Sunday, May 19, 2013

Nose to Tail in BS

This article about one woman's  "crusade to spread the gospel of meat" in an April 7, 2013 special food-centric edition of of The New York Times Magazine got my brow furrowed thinking about how media outlets like The Times Magazine have been treating the increase in chefs and DIY'ers who practice whole animal butchery while sermonizing about the righteousness of utilizing every part of the animal for food.

Not to put too fine a point on it:  but do any of these people realize just how wasteful it is to do the kind of butchering that they are touting?  Don't get me wrong. I'm all about "field-to-fork" cooking. But I suffer from no illusions about how wasteful it is to do whole animal butchering on the scale being promoted by The Times article and- let's face it- A LOT of my friends and colleagues.

To get a sense of what I'm whining about, take a look at this photo from the lead page The Times article. Clearly it was set up to advocate the use of an entire pig for meals. Trouble is that what is on the table represents approximately 60% of the edible weight of a hog. Missing is the blood, lungs, liver, heart, stomach, intestines and sex organs -all edible and all MIA.

Assuming that what has been left out of the photo in not in a bucket in the kitchen being made into desert by a nose-to-tail cooking pastry chef, where did it all go?

Well, given that the pig whose parts adorn the table in this photo was most likely killed in a small abbatoir that was not equipped to process all of the parts into food (or any of the other useful products derived from pig parts), the best answer is that with the possible exception of the liver, most of it was shipped to a rendering plant where is was turned into pet food and fertilizer.

Where's the good parts Mommy? 

And never mind about so-and-so chef or whoever who raises his own hogs and kills and butchers them on his own farm. I've seen enough on-farm slaughter to know that no one utilizes all of the parts of a pig -or any other animal- better than the big, vertically integrated slaughter house factories.
You want true nose-to-tail cooking? Have lunch at a Smithfield Pork factory. Otherwise, the next time one side of someone's mouth tells you that they are all about nose-to-tail cooking while out the other side they say they practice whole animal butchering, ask them what they did with the parts that are not on the menu.

Just be prepared for a nose-to-tail dose of shucking and jiving.

The bottom line(s) is that in it's current form, the nose-to-tail cooking movement is at worst, yet another feel-good inducing campaign by chefs et al out to exploit a market for artisanal food or,  at best,  an aesthetic movement peopled with folks who derive pleasure and a sense of empowerment from taking charge of a part of the food web that has, for better part of a century,  been under the aegis of specialists.

But until nose-to-tail becomes nose-to-tail-to-guts and blood,  it would be nice if the foodie media and the public would stop pretending that slaughtering an animal to make head cheese and fracking artisanal salame and dumping its guts into 55 gallon barrel so it can be trucked to a factory and turned into cat food is somehow an act of virtue.

Off (al) to the render! 


Melissa Mcewen said...

I don't see how using that stuff is pet food is "waste." As long as it is being used for something it's not "waste" in my book.

I do often smirk when I see a hot restaurant with things like blood or cow stomach on the menu. I know they aren't getting it from the local farms they otherwise tout.

Natalie Sztern said...

I kind of have to agree with Melissa since my pooch eats the raw food diet of beef,bison,bones,lung and yes, even the dried pizzle. (she loves that but the smell can kill you):))

Is it not good enough for us to consume the Offal as well as the prime and usual cuts?

It is only a few years now that people are going back to eating Offal - but like eating horse in Quebec and blood sausage in England - I don't ever see a need for me to consume such food as you state and that includes Horse Meat and blood sausage...yech

Welcome back!

Philip Vogelzang said...

Bob, I think you are spot on. I'm tired of the "use the whole pig" mantra that has been beaten into our heads. Of course we'd like to use the whole animal, but do you really want to prepare a dish from pancreas, lung, spleen, aorta and spinal cord? Give me a break. Let's face it. What people are really after is bacon. The self righteous holier than thou tone of much of this nose to tail schtick is overly trendy and just flat out tiresome. Get over it people......