Monday, 30 July 2012

Just as there are fashions in food - Inapub July 2012

Just as there are fashions in food, there are fashions in food production. Back when Jamie Oliver kicked off his school food campaign, I discussed it with a food technologist working for a company specialising in ready meal production.

She recalled that when she had first qualified in the early 1980s, the process of mechanically recovering meat was seen as part of the solution to the world’s food shortage. Even the most skilled butcher leaves something in the carcase, ran the argument, so why not use machines to recover the valuable protein left behind and convert it into burgers, sausages and other meat products?

Move on a couple of decades, and such products were widely condemned as a nutritionally poor solution, despite the fact that they do their intended job very well by providing a cheap way to feed a family, often in shapes which can be conveniently pushed through a school fence.  

As I write this, protesters are threatening to dig up a field of wheat that has been genetically modified to deter aphids. Opponents of GM crops fear that the modifications will spread into the food chain with consequences no one can predict, while the scientists conducting the trial see huge potential for pest resistant crops to tackle hunger. Both sides believe passionately that their view is correct.

There is also news that farmer and food campaigner Jimmy Doherty is working with Tesco to promote rose veal, produced from the male calves of dairy cattle. Veal has long been a focus for animal welfare campaigners, but the home-produced product meets welfare standards. 

Currently, the dairy industry annually shoots an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 unwanted male cattle shortly after birth, simply because there is no market for the meat. At the same, steak from mature cattle is being priced off the menu in some pubs because of soaring beef costs. 

Ultimately, squaring the circle comes down to what customers are prepared to pay for. Personally, I don’t think I’d have a problem ordering a rose veal burger served in an aphid-resistant bun from a pub menu. The question is, will I be dining alone?    

As I think I’ve mentioned before, tomato is a long way from being my favourite flavour. So well done to the team at Yummy Pubs for recognising that a tomato sauce base is just one of many options for pizza. At their Kent pub, the Grove Ferry, Yummy has come up with a range of pizza sauces including caramelised onion, lemon & dill and green peppercorn. And yes, they even do takeaway.

This 'Pub Food with Porter' column originally appeared in Inapub, July 2012

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