Future of meat discussed at London event
Published:  11 April, 2014

The future of the meat industry was discussed at a special event held at trendy steak restaurant Hawksmoor, in London, last weekend.

The event, organised by food and drink events company TOAST, set out to uncover where meat production and consumption could be heading, and how consumers’ relationships with meat have changed.

While there is no crystal ball answer, Tim Wilson, owner of The Ginger Pig, Richard Turner, executive chef at Hawksmoor, and Philip Lymbery, chief executive of charity Compassion in World Farming, took part in the panel debate, led by Niamh Shields, author of Eat Like a Girl, before guests were treated to a hearty brunch in the restaurant.

Perhaps one of the more controversial and surprising comments came from Turner, who said that despite ‘eating meat for a living’, he believed people should be eating less of it than they do. "People should treat meat with a lot more respect, he said, adding that it used to be that the diet was made up of 80% vegetables and 20% meat, and he questioned whether that should be the way we should still eat now.

Lymbery said he thought people’s relationship with meat was changing, and that the way it was produced was changing also. He told guests about a visit to California where he visited ‘mega dairies’, which contained thousands of cows – what he described as "farmageddon". He also spoke of the massive increase in pork production in China, where there are what is referred to as ‘pig cities’.

Lymbery noted that there was a big push to move towards intensive methods of farming in order to feed the world’s population, but said there was more than enough food produced to feed the population both today, and in the future. "More of a problem is the waste produced by consumers and manufacturers," he added.

All three dismissed the idea that intensive farming was the way forward. Wilson said "producing meat properly is not actually expensive", and added that producing meat intensively was due to all the costs associated with the buildings needed, for example.

On the subject of the recently developed test tube burger, the panel’s views were mixed. Turner described the idea as "horrific", while Wilson questioned why people would want to eat a test tube product that tasted like meat, when they could just eat meat. However, Lymbery said he wouldn’t dismiss the idea in itself.

Wilson said he believed only a few per cent of British consumers wanted to know where their meat came from, and most just stuck to the safe cuts that they knew. He said that even though, in his butcher’s shop, customers were offered the service of having the meat from a whole chicken, for example, separated into thighs, legs etc, they still chose to buy the individual portions of cuts, such as chicken breasts.

Turner added: "People shouldn’t only buy chicken breasts, they should buy the whole bird."