republic app this episode cuts out early during the Jamie’s daughter segment

    • Dimi

      Yeah it did the same for me on Podcast Addict, and I read below it also did it on iTunes, it cuts off at 31.00 minutes exactly? Not sure why?

  2. theanita1

    I definitely shop with a recipe in mind and then get the ingredients – so I think it’s something I need to be more aware of as I meal prep to be mindful of the seasonality (maybe also something for the sorted cook platform to consider)

  3. Geekisonfire

    I’ve got to say I think a lot of the disconnect comes from your upbringing not necessarily an outsource of trust, especially when you were talking about “could you pull the trigger” I think is a very interesting point, a lot of people I know who didn’t grow up in the country couldn’t, but I spent a lot of time at my grandmas farm and it became something of a routine, I would even help dad round up the chickens who’s necks would be wrung. Very interesting discussion tho with a lot of differing points of view especially with an ever gaping vegan population with more products having to be more conscious of where the food has come from, how it was produced etc.

    • Geekisonfire

      Also as a sort of afterthought I’ve realised that disconnect has happened within my own family, so my little sister never stayed at the farm whilst there were animals there, my grandma had sold all her farm animals apart from her horses and chickens (which at that point were only used for eggs) before my sister was old enough to watch anything happen, and she has a major disconnect with food and animals, to the point she actively avoids educating herself or allowing us to educate her, she won’t be in the same room if we talk about the process of wringing a chickens neck to get the chicken she eats, just a weird thought, especially as she doesn’t eat much meat anyway, but not out of moral or ethical reasons, just purely because she’s not a fan of the flavour or texture.

  4. Ladybug

    That’s a really interesting and a very broad topic to talk about but here are my two cents on it:

    I’m from Lithuania and if you look at how people lived here 20+ years back the main source of food and income was agriculture. Since majority of the people knew how to grow various veggies and fruits as well as how to raise animals for food most did that privately just as much as commercially.

    When I was a kid I was able to have a first row seat to it all. My parents since we lived in a bigger town only grew some veggies and fruits in our garden like potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, apples and such, however my grandparents lived in a small village therefore had more land and (I think) had a much stronger connection with nature than me and my parents did. They raised chickens, pigs, cows, goats pretty much for as long as their health allowed that. Whenever I spent time there I could pet the animals, name them, feed them and all that fun but at the same time I could just as clearly see when those same animals became food (guts and all). I don’t want to bore you too much with the details but I think you get the idea.
    The point is that from day one I was able to “befriend” the animals and at the same time accept the fact that at some point I will have to eat them. In my mind (I think many who grew up in a similar environment would agree) it was simply how the life cycle worked. You know “stronger and bigger eats the smaller and weaker one” type of thing.

    The same goes for the seasonal food. Back in the day people were aware exactly how long they will have to wait for a certain fruit or vegetable to grow and when they will be able to get it. Everything was grown with love and care to get the best quality possible in the environmental conditions they had. To the seasonal goodies we also have to add those that grow in the wild (i.e. mushrooms, blueberries, cranberries). Those things had even more value because people were well aware that the quantity of them depends entirely on nature (i.e. weather conditions). You also knew how bloody long it takes to get a substantial amount of them because you had to go to the forest and pick them one by one all day long just to get a couple kilograms. There was no other option. You either did it or you didn’t have it at all. Simple as that.

    Basically what I’m trying to say is that when people knew exactly how much time and effort it takes to get the food to their table they were much more appreciative of said food and had much more awareness about where and how it comes from.

    Now forwarding things back to this day.
    My believe is that urbanization / globalization is to blame for our detachment from food sources. Now you don’t need to spend the whole day in the garden taking care of your plants or go to the stables to take care of your animals. You don’t need to preserve things for winter and such. The only thing you need is money and you can get your hands on whatever you want all year round. I think many would say “Why should I worry where my food comes from when I already have to worry about having enough money to buy it ?”

    That’s starting to change of course, however humanity had to reach almost a critical point for this to become an important topic. Better now than when it’s too late though.
    People can do amazing things when they band together but awareness is key for success.

