Sustainability - Harmony in Food & Farming

This project started as a self-enforced test – can I raise some animals, care for them and love them, take them to slaughter and then eat them? It has quickly turned into much more than this and has made me focus heavily on sustainability.

When I first started on this journey and visited Italy in February it was made abundantly clear that every last part of the pig had to be used, valued and savored. I then headed to Ballymaloe, where Darina carried out her famous kitchen bin inspections, checking for any hastily thrown away ‘scraps’ that were in fact not scraps at all. The bin would be emptied back out onto the work surface with instructions of what must be used and salvaged.

More recently in Sweden I have gained a far better understanding of the effort that goes into keeping a group of animals happy on a daily basis. The farm in Sweden had around 70 organic outdoor pigs and it was my responsibility to ensure they were adequately fed and watered each day. This took about 2 hours a day. Then there were all the other jobs that needed doing such as making mud baths when it got hot, ensuring the electric fencing was working, helping pregnant sows and monitoring their births. Oh and monitoring their feed, inspecting them for any illness and injuries (they’re vicious to one another when it comes to getting their food) and cleaning out shit from the pens. It’s a lot of work.

This all brings you much closer to the end product, and as I stood in the charcuterie cutting up the meat, I began to understand the appreciation I had witnessed in Italy. I became scrupulous as I cut up the meat, trying to get every last scrap from each piece of fat or bone. This is where sustainability starts for me. Little by little.

I’ve become that annoying person in a restaurant. The one who questions the waiter as to where the meat on the menu has come from. I’ve become less inclined to buy anything at all from a supermarket. Going to the supermarket is a habit of convenience, and one that I haven’t found particularly hard to break. When I’m standing there in front of a mound of aubergines, all individually packaged in unnecessary plastic wrapping the irritation starts building. I wonder what I’m even doing there looking at it. Where has this food even come from, and where has it been on it’s journey to here in front of me. What does it really contain?

This is also in part thanks to reading 'Swallow This: Serving Up The Food Industry's Darkest Secrets' by Joanna Blythman. It’s too easy to ignore these questions as we hurry around in our lives, but reading her book has really made it stick in my mind that half the time we have no idea what we are consuming.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Next week I will be attending the Sustainable Food Trust conference on ‘Harmony in Food and Farming’ and I actually can’t wait. It’s unbelievably exciting to me that I have found a cause and subject that I am so fanatical about. Even more exciting, that sustainability is beginning to creep into everyday conversations more and more…

Millie Diamond