After a five year stint of running the kitchen at a French fine dine restaurant, as well as some experience in front of house management, i wanted more than just dealing with meat reps trying to sell me the new latest and greatest flavour infused pork where using a pad of syringes they injected a saline solution into their pork bellies to make them juicier, or listen to customers complain because we didn’t serve bangers and mash (not that there is anything wrong with bangers and mash but myself would not go to a fine dine French restaurant and pay $35 for a main of B & M with a side of overcooked peas – that’s like complaining because your local Indian takeaway doesn’t do spag bol). So cutting my apprenticeship short i moved to the far south coast to nurture my love of food, animals and practical problem solving.
The purpose of this blog for me is to educate myself and others about what is really going on behind the scenes in the food and farming industry and to actively change the industry. I truly believe that if things continue along the path they are on we will see a GFC (Global Food Crisis). Deregulation of industry giants and over regulation of small scale producers is destroying the industry. You can’t outlaw doing the wrong thing; greedy, selfish people and faceless corporations (where the company itself becomes a living entity that strives for more profit at any cost and any one person within that company feel that they are not responsible for the direction of the company because they are playing such a small part) will always find a new way of doing the wrong thing that has not yet been outlawed (because it’s seen as the only way to make a buck). Whereas if you use legislation to encourage a healthy, accountable and very viable industry where it pays more to do the right thing than the wrong, bad eggs are going to be stamped out pretty quickly.
The way cured meats are produced in Australia is the epitome of what is wrong. For hundreds of years if not thousands, food was cured without nitrates and sulfates/sulfides. How was this done safely you might ask? First the process was undertaken in a truly clean environment where basic hygiene, fresh air and the sun were what keep bad bacteria in check. Then basic salt was used to slow down the deterioration of the food and then the encouragement of good bacteria began which in turn stopped the growth of harmful bacteria. Today however, the process is undertaken in a hermetically sealed factory where it is more sterile than a hospital and if a single microbe gets in it can mean an explosion of deadly bacteria. To combat the ever increasing risk of chemical resistant bacteria, the dose and application of antimicrobial chemicals are exponentially required to the point where you need to put them in the actual food. Here we come to the next step introducing salt mixed with nitrates and sulphates/sulfides, chemicals that not only kills good and bad bacteria alike but is extremely toxic to humans – so much so that it is actually illegal to put any more than the minimum amount necessary to do the job in fear of causing serious health problems in any one who ingests it.
So in a nut shell we have resorted to putting just enough poison in so that it kills the bacteria immediately and simply slowly kills us over a long period of time. But what about the big B? The bacteria that causes Botulism can be controlled through good hygiene practices just like any other bacteria.
To prove my point about Botulism think of it this way. Botulism can occur in any product that has had its life extended past its normal point of decay. Humans and animals alike cannot build a resistance or tolerance level to the nerve toxin that kills you when Botulism hits, unlike the bacteria that causes normal food poisoning (for example someone who is brought up on streets of India can tolerate a lot more than a wealthy Westerner with clean water). If such extreme measures are required in controlling Botulism then you would think scavengers all over the world (like vultures who don’t even use basic hygiene practices) picking at rotting carcases would be dropping dead left right and center not to mention the hundreds of thousands of people in Europe every year that eat traditional nitrate and sulfate/sulfide free cured food.
The principles that I’m talking about here are at the core to many other issues, if not all, we are facing today. All i can say is no matter how much you think you know about something the picture is always bigger than what you can see right here and now. Remember that there is nothing wrong with revisiting something you thought you had nailed. The right method or ideal will always stand up to the test and if doesn’t then it wasn’t the right one.
So i ask of you to join me in filling in the pieces.