Below is a piece that one of our former butchers, Tom Cripps, wrote for us last year - as part of a project to challenge certain perceptions about meat and to formulate a T&G Nutrition Box for our customers.

Having begun new partnerships with the likes of Monday Muscle and seeing a strong drive in sales for our high protein box, we're picking up the mantle again in 2021 and will looking to release a range of like-minded products. Do have a read of this first though, as the basis of what Tom had to say, is very much the spark of taking this forward. We'd be interested in your thoughts.

It was the ‘facon’ sandwich that did it.

FakeBacon

Last year I found myself faced with a barrage of anti-meat sentiment in the media, and a large number of friends and customers espousing the benefits of cutting down on their meat intake. Ethics is one thing, let’s not get into that here. But meat, especially good meat, as unhealthy, I just wasn’t buying it.

I ate a vegan diet for 2 months, to challenge myself and the meat sceptics. I love all food, and tasty, wholesome vegan meals do exist, but I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed it. Something was badly missing. Not to mention the headaches, mouth ulcers, bloating and frequent feelings of hunger.

Then as I sat staring down at this limp excuse for a meal, this ‘facon’ sandwich, I decided enough was enough. The experiment was over and a determination to learn set in.

I spent the next 5 months in Canada, working on 3 different farms, each applying regenerative agriculture principles to their livestock farming. I worked with an on-farm slaughterman, slaughtered chickens, processed bison and hunted and processed wild mule deer. These experiences really impressed on me the importance of provenance: knowing where and how your food was raised, grown, caught or produced, whether meat, fruit or veg. As goes the health of the animals goes the health of your meat, that much I’m sure of.

I still had questions though, about the actual nutritional value of meat and what constitutes a healthy diet. When Covid hit, I enrolled in a Nutritional Therapy course. It was time to bust some myths!

What’s already clear is there is no “one size fits all” approach to nutrition. Each person’s body has their own unique needs or circumstances that determine the optimal balance of nutrients they require, and where best they should attain them. Anyone who attempts to steer you to or away from a particular diet without knowing and adapting to your circumstances is pushing their own agenda, simple. But one thing is clear: in a conversation about the most densely packed nutritious foods available to us, meat and dairy are right at the top of the pile.

We live in a society that largely measures the quality of their diet by their calorie intake. This has led to a situation in the Western world at least, where many are overfed but undernourished. It is all too possible for us to nail our calorie intake without obtaining vital nutrients.

Some do go a little further and count their macros (macronutrients, being carbohydrates, fats, proteins). Let’s have it right, meat and dairy are extremely high in protein and fat, both absolutely essential to our makeup.

Proteins are the body’s building blocks, building and repairing tissues. They provide nitrogen and amino acids which, once water and fat are removed, make up about 75% of what’s left of the body.  Most hormones and enzymes are proteins, and proteins are a densely packed source of energy. They are considered to increase feelings of satiety, preventing us from gorging ourselves and improving weight control. Animal products are an amazing and efficient source of protein, but you all knew that right?

Fat on the other hand is much maligned, associated by many only with high cholesterol and weight gain. But fat, like protein, is an essential building block in the body. It is generally accepted that trans fats should be avoided. Saturated fats however, as found in meat and dairy, are widely debated. The long-held belief that sat fats are bad is under heavy scrutiny and there are many who now assert that the war on sat fats was based on bad science. I encourage you all to read The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz, if you’re interested.

Salted butter

What most people don’t think of though are the other nutrients, the micronutrients: vitamins and minerals. This is where modern diets and food sources can really be lacking. The proportion of micronutrients to calories in any given food item is known as its nutrient density, and all of the items in this box are incredibly nutrient dense. Offal for instance is extremely rich in vitamins and minerals. Have you ever noticed how wild animals, after a kill, go straight for the organ meats? They know exactly where good stuff is. They’re also highly underrated cuts by many in the kitchen.

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If my studies have shown me anything so far its that my instinct was right. There is nothing wrong with the nutritional value of meat and dairy, far from it. Nutritional advice to individuals should be unique, tailored to their individual physiology and lifestyle factors, and this may affect the recommended intake of certain foods. That does not mean those foods, in and of themselves, are bad.

Quite the contrary. We just need to get the message out there.

Tom Cripps