My research into ‘kind’ meat came partly from three years examining the chicken and meat industries for a book, Planet Chicken.
From visiting farms and talking to many campaigners and vets, I came to feel that organic chicken is the best widely-available certification scheme.
Meat shows the value of buying local food, or making a connection with the farmer at a market or farm shop, a good local butcher or buying on line. The Real Meat Company and Pipers Farm are two online butchers I can recommend.
Traditional turkey farming is a small but growing movement. Heritage turkeys are old-fashioned breeds that are sleeker and with more brown-meat and flavour than the hyper-inflated busty modern birds. Rutland Organic Poultry and Sheepdrove Organic Farm are two recommended sources of heritage turkeys.
Proper pork is more expensive than cheap pork because it has a completely different level of welfare and taste. Some of the good producers are going back to old-fashioned breeds, such as Tamworths, Berkshires, Middle Whites and Gloucester Old Spots, that cannot be forced through industrial production. To find them go to The Ginger Pig and other good butchers as well as farmshops and farmers markets.
Many factors make for quality in beef. Look for beef that has been dry-aged (ie not in a vac pac) and hung for at least a couple of weeks and also for traditional breeds such as Herefords, Aberdeen Angus and Longhorns, and other animals that have grazed on grass not largely fed with barley to grow fast.
Wild meat such as venison and rabbit is more complex but well worth the effort. Game by Trish Hilferty and Tom Norrington-Davies is a good way in. I learnt much at a wild meat course on a Food Safari in Suffolk.
For the issues surrounding meat production, go to Compassion in World Farming.
MY JOURNEY WENT…
From standing dazed and disturbed in the middle of an industrial chicken shed…
…to finding a good small-scale poultry producer on my doorstep
…to a hippy turkey herder and heritage birds in Berkshire
…to vast pork factories spied on the internet
…to a tale of two chops (one supermarket, one butchers)
…to the best way to find a steak
…to following Belted Galloways along a drovers road in the Yorkshire Dales
…to learning how to eat bunnies
…to butchering a haunch of venison
…to resolving to buy meat from butchers or directly from farmers.