Sheep – our most ethically farmed meat

Sheep – lamb, hogget and mutton is our most ethically farmed meat. The UK sheep industry might be our last defence against the marching army that is factory farming. Sheep is the least intensively raised farm animal. 99% of sheep remain pasture feed and free range. Hence you don’t see ‘Free range’ on labels.

We typically refer to sheep meat as lamb as this is the most commonly consumed age, around 85%. The difference is the age the animal is slaughtered.

  • Lamb is less than 12 months old, (typically 6-8 mths, spring lamb 3 mths)
  • Hogget is 12-24 mths old / 1-2 yrs
  • Mutton is over 24 mths old – 2yrs +

The UK sheep industry also gets the environmental thumbs up, not just for zero airmiles and low carbon footprint but also for the efficient meat production. Sheep are ruminants, they have a digestion system that means they can eat food (grass) that humans can’t, making them an efficient source of meat. Conversely, pigs and chickens eat food that could otherwise be fed to humans. Think world hunger…

*cows are also ruminants but can only be considered  an efficient source of meat or dairy in an organic, pasture fed system. Intensively farmed cows are fed grain that could otherwise be fed to humans.

Sheep are perfectly designed to live in the UK, our climate and our landscape. Sheep can also live in our highlands, mountains, moorlands and areas that we wouldn’t otherwise farm.

Compared with other meats, the way sheep are raised and the age of slaughter, lamb it is a more ethical choice of meat, but we should not overlook hogget and mutton. Hogget and young mutton (2yrs) is far superior to lamb in my view, it has all the tenderness and much more flavour.

As ethical meat choices go it is the gold standard. The animal has had a longer and far better life quality than 99.9% of farm animals and the meat is amazing for texture and taste. Slow cooked as a roast, chops with BBQ sauce, a winter stew, mutton is a winner every time. For more info visit http://www.muttonrenaissance.org.uk

‘Now suppose, my pet, that we were married, and you were going to buy a shoulder of mutton for dinner  would you know where to buy it?’ Charles Dickens (1812-1870) David Copperfield. Mutton used to be common place, so what happened? Wool used to be more valuable that meat so keeping a sheep for multiple seasons for their wool was the priority and the mutton was a by product. With the introduction of man made fibres in the 1960’s the price of wool plummeted meaning that it became more cost effective to farm lamb, giving the financial return as quickly to the farmer as possible. Today we need to recognise the true value of hogget and mutton, increase the demand and restore the financial balance allowing more farmers to produce it.

Where can you buy hogget or mutton? Mutton cuts often come from ewes coming out of service after their lamb production drops off. This meat is good for stews and curries but probably not for a roast. I would recommended buying lamb, hogget or mutton directly from a farm or specialist butchery outlet, there are many online options, they should be able to advise on the age and type of mutton. As with all meat there are varying degrees of quality. I will write a post dedicated to sourcing the best hogget and mutton.

Parting thoughts. I emphasis the UK sheep industry, check the label and buy British – We import a huge amount of lamb from New Zealand and other countries. Which is crazy if you think about it!

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Wow no cow – and still a frothy coffee!

Being an ethical omnivore or ethivore means having choice. Choose grass fed or organic dairy or a dairy alternative, your choice. One problem, Mr Ethivore (Booba) loves his coffee, he researches the best beans, he grinds them, he spends half and hour working his noisy coffee machine, froths the milk and sits at the table looking lovingly and proudly at his coffee masterpiece. The idea that I was going to disrupt this ritual and introduce a milk alternative – no way!

I love a challenge so let the challenge commence, could we find a milk alternative that tasted good, was healthy and most importantly would keep Booba in the frothy coffee he had become accustomed?

We decided a tasting session was needed. I ordered a variety of the main milk alternatives, including soya, almond, coconut, rice and oat. I am so glad with did this as 4 out of the 5 didn’t work for us, it was the last one we tried that did. If we had tried only one or tried one a week we would have given up the mission and still be drinking dairy milk. It was the oat milk that won the vote in our house from the brand Oatly http://www.oatly.com

I favour the Organic oat drink http://www.oatly.com/products/united-kingdom/organic-oat-drink-uk It is just made with oats, water (and tiny bit of salt). With similar fat content to skimmed milk 0.5%. It tastes great as a straight up drink, on cereal, hot chocolate and tea. Tip for tea, if it splits it is because the water has just boiled, let it cool slightly. And the real test was kids! I served it with their morning cereal and hey presto not even a facial micro movement. The carton was in plain sight, I didn’t hide the fact and not a peep. My opinion is that is tastes nicer than milk, it has a natural sweetness despite having lower sugar content than dairy milk. I’ve been continuing market research (in my kitchen) and found similar responses from everyone.

