It always amazes me how seldom the taste of a food is mentioned by it’s producer. The health benefits – yes, the environmental impact and animal welfare all seem to be higher up the agenda, at least in the UK, for this reticence to talk about taste seems to be a peculiarly British thing. In France and Italy children are taught about taste at school but here we seem to lack the vocabulary to discuss what we are eating beyond “yuck” or “yummy”.
The Pasture Fed Livestock Association was launched at this conference last year and, despite an excellent opportunity to taste the beef at a dinner that night, the accompanying talk and literature made little mention of the taste benefits of feeding cattle on grass. This is a crucial point, because as grain-feeding gains momentum I have already seen restaurant menus proudly boasting that they are serving Grain-Fed beef. The uninformed consumer assumes that this must, in some way, be superior and so it insidiously gains credence in our culture. I have often wondered how it came to be that the Argentineans, once producers of some of the best beef in the world, could so quickly be converted from pasture (albeit predominantly pampas prairie) to grain fed in such a short space of time. Money of course had much to do with it, although I think that it is still accepted that the best beef in Argentina is pasture-fed.
Immediately following the conference I wrote an article for the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association that I hope helped to plug the taste gap. I was delighted to see that their recent AGM included discussions about the effect of hanging on flavour and also how to assess the hanging time required relative to fat cover.
When Colin and Ruth invited me to join their Campaign for Real Farming it was precisely to fulfil the “Food Culture” aspect that Colin had identified was so important to the success of the campaign. Colin realised that farmers needed cooks who cared about the quality of ingredients if they were to be prepared to pay the true cost of production. He also recognised that this was the foundation from which organisations such as the Italian-based Slow Food movement had grown.
So at our the fourth Oxford Real Farming Conference on 3 & 4th January 2013 I will be talking to the new generation of farmers about how to ensure the taste aspect of whatever they produce is most effectively conveyed at the point of sale. Please join us. Book your tickets via http://www.oxfordrealfarmingconference.org
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