This is an article that I was asked to write as a producer’s response to the inaugural ‘Meat Free Week’ campaign. It appeared in the Locavore Edition, Easter 2013.

In this age of the five-second media grab the coverage that the Meat Free Week campaign received was widespread. However, unsurprisingly, the mainstream media took the misdirected approach that it was all about vegetarianism, which is far from the truth. Initially we did this too. Meat Free Week is an initiative to direct attention on the plight of factory-farmed animals with a commitment to ending this practice.  Whilst this is a noble and lofty ideal, as meat producers ourselves, we would not support an initiative called ‘Meat Free Week’.

The trend towards knowing where our food comes from has been gathering momentum and certainly looks set to continue.

Self-proclaimed lunatic evangelistic farmer Joel Salatin stated recently that we are at the beginning of a great Food Inquisition.

This seems to be the case, with both consumers and retailers demanding producers, processors and regulatory bodies improve practices and provide more relevant information; Coles ending sow stall use in pork production; Whole Food America (the leading retailer of organic produce) declaring GMO labeling will be mandatory for all their suppliers; consumers willing to seek out farmers markets and interact directly with growers.

As with most things there is lots of evidence from all sides of the discussion about the way our food is produced; organic, free range, grain finished, hydroponic. We believe it is better for our animals, our farm, the wider environment, and our customers and therefore the whole society to have pasture raised produce. What is missing in the whole argument is the benefit that nutrient dense, ethically produced, low environmental impact foods provide to society and that is this – the higher the quality of the food we consume as a society the better the health of our society. The rise of degenerative diseases can be linked to the introduction and increased use of synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides that continue to this day. Processed foodstuffs that our regulatory bodies allow to be passed off as nutritious only exasperate the problem.

A societal shift is required moving away from materialism towards placing greater value on the foods that we eat to sustain us (and the people that produce them) so we can enjoy being alive.

The current generation of children in Western society looks set to be the first to have the dubious honour of having a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Said another way, we are killing our children.

Think diabetes, heart disease, obesity and most cancers – all diet related ailments.  Current economic measures that sit at the top of society’s materialistic altar are proving inadequate. We suggest that tracking the number of hospital patient days linked to diet caused disease and a commitment to lowering them would be an excellent way of measuring our collective wellbeing. Then a case could be mounted for increase funding to prevention programs utilizing real food rather than cures needed to combat the ailments caused by unreal food.

And next year, rebrand the campaign so it reads ‘Factory Farmed Meat Free Week’ and then everyone will support it.

Near River Produce - Real food direct from our farm located on the NSW Mid North Coast