Chefs’ New Goal: Looking Dinner in the Eye

Left Jamie Oliver, top UK chef and right, Angie Norwood Brown

The New York Times published this report today.

LAST Friday, in front of 4 million television viewers and a studio audience, the chef Jamie Oliver killed a chicken. Having recently obtained a United Kingdom slaughterman’s license, Mr. Oliver staged a “gala dinner,” in fact a kind of avian snuff film, to awaken British consumers to the high costs of cheap chicken.

“A chicken is a living thing, an animal with a life cycle, and we shouldn’t expect it will cost less than a pint of beer in a pub,” he said Monday in an interview.

“It only costs a bit more to give a chicken a natural life and a reasonably pleasant death,” he told the champagne-sipping audience before he stunned the chicken, cut an artery inside its throat, and let it bleed to death, all in accordance with British standards for humane slaughter.

Mr. Oliver said that he wanted people to confront the reality that eating any kind of meat involves killing an animal, even if it is done with a minimum of pain.

This story puts me in mind of a Candid Camera type show I saw in England (can’t remember the name now) where two old ladies go into their local butchers and order lamb chops. The butcher disappears from behind the counter, only to reappear through the front door leading a bleating lamb, saying something to the effect, “We want to make sure it’s fresh, only be a moment,” implying he was going to kill and cut up the lamb while they waited. Well, they didn’t. They looked at each other in horror and quickly left. Canned laughter, fade out.

Julia Moskin’s article also discusses US chefs who supervise the raising of animals for meat, some of whom keep “a respectful distance” and others who name the animals.

Tamara Murphy, the chef at Brasa in Seattle is quoted:

”The hardest part of the slaughter was the betrayal. The pigs get in the trailer because they trust you, they get out of the trailer because they trust you, they go into the pen because they trust you.”

A quote from Herb Eckhouse, who owns La Quercia, a producer of cured meats, notes why meat preparing chefs who show the most concern for animal welfare insist on seeing the animals’ lives:

”The chefs trust me and I trust the farmer, and those piglets had as good a life as any I’ve seen. For the most part, we in the meat industry live in a world of half-truths, like ‘natural,’ ‘family farmed,’ and ‘humanely raised,’ and the only thing we can really trust is what we see.”

Famous New York chef Mark Meyer, however, says:

”I think it’s a pathetic fallacy. It doesn’t do anything for the animal, and you can tell everything you need to know by the meat, once you know what to look for.”

: Read full story

Source: New York Times, DawnWatch. Photographs published with story, photographer(s) not noted.

More reading from the New York Times on animals.

Frank Bruni’s It Died for Us about Whole Foods decision not to sell live lobsters and Saving the Animals: New Ways to Test Products about L’Oreal’s use of non animal testing technology.

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