So what about Booba and the coffee? Well the clever people at Oatly obviously know people that are also passionate about frothy coffee, so they have made a Barista version. http://www.oatly.com/products/international/oatdrinkbaristaedition They add oil to the stabilise the drink and allow it to froth. It has similar fat content to full milk but has a fraction of the saturated fat. It works great in a ‘normal’ cup of coffee, it adds a rich creamy sweetness, so much so that people say it is the nicest cup of coffee they have had. Most importantly Booba is happy, the coffee ritual continues, followed by the same proud, loving look as he takes his first sip of his frothy coffee.

Another reason to favour the oat milk is because oats are grown on our continent, in our climate making it an environmentally good choice too.

Their a lots of milk alternatives available, the market has taken off massively in recent times. For a good guide try this good blog article https://www.goodnessdirect.co.uk/blog/the-dairy-free-milk-taste-test if you try one but don’t like it don’t be put off try different products from different brands.

Avoid sweetened versions and check the labels for ingredients and nutritional values. Some alternatives are fortified with calcium, but don’t be restricted by this being your only option. Dairy is not the only source of calcium, far from it. Regardless of whether you drink dairy milk or not you should understand your calcium intake and adjust your diet accordingly, see this post for further information http://www.ethicalomnivore.co.uk/dir/2018/01/07/calcium-and-the-dairy-debate

Parting words, you have choice, you are not restricted to drinking dairy. If you do choose dairy make sure it is organic, see this post http://www.ethicalomnivore.co.uk/dir/2017/12/31/dairy Also remember you don’t have to give up dairy in all areas you can drink oat milk but still choose to eat organic cheese for example. There are also great alternatives for ice cream, cream, yogurt. See my recipe for Cashew cream https://wp.me/p7RDjy-8Y we use it as a replacement for cream is desserts, sour cream in fajitas and chilli, it is 100% hands down our preference to cream.

#Oatmilkmoustache!

The EOr with Mr Ethivore

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Better than dairy? – try simple cashew nut cream

Is there a good alternative to dairy cream? Simple answer is yes. As part of my research into making plant based, veggie or vegan versions our favourite dishes I wanted to find an alternative to cream and sour cream. I hit the jackpot and found cashew nut cream and I have never looked back. We use it in every instance we would have used dairy cream, in savoury and sweet dishes. It is delicious, super simple and healthier than dairy cream. It is also handy for lactose intolerant folk!

  • Double cream contains: 50% fat, 31% saturated and 1.5% protein.
  • Cashew cream contains: 33% fat, 6% saturated and 15% protein (based on equilivant thickness to double cream)

This is where I believe being open minded and looking at other approaches to food really gives us the best of both worlds. You don’t have to be a vegan to make use of vegan recipes. In fact why consider it vegan at all, it is simply a nut cream and can be part of any diet.

How to make it – Using plain, wholefood cashew nuts, not the salted or roasted version. I buy Tesco or Waitrose organic cashew nuts https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/products/266565966 but non organic works just as well https://www.tesco.com/groceries/en-GB/products/271666995 you can also use cashew pieces which are sometimes cheaper.

  1. The quantity of nuts depends how much cream you want to make. 50 grams of nuts makes around 75 grams of cream.
  2. Soak the nuts in cold water for around 2 hrs, (you can leave them for longer). Cover them in water plus some to allow for swelling. They are ready when they have swelled up. If you are in a hurry you can use very hot water and soak for around 30 mins.
  3. Once soaked drain the water and rinse.
  4. Add enough water to just cover the nuts. You can adjust the amount of water depending on the desired thickness of the cream. Remember you can add but you can’t take away.
  5. Add to a blender, the better the blades and power the smoother the cream. I use a Nutraninja  which is the best kitchen gadget we own.
  6. Blend until it is smooth and creamy. 1-2mins. It should not have any bits however small, if it does just keep blending. If it doesn’t go smooth it is because you didn’t soak the nuts for long enough, you added too much water initially or your processor blades are not sharp enough.
  7. Use straight away or store is an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. If you find it has thickened in the fridge just stir in more water before serving.

We use it in Mexican dishes, to thicken soup, to make a lovely cream curry, instead of yogurt or cream in desserts. I use it just as it comes but you can add flavours if you want to go wild:

Optional savory flavorings:
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • Dash paprika
  • Dash onion powder
Optional sweet flavorings:
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons minced, fresh ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom

Needing to gain weight is not a problem that most of us have but if that is the case, especially for someone convalescing, it is packed with calories, good fats and protein and can be easily added to smoothies and soaps to increase the calorie count.