    Whew..I rambled on a lot here but I hope at least some of it makes sense. 🙂

  5. nroundtr

    Hi – loved the topic and the thoughts shared! I wanted to say that for some reason the last 4-5 minutes of the podcast were cut off on iTunes, right in the middle of Jamie’s story about his daughter. I don’t know if there was a technical glitch but thought you might want to know. Thanks for offering the podcast on iTunes – it’s what I listen to when I’m in the kitchen!

  6. Dimi

    So many things to think about here, again, I wish I was in the room able to throw in my 2 cents.

    Section 1: Grapes/ breeding out certain varieties of fruits and vegetables as we produce more of the ones we find more appealing. I think Barry has a point of, who will miss them when they’re gone? Should be we bothered? I actually don’t know. I guess I wonder what effects this has on the overall environment/climate/world? I know mono-culture is bad for the environment, but do we need diversity within the different things we are growing? I don’t really know much of the science of it.
    As humans we do tend to care more about animals and whether or not they are going instinct because they are living sentient beings with thought and intelligence. When their demise is mostly our fault, and we have a sense of guilt and responsibility about that. We don’t attribute the same value to plants despite them being living, as they are not sentient and don’t have feelings. I did watch a great documentary a few years ago about the potato plant, and the marijuana plant, and apple tree’s and one more thing, I think a flower, and how intelligent these plants actually are. They have over the years created a “product” that we as humans love soo much, and attribute so much value to that we have protected them, cross bred them, made them bigger, better, more resistant to diseases, climate etc. Things that the plants would have achieved on their own over time, but we have sped up the process so much for them. Looking at a potato plant growing in the dirt and attributing intelligence to it is really strange, but that’s kind of how it works. I need to look up what it’s called, it was really interesting. (Edit: it’s called “The Botany of Desire” it was on PBS in the US, and it turns out it was based on a book which sounds super interesting too)

    2) Talking about where your fruits are grown, ie- seasonality and imports etc, I feel I’ve already given my perspective on this in the eating seasonally episode, in Australia we have a vast and varying climate, and therefore we can grow just about everything ourselves, and we do, 96-98% of all fresh produce in supermarkets and markets is grown here. But people still get annoyed when prices sky-rocket and things are not available out of season, but also, get annoyed when things are imported. Mostly I think that comes down to education and people understanding more about where food comes from and what impact it has on the environment when they choose not to eat seasonally.

    3) MEAT: I have a very strong opinion on how we talk about where our meat comes from. I am a meat eater, but am trying not to eat too much as I understand the implications of meat consumption on the environment. But I was raised to always know what it meant to eat meat, as far as linking the product back to the animal and I think everyone should be educated in this from an early ago. When I tell people about my dad and my upbringing some people think he maybe went “too far” or started “too early” but when is the right time? If you’re old enough to choose to eat meat then you should be old enough to know what it means to eat meat.
    I was raised in suburban Melbourne, Australia, most of our food came from the supermarket and a local weekend market. But my dad was raised in rural Greece on a farm, his father was a butcher, his mother cared for the Olive Groves that produced (and still do but are sadly no longer in our family) amazing Olive Oil. He grew up hunting, and butchering meat, and when he moved to Australia and found out we had a wild rabbit and hare problem he was quick to get his hunting licence and start hunting on the weekends. He also made a point of planting a big vegetable patch so we could grow fresh food as well.
    When we were deemed old enough, around 7-8 we were tasked with helping him skin and clean them. I hated this job. Mostly they were wild hares and they are quite gamey in flavour, I’ve never been a fan of gamey meat so I never actually ate them. But I do wonder if maybe I just don’t like gamey meat now because I associate it with this experience.
    But also, at Christmas and Easter, rather than ham or turkey, we always had a whole lamb on the spit. And my dad use to buy them live about a week before and we would have to feed them and take care of them for a few days before he killed them. The first time I witnessed this I was obviously shocked, but he insisted we had to watch it happen at least once. At the time I chose not to eat the lamb that Christmas, but a few days later when we were having beef for dinner, the hypocrisy was pointed out to me, just because I didn’t see the cow being reared, fed and slaughtered, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It was a tough lesson, but one I am now glad I have learned.
    I think my upbringing definitely taught me to respect my ingredients when I cook, and not to be wasteful with food. Knowing what goes into growing vegetables, even on a small scale like a home garden and knowing that meat comes from a living animal that has been killed, I know not to take my food for granted.

    I think I’ll leave that there, lots of food for thought in this weeks topic!

