One of the things we love about food is its universality: everyone has to eat and most people enjoy eating. Beyond this shared collective experience however, many topics within the world of food can be complicated, controversial and even divisive.

We wanted to create an open forum to help explore and illuminate a wide range of these topics, so set up Daylesford Discusses, a regular series of panel events that bring together experts and passionate people to spend an evening sharing their knowledge, ideas and experiences.

Since last October our farmshops have played host to discussions on all sorts of subjects, including Food Waste, Eating with the Seasons and Feeding your Body & Mind.

Perhaps the most thought-provoking event was Meat and the Conscious Consumer earlier this summer. The goal was to help empower people to make informed choices by examining whether eating meat can ever be ethical and considering matters such as nutrition, animal welfare and environmental impact.

Daylesford’s resident nutritionist Rhaya Jordan was part of a diverse panel comprising friend of Daylesford JOSEPHINE O’HAREjournalist and author of The Ethical Carnivore Louise Gray, our Senior Farms Manager Richard Smith, founder of Punch Foods Alexandra Dudley and journalist and founder of ethical fashion and eating website BicBim, Lizzie Riviera. Despite their differing beliefs, they all came together for a calm, informative debate where every opinion was respected as they chewed the fat (no pun intended).

Ahead of our forthcoming Daylesford Discusses on 11th September, The Building Blocks for HEALTH & WellBEING, we asked Rhaya to review the main points that were discussed at the last event.

“One of the main themes that emerged from the Daylesford Discusses event on Meat and the Conscious Consumer is that nobody should ever have to justify their dietary position, whether they are a vegan, a flexitarian, a meat-eater or anything else. Just get on with it, eat what you enjoy and what is best for you and try not to preach or judge! 

As a nutritionist, I hear phrases like “oh, I’ve been good today” or “I’ve been bad this weekend” all the time. People have developed a strange habit of using moral language when talking about food and we need to think about this. Being concerned about how many calories or candy bars you consume is not a question of morality, it is about personal health, so words like “good” and “bad” are not appropriate in this context.

Meat, however, really is about morality: it involves ethical and environmental angles and sometimes, real suffering. The choices you make in this realm can definitely be thought of as having a moral dimension.

After discussing the details of various different farming practices and industry standards present in the UK, the group agreed that there are actually quite a lot of reasons to be hopeful in this country – as long as we can avoid an influx of meat from dubious sources. We should be proud that most of the cattle reared in the UK are in relatively small herds, in both organic and non-organic systems. Those giant, scary USA-style feedlots are not commonplace whatsoever on this side of the pond.

However, we still need a better solution to a widespread problem as it is not enough to label meat as a luxury item; people have become used to easy cheap meat and don’t really want to be told to eat less. However eating meat like it is a staple creates huge demand and then we will need cheap, nutritionally inferior meat, and keep eating too much of it. Quite simply, we can’t eat out of factories and stay well. Not to mention that the World Health Organisation has warned us all that we are eating too much meat for our own good.

My view is that we should take the lead from our grandparents’ eating habits, a generation that commonly consumed offal, kidneys, livers, and other nutrient-dense “nose-to-tail” meat: the whole animal with nothing wasted. You cannot eat every part of the whole animal if it is factory-farmed because the organs will be ruined by antibiotics, pesticides, chemicals in modern-day factory farming systems. Why would you want to eat a steak or roast from an animal whose liver is not fit for consumption?

The evidence is increasingly showing that the trend for eating enormous burgers and steaks on a regular basis is not ideal for maintaining optimum health, but a varied diet that incorporates different cuts of meat really is better for you. Slow-cooking cuts of meat, for example, provide collagen and connective tissue, which are excellent for gut, our skin and our nails. Meat is rich in highly absorbable iron, which is beneficial but not in the quantities we are eating.

Veganism and plant-based diets were discussed at length. In my experience, veganism is a medicinal diet that can be a great antidote to unhealthy eating habits a form of nutritional intensive care if you will but it is not necessary to live your life that way. You can increase, double or even triple the amount of vegetables in your diet without having to go vegan and cutting out all animal foods. You do not have to give foods up, just change the quality and balance of those foods. For example, better quality milk from high-welfare, organic dairy herds costs just pennies more per pint than intensively reared dairy.

Probably the most important conclusion reached by the Daylesford Discusses Meat and the Conscious Consumer is that one evening simply was not enough time to talk about every angle in detail. Eating meat ethically is a vast issue that deserves serious thought and attention. It will undoubtedly come up again in future discussions and we hope to host another Daylesford Discusses that focuses on further aspects within this topic.” 

The next Daylesford Discusses is on 11th September at our Notting Hill farmshop and will focus on The Building Blocks for Health & Wellbeing.