You can use raw, shelled sunflower seeds in place of the cashews for a nut-free version. Pine nuts, macadamia nuts, and almonds will all work with the same amount of soaking time.

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Caged hens eggs – a focus for January

This one is for the girls, for the hens, for Bluebell my first ever chicken (pictured)

If you are new to being an Ethical omnivore it helps to focus on one thing at a time or make small regular changes rather than try to tackle it all at once.

Starting January 2018 let’s focus on eggs. 48% of eggs produced in the UK are still from colony caged hens, that is a huge problem for hens and far from ideal for human health issues.

Colony (also called enriched) caged hens eggs are unethical. The hen is locked in cages for the whole of their life unable to perform natural behaviours all for the sake of laying 1 egg per day. Saving you from 0p-6p-15p per egg (based on supermarket value v free range eggs and value v organic). Sometimes there is no difference in price depending on the brand.

Have you ever met a chicken? They are wonderful, intelligent, sensitive animals. They are highly active in a truely free range environment, spending all day roaming peaking and scratching for food, running, flapping their wings, dust bathing. They learn to come when they are called within days (a lot more than can be said for most people’s dogs).

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Check your boxed eggs – boxed eggs have to be labelled as caged, free range, organic etc. they are stamped with a code. Only buy free range and ideally organic.
  2. Check eggs in products (cakes, pasta, custard, mayo, quiche etc) – Manufacturers are choosing to state where they are free range. If it doesn’t say free range it isn’t.
  3. Ask if eggs are free range when you eat out or in the cafe. Don’t be afraid to raise it and be prepared to skip the eggs if they are from caged hens. Take your custom elsewhere.

The egg industry in general has a lot of negatives. The males chicks are killed as they are hatched, surplus to requirements. The hens are slaughtered as soon as their production drops off (around 72 weeks). Even free range systems are not ideal, but avoiding caged hen eggs goes a long way to addressing the problem. It would make a huge difference to hens lives if everyone turned their beaks up at the junk egg that is the caged hen egg.

The ultimate is to keep your own chickens or buy from local chicken keepers if you can. If time and space allows they make great pets. We choose to only eat our own chickens eggs and keep our chickens into old age. I realise this is a luxury but that is my personal approach to the egg dilemma.

Some supermarkets (e.g Waitrose are caged egg free). This means that they don’t sell any caged hen eggs boxed or in their products.

Cluck cluck!

The Ethical omnivore.

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Quails – small egg, big problems

Most of us don’t buy quail eggs on our weekly shop, but the topic of the quail eggs is a perfect example of our perceptions and how massive welfare issues can go unnoticed. Quail eggs look cute, they are exotic, seen as a luxury items, an image of a wild bird, often served in fancy restaurants as part of artwork on the plate.

Annually 1.4M are farmed for meat and 400,000 for eggs. 90% are intensively farmed. Think battery hens and banned barren cages, think worse, quails are not protected by any species specific EU legislation, containing them in wires cages, allocating no more space than the size of a beer mat per bird is legal.

 

Quail are the smallest animal to be intensively farmed, they are sensitive, nervous birds that naturally seek shelter amongst undergrowth, eating seeds and insects. They have strong migratory instincts.

UK supermarkets appear to be aware of the issue, many now selling the industry standard for higher welfare labelled ‘free-to-fly’. The same applies to all eggs if it doesn’t say free range, or free-to-fly it is from a caged bird. With 90% of eggs coming from caged quails someone is eating them, be careful it is not you

Example ‘free-to-fly’ brands available in supermarkets:

  • https://www.clarencecourt.co.uk are a leading brand is higher welfare, luxury eggs e.g. Waitrose, Ocado, Sainsbury’s
  • http://www.thetraditionalfreerangeeggcompany.co.uk/quails-eggs e.g. Ocado

In summary, quails eggs are something I can live without, but if you can’t then make sure you buy quails eggs that are labelled ‘free-to-fly’ to support these businesses, ask in the restaurant or at catered events if the egg is from a caged bird, sadly I suspect the majority will be.

Price wise, I found ‘free-to-fly’ quail eggs to be the same price or cheaper then the caged eggs for sale e.g. caged quail eggs from www.finefoodspecialist.co.uk.

Why ‘free-to-fly’ and not free range? Quail don’t roost meaning they don’t go to bed, they can’t be kept in fully free range systems as they would fly away and not come back. Therefore they are kept in aviaries, sometimes with outdoor access and sometimes barn systems.

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