  7. ThomasEdwards

    I grew up lucky and on the educated side as I live in New Zealand and my great-uncle owns a small farm and a lot of our beef, pork and lamb comes from his farm and I’ve personally helped out on the farm including butchering lamb/sheep after it had been hung and just recently watched a professional kill and butcher a cow (it twitched for so long) but it was something I grew up knowing and while I found the animals cute when I was younger even feed some of them it has never stopped me from enjoying meat. Also we have a strong hunting culture and know several people who hunt a variety of game, it is a way of life here in fact duck hunting season has just started and is a very big deal to a lot of people.

    Fruits and vegetables are something we usually get from the supermarket and have no idea or care were they come from but I have several other relatives who have small vegetable gardens so we get a little bit of seasonal produce as my Nan likes to let us know when we have a roast dinner that all the veges come from her garden but that is the rarity as it isn’t viable to do that year round. These are all things I grew up with and still find it weird that it wasn’t like that for everyone but do like the idea of making everyone see the process and having an informed decision on their part about meat eating.

  8. jparkes43

    I’d actually be really interested in a video series that goes through the process of rearing an animal from birth to table. I’ve been on enough farms over the years to know that farmers all care deeply about their animals, even when they get shipped out to slaughter. So seeing how each of the group would react to this animal going from birth to plate would be fascinating.

    As for hunting, I think they can serve a purpose. And everyone I’ve ever been hunting with has the kind set of “you kill it, you eat it.” The idea of hunting for sport is kind of foul.

    This was a fascinating podcast. Keep up the good work!

  9. alm477

    This was a fascinating podcast that touched on a whole bunch of subjects and leaves me all over the place…

    We have been domesticating our food (animals and plants) for such a very long time that I’m not really bothered at how we continue to alter it–it’s really the basis of agriculture (making things bigger, sweeter, produce more, etc.). You can still find some of the plants’ wild cousins, but they aren’t going to be as tasty or feed as many people. There is some really interesting information out there about the domestication of the foods we eat (almonds were once all EXTREMELY toxic, but a mutation followed by ages of farming led to a version we can eat!).

    Monoculture is definitely a problem–banana’s being an excellent example. I’ve heard rumblings that the main banana type grown (Cavendish) will probably be wiped out due to blight in the next decade or so unless science does something amazing. And this will be the second time this has happened to commercially grown bananas in the past 100 years!

    I live in an area of the US where hunting is popular (in school we’d get the first day of deer season off because they just assumed so many kids would be out hunting they’d rather not deal with all the absences!). Years before I was born my dad killed a deer and the only thing he’s ever really said about it was that it really disturbed him afterwards and gave him nightmares. After that, he’d go out with friends/relatives to hunt, but never actually intend to shoot anything. I’ve never gone hunting (or had the desire) but I’d go fishing with my dad and the first time I saw him kill a fish I’d caught was quite a shock. But I’d watch my dad clean and gut the fish with little problem and eat it with delight. But I have to admit I have no conflicting feelings about eating a fish because the fish don’t generally register as cute to me. I’m not sure I could be as sanguine if asked to watch a mammal or chicken be slaughtered (even if I know it will be delicious).

  10. Anita

    My major problem with year-round availability is that it takes away the magic and specialty of seasonality. Back in Hungary, I remember, I was so excited when the strawberry season finally arrived. You could (probably still can) get good(!) strawberries for 4-6 weeks. It was like Christmas. Here, in the US, you can get nice tasting strawberries any time. If every day is Christmas, it is not Christmas at all, if you know what I mean. 🙂

    And the topic of how meat reaches our plates… Well, I used to be a pescetarian because I didn’t feel comfortable with the thought of me slaughtering birds, mammals, for instance, so I didn’t feel that it’s okay for me to eat them. (I could gut and cut them any time, though, since our dogs are raw-fed.) Then, due to health issues, I had to go on a very restrictive diet with animal flesh as the only protein source (no eggs, no dairy, no legumes or grains), and I didn’t want to get mercury poisoning by eating fish with each meal, so I started to incorporate meat into my diet. I now eat grass-fed and pasture-raised beef, chicken, lamb, too (non-factory farming is better for the animal and MUCH better for your health). It’s strange that I grew up with poultry and cows, and instead of feeling okay knowing what I really eat (I saw my granny kill and prepare chicken all the time), I just feel sorry for them because I have nice memories with the representatives of their species. My brain is a little backwards, I would say. 😀 Nevertheless, I still think that people should know what they eat, respect the animal and be grateful for them and to them – and maybe cut back on the amount of meat eaten, using every part of the animal (the most nutritious parts are often thrown away).

