Manufactured meat

Recently, when my venison supply was running low, I purchased a tray of kangaroo steaks from the local supermarket and was somewhat taken aback by one of the pieces of information on the label – ‘100% natural meat’. Being a hunter, my family gets most of its very ‘natural’ meat from animals collected from nature’s food cabinet. Thus, it worried me somewhat that, as a species, we have moved so far away from what is simple and natural in our foods that we have to advertise the fact when something as basic as meat is natural.

Fair enough that the mettwurst I buy is labelled as ‘fermented manufactured meat’, but upon closer inspection, the supermarket shelves now have a range of these ‘manufactured’ meats – meat and other products that have been so processed that what you buy is no longer the simple flesh of an animal. Some ‘meat products’ contain little or no real meat as we know it.

Meat is meat. It is the muscle of animals that my ancestors all the way down to me have eaten as a normal part of our diet as a source of protein.

The Herald Sun newspaper ran a story titled ‘More Victorian families taking children hunting’ with the opening sentence reading, “Kids as young as three are going bush hunting with their parents in a trend that experts fear will teach them brutality.” The first of the ‘experts’ quoted was Dr Hugh Wirth from the RSPCA, who stated that, “Once you start brutalising animals, and seeing that as okay, you lose part of your respect for all living things.” He was taking his own personal opinion and presenting it as fact.

Along with this ‘horrifying’ story, the newspaper ran a poll, asking ‘Should children be encouraged to shoot animals? (a) Yes, it is character building or (b) No, it’s too brutal.’ This question had a built-in bias simply by the way it was framed. It is very interesting how they kept using the emotional term ‘brutal’ too. However, I don’t think the newspaper got the poll result they were either expecting or hoping for, with 57,577 (91 per cent) voting ‘yes’ and 5191 (8%) voting ‘no’.

Furthermore, the best reading was in the online ‘Have your say’ comments. There were a lot too, 149 to be exact, and in line with the poll result, the vast majority were in favour of sourcing your own meat.

But the most telling post was #77 from ‘Animal lover of Brunswick’, who stated, “To all you hunters who kill animals for food, shame on you! You ought to go to the store and buy the meat that was made there, where no animals were harmed!” This is the exact quote. How far from reality have some in our society become?

At the RSPCA Scientific Seminar, one presenter used the term ‘environmental generational amnesia’ to describe many people’s loss of contact with the land and nature and as a consequence, forgotten basic natural concepts. Over time and generations, our shift from rural to urban living has caused many people to lose touch with the realities of nature and simple understandings, such as food chains, and that we must eat other living things to survive ourselves. As my friend Bob recently said, “In the past, nature was viewed as a resource, whereas today, it’s beginning to be seen as a distant, untouchable wilderness utopia that humans shouldn’t interfere with.”

Most of our population has become urbanised and therefore divorced from the realities of natural ecology. Real life is not a reality television show. Real life is the everyday interaction of all of the living species, plants and the natural environment and their daily quest to simply survive. In real life, meat simply means eating another animal, another living thing. Something dies, so that something else may live. There’s nothing manufactured or unnatural about it. And it doesn’t come any more ‘real life’ than sourcing meat for the family dinner table yourself.

By Warren McKay