‘Eat More Beef and Save the Planet’ announced the cover of Time magazine sometime last year. From inside my closet I turned up my headlamp and shone it on the headline. Could this be true? Surely it was supposed to read: ‘Eat More Risotto and Save the Planet’ or some such vegetarian war cry.
But no, here was a story explaining how free-range or veld-raised cows can save the planet. I kissed the cover and emerged from the closet, bowl of biltong in hand.
The assault on red meat over the past couple of years has been so severe that as a devoted red meat eater I have been forced into hiding. It got so bad that I couldn’t even order a man-size steak at a restaurant anymore without someone commenting “People really need to eat less red meat,” as they tucked into their risotto. Risotto! Awful sticky stuff – how can it possibly be better for you than a tasty rangeland steak?
Besides, what’s wrong with these risotto-packers? If I was smoking in their face, I could understand their interference. But for crikey’s sake, let a gal eat her meat in peace. But no, they had to let me know that tsk tsk by eating red meat, I am not only messing with my Omegas, I am exacerbating global warming.
Tired of having the world’s problems cast at my plate, I took to eating in my closet or solely in the company other devoted red-meat eaters. Fortunately I didn’t have trouble finding company since Africa is a continent of devoted red meat eaters. Something I tried to point out to the risotto crowd who fail to realise that the ‘People’ to whom they address their sermon are not your daily Woolworths shoppers.
Many ‘People’ only eat red meat when they have a few pennies to spare or when they ritually slaughter a cow or bull. Come to think of it, the last time I ate red meat in public was at a ritual slaughter for Nomkhubulwana the Zulu fertility goddess, attended by a red-meat-eating crowd of 7000. I was in good company; the only problem was that even a large bull struggles to feed 7000.
Fortunately a few people in the crowd were risotto-eaters and turned down their share. They were cultural exchange students from Holland and they were taken by surprise when the sangomas slaughtered the bull right there in front of them. One passed out and another got on her cellphone, presumably to Holland, saying, “You won’t believe what’s happening here!”
What was happening here was nothing more than these good Zulu folk slaughtering – and then cooking – red meat fresh from the veld. It didn’t come with some outlandish organic certification from Europe; it was just good old-fashioned organic meat.
“Just as it should be,” said the folk quoted in the Time article – none other than America’s power couple of organic vegetable farming, Eliot Coleman (author of The New Organic Grower and Barbara Damrosch (the Washington Post’s gardening columnist). Some say it’s a sign of psychological impairment when you think that people in magazines are talking to you, but I know that Eliot and Barbara were talking to me. And I liked it.
I liked it because they have been re-born. They are re-born red-meat eaters. Not any old red meat. I’m talking free-range, veld-raised red meat, which Eliot and Barbara have taken to in a big way. They would have found the bull at the ceremony very tasty.
“Why are we doing this?” Eliot has been asked by desperate risotto-eaters who thought they were on their side. “Because I care about the fate of the planet.” Hallelujah.
They, like many environmental activists and risotto eaters, once thought cows were bad. But they were converted by holistic veld management guru, Allan Savory, who has long since been telling the world that well-managed, free-range or veld-raised herds, far from being bad for the planet, are essential to combating one of the major causes of climate change: the desertification of natural environments.
Savory has shown how the sustainable grazing of large herds of ruminants can reverse veld degradation, transforming dead soil into thriving grasslands. “Their trampling helps work manure and other organic matter into the soil, feeding the roots of grasses of plants and aerating the soil, which increases its ability to retain water,” Eliot explains.
I still had my headlamp on as I did a jig around the room. I did an even faster jig when the article explained that the meat from ruminants raised on grass or veld is full of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids.
I wasted no time getting on the phone to the risotto-eaters who have plagued my plate. “Well it still doesn’t mean you should stuff yourself. We used to have to hunt for our meat, so we didn’t get it that often,” they replied.
That may be so, but I am having a fresh-from-the-veld red meat feast this Friday. Eliot and Barbara have already rsvp’d. The risotto-eaters need not reply.