Recipes from the "slow meat" movement
BY Jennifer Sizeland
12th Oct 2023 Food & Drink
3 min read
The idea behind "slow meat" is eating better quality meat, less often, with better quality conditions for the animals and less meat consumption a huge plus for planet
The UK is surrounded by ocean, which means it has great green pockets of land suitable for traditional farming, especially in the northernmost reaches and Scottish islands.
This dedication to traditional husbandry has been labelled as "slow food", or more specifically when it comes to raising livestock as "slow meat".
The ethos behind "slow meat" is eating better quality meat, less often. If the animal comes from better welfare conditions the idea is that its meat not only tastes better but is more sustainable too.
The socioeconomic and environmental benefits of slow meat
“Native breeds can also help improve natural biodiversity through their conservation grazing,” said Christopher Price, the chief executive of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST). Therefore, “slow meat from our native breeds should be at the heart of food and farming,” he added.
Helen O’Keefe is a crofter in Elphin, in the Scottish highlands. She manages a sheep flock of mainly native Shetlands.
"Slow meat from our native breeds should be at the heart of food and farming"
She explained that crofting is mainly low-intensity agriculture. “Animals live outside all year and have a fairly ‘natural’ life—left alone most of the time and allowed to roam as they see fit.” As a result, the sheep grow slower, they are leaner and not killed until they are two-three years old.
“The right kinds of breeds have more flavour, less fat and retain their quality to an older age,” surmised O’Keefe.
She explained the other benefits that go beyond the meat:
- Knowing where your meat comes from
- Short supply chains.
- Food chain resilience.
- Fewer food miles.
- Fostering a connection with your food, the seasons and what goes into producing it.
- Crofting supports resilient rural communities by keeping people in areas as well as bringing in income.
- Traditional farming maintains culture and cultural practices.
- Meat butchered and sold locally supports rural economies and infrastructure.
How the UK’s slow meat breeds taste
The RBST recommends these native breeds and their flavour profiles:
- Gloucester cattle: Very tender, with good marbling and a wonderful flavour.
- Traditional Hereford cattle: A high level of intramuscular fat, which helps to provide flavour and tenderness.
- Whiteface Dartmoor sheep: Known as "angel meat" for its fantastic taste, it is a succulent lamb with a real depth of flavour.
- Portland sheep: Provides high-quality hogget (between one-two years old) and mutton meat which is lean with a fine texture and a delicacy yet retains a depth of flavour.
- British Lop pigs: A good balance of intramuscular fat gives a moist and creamy textured pork.
- Large black pigs: Excellent meat marbling, a good meat-to-fat ratio, and a well-developed flavour.
How to eat slow meat
There are many ways to prepare slow meat—hanging it, smoking it, slow-cooking and roasting it on the bone to keep the flavour.
"There are many ways to prepare slow meat—hanging it, smoking it, slow-cooking and roasting it on the bone to keep the flavour"
Marian Armitage, the chair of A Taste of Shetland and author of Food Made in Shetland shared these recipes from her book:
Lamb flank with balsamic vinegar (for four)
- Place lamb flank skin side up in a roasting tin with 225ml water, 225ml balsamic vinegar, 500ml stock and three garlic cloves in the oven at 150°C. Cover with foil and cook for three-four hours.
- Then sprinkle it with salt and cook at 190°C for 30 minutes to brown the skin.
- Set the flank aside and add two tins of flageolet beans to the juices, stir well and heat.
- Slice the flank and serve on the beans.
- Serve with mashed potatoes and steamed Shetland kale.
Slow-cooked beef cheeks with fragrant spices (for six)
- Heat oven to 150°C and brown two chopped beef cheeks in rapeseed oil in a casserole dish then set aside.
- Cook two chopped onions, two cloves of garlic, and two sticks of celery until the onion is soft.
- Add two bay leaves, a thumb of ginger, two star anise, one cinnamon stick, six cloves and ten crushed juniper berries and mix well. Add a tin of tomatoes as well as the water from rinsing the tin.
- Add the beef back in and bring to the boil. The water should just cover the meat so add more if necessary. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cover with a lid and cook for three hours. Reduce the heat to 120°C after the first hour. After two hours of cooking add carrots and neeps (turnips in Scotland) for the last hour.
- Serve with mashed potato and greens like cavolo nero.
"The beauty of these recipes is that you can enjoy them with a variety of local British fruit and vegetables, as well as a regional beer"
The RBST shared another recipe from their Great Meat Recipes Using Traditional British Rare Breeds book (contributed by Mrs S D Brunt):
Wensleydale hogget chops
- Brown both sides of the Wensleydale hogget chops with oil in a frying pan, then transfer to a casserole dish.
- Add a few crushed green cardamom seeds, lovage leaves, and a pinch of salt.
- Nearly cover chops with beer or lager (75 per cent with water if preferred).
- Cover the dish with a lid or foil. Bring to a simmer, then cook at 180°C for 30-40 minutes.
- Serve with mashed potatoes and green leaf vegetables, thickening the casserole juices with cornflour for a gravy.
The beauty of these recipes is that you can enjoy them with a variety of local British fruit and vegetables, as well as a regional beer or non-alcoholic beverage!
Banner photo: Slow-cooked beef with mashed potato. Credit: Tatiana Volgutova
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