2 July 2084
A family drive in their electric car, down the old Banbury road that weaves mysteriously between acres and acres of hydroponic laboratory facilities, the solar panel roofs glistening in the sunlight as the masses of greenhouses provide an obscure and obscured view. Children jostling to see if it’s petri dish burgers or silicone slime sausages to get their point on the car journey home.
Everyone knows exactly where their burgers come from as they are owned by Glaxo Smith Kline Tesco, or some such agglomeration. Each burger is prepared in a mechanical and methodical way by machines; a cheap and inexpensive way to serve a growing and dispassionate population. Each burger packed with the proteins and vitamins needed for a day and no variance in flavour worldwide. Everything is controlled. The only indication of the largest live cattle market in the world is a small sign as you enter Banbury “Old Cattle Market “ which starts the children off again with questions “did you ever see a cow in a field mummy when you were little?" wistfully imagined perhaps.
How has this even started to happen? I cast my mind back to 2012 and the horsegate scandal where the meat industry was shaken and people became mistrustful of the poor old cow who has sustained our nation for generations. A scandal brought about not so much by the farmers and producers so much as that constant race for cheapness that we allow the supermarkets to dictate. Instead of working together to promote the best meat in the world and to encourage responsible meat eating, we allow the public to believe this utter rubbish that it is possible to get good quality nutritional food at supermarket sweepings prices.
We continue to be so far behind so many countries in the world, such as the U.S and New Zealand who have a fantastic eating quality system for their meat meaning that people know exactly what they are eating – be it USDA prime at 80 U.S dollars for a steak or entry level lesser quality cattle at 30 U.S dollars.
If we allow the chemists not the cows to produce some burgers and put these on our shelves for 50% less than its bovine friend, where will this end? Can we have a consolidated and brave approach please as a wider industry as concerned with preserving our fields of cattle and sheep as promoting a sustainable future for our industry and our landscapes.
Yes there have been some shameful scandals and is it unsurprising some people are turning from meat and giving veganism a go. But we have got some incredible producers, some wonderful meaningful stories of heritage as well as a truly natural product that nourishes a nation. The farming industry may not be so easy to control as petri dishes in labs, but if we roll over and let them control our food, what next?
If we move towards a meat free burger but continue to eat meat, this will lead to an astonishing 30% of the carcase going to waste – a needless rearing of a wonderful beast for at least 30% to be thrown away (we already in the meat industry face a crisis with billions of pounds of meat either not used or exported).