    Going local and even growing your own food is also a hot topic for me at the moment. I’m currently reading a great book about biointensive agriculture. Its main emphasis is on how important it is to return our “waste” (food waste, non-edible plant parts, even human waste in a safe way) to the soil we use, in the form of compost, to make our food producing process sustainable for all the people on Earth, theoretically. If we grow something in Spain and sell it somewhere else, this important cycle is broken and the Spanish farmer’s soil has to rely on fertilizers and more water from an outside source making the process unsustainable in the long run, resulting in less healthy, undernourished plants that attract pests and make the use of even more chemicals – nutritional and protective -necessary. It also emphasizes diversity and how monoculture is not the way. Did you know that the nutrients your plant get and the companion plants they are grown with can modify the taste of your produce? In principle, it must be similar to the way conventional chicken tastes like boiled feather and pastured chicken tastes good here.

  11. Tinker526

    I must agree with the way Jamie is raising his children, as I am in the same boat with my 5 year old. I live in south Louisiana, and most people here are, or are related to hunters and/or fishermen. I make sure that my son sees what happens when his dad goes hog or deer hunting and comes home to butcher the animal. If tradition follows, he will be able to do it on his own when he’s grown. When we fish and crab, it’s an occasion for everyone to hang out and process, cook and enjoy the food and each others company. This isn’t the case for other parts of the country I’m sure.

    I honestly think that the censorship of educating about meat processing on outlets like Youtube has nothing to do with what is deemed “too much” for people to handle. I think it has to do with the current state of not offending anyone. 20-30 years ago, I think things would have been very different. What was considered normal food processes could and would be watched by people who are interested in the subject matter and might be trying to learn something for themselves. The people who aren’t interested would just choose not to watch it. Now, it’s too easy for someone to watch a random video and step up to say “This is grotesque and offended me. Do something about it.” I follow some homesteader channels on Youtube and can’t get enough! They do show the processing of chickens and other farm animals and how they are self sustainable and anything you might need to know. I just think companies these days would rather just not allow certain content just to placate the small number of people who try their hardest to cause discord to make their point.

  12. Bethrad

    This is a topic I feel strongly about and I do believe that people should know and see how animals are slaughtered from farm to plate and they should teach it in schools. I have watched the slaughter process on a film called Earthlings in animal college. I came out of class a vegetarian and some people came out and ate a bacon butty. Also, I volunteer on a working farm, were we raise piglets, lambs, goats, bulls and chickens just for food purposes and once the animals are at a certain weight or age for instance piglets bread for bacon need to be 30-40kgs before they go and be killed. Which we sell the meat in our farm shop. Some people find that too odd it eat but at least you know where it’s come from and not been watered down.

  13. susanmaroni

    This topic is one I mull over frequently, especially the discussion about meat. I have been vegetarian for most of my long life. At times I have been very judgemental of others’ choices. I got quite an education living in West Africa for several years and understanding how food choices there are by necessity, not the way we select our dinners by seeing which items look the most delicious or harmonious. My first year in Senegal I was quite sanctimonious; not criticizing anyone but refusing to eat certain foods. By the second year, I had learned to eat at least a bit of whatever was being shared and to be grateful for it. I also watched goats being slaughtered, humanely and in family homes as part of religious observances, and then shared in the feasts and ate at least a few bites of the meat. I am still not comfortable with our meat-heavy culture and I believe we must curtail our meat consumption for the survival of our planet. But I get that in arid parts of the world, a plant based diet is not realistic. In regard to fruit and veg, I am grateful for the huge variety available through international transport. I am in the US (western Massachusetts, a gorgeous area with fertile organic farms and a great foodie culture, please come visit next time you are in the States; it’s only a few hours from New York City), but we have harsh winters and to buy locally means mostly root veg during many long months. Obviously, buying local is best for the environment, but all the good Vitamin C, etc. we get from transported produce is very beneficial for our health, which also suffers during our long, bitter winters. I don’t have answers, but I am so glad you raised the questions.

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