Radical Fare: Episode 4- Whole Hog : Nose To Tail Animal Use Is About Sustainability, Economics And Respect.

“If you’re going to kill the animal, it seems only polite to use the whole thing.”

Nose to tail eating pioneer Fergus Henderson, quoted above, created buzz with his 2004 book The Whole Beast: Nose To Tail Eating and sparked a new discussion about the ancient arts of butchery and cooking, challenging the very way modern society looks at eating meat. Animal consumption, which under current industrial practices is often synonymous with waste, pollution, and suffering, meets elements of urban foodie culture, slow food ethos, old fashioned economy and respect for a life harvested, all in search of a better, more connected way to eat.

While cheap meat ( and the system which produces it ) has long been criticized for externalising environmental impact costs and negatively impacting social woes from climate change to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, nose to tail eating treats meat as a less cheap and plentiful, more celebrated and respected addition to our diets. Sustainable and humane farming practices cost more, hence the meat costs more and the desire to avoid waste intensifies accordingly.

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Modern technology and archaic culinary techniques meet in the moose nose terrines, the  lambs heart pastramis, in all the various cuts and organs of the glorious nose to tail hog, which braised, cured, stewed or roasted over open flame form this delicious manifesto of thrift. Chinched Bistro on Bates Hill serves inspired interpretations of organ meats and popular, unique charcuterie made in house. They also run their own house-made deli from the restaurant, and from the bench, across the room, you can often see local, small farm raised pork delivered to the restaurant while you’re chilling and eating an amazing chicken liver taco for lunch.

Hunted game meat tends to imply a little more thought to the taking of the life of an animal for food than grocery store meat does, so the nose to tail philosophy finds a natural home there. Stuffed moose heart is a popular favourite, but forays through traditional cuisines expose millions of innovative ways to make sure none of the animal is wasted. From deep-fried venison testicles with falafel in a pita to seal liver raw on the ice, when people worked harder for meat they found ingenious ways to get everything from it.

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Local butcher William Dray, also known as Codfish Billy, is a lover of good food and uses as much of any animal he is working with as possible because he wants to make that good food is as nourishing and sustainable as it is tasty. “My relationship with butchery began at a shop which specialized in sourcing their products from smaller family-run farms. That’s when I was exposed to the meat industry. Like most people, I wanted ribeyes and pork tenderloins every night of the week. But it is just not possible. There’s an entire animal to be used. This shop educated me on the subject”.

Dray is cognizant of what is still wasted even in our more progressive butcher shops and restaurants. “When we talk about whole animal butchery we are advocating the use of everything and the waste of nothing. That means all the fat, meat, bones, edible offal and hopefully, the hide will be used. There is also the cartilage, sinew, and silver-skin”.

“An example of this would be with reference to the Beothuk and how they harvested Caribou”, he continued. “Using what today would be considered “waste”, like sinew and silver skin, they made their tools, weapons, crafts, clothing. Not everyone in 2019 is going to harvest sinew, dry it out and make some skin/fur mittens though. I know I have not”

There is, of course, the moral argument that animals on smaller farms or in nature live happier lives, but Dray points out an equally valid rationale of pleasure for good meat. The superior muscle development and better diet typical of these animals also bestows a more balanced, sophisticated flavour and juicier fat in the cuts of meat. In the end, it also comes down to where we live. Nose to tail eating just works for Newfoundland, and Dray realizes it.”Reality is if we wanna solve our problem with food stability and security here in Newfoundland we are going to have to use the whole animal. We can’t afford to waste anything”.