The Farmer trusts the chef. Customers trust the Chef. We are a very good weapon for changing the food system. Brian Halweil

Lisa recorded some of Environmental Engineer Mpumi’s insights from our Longtable Project last week

Mpumi and grass-fed meat

Mpumi started the event with telling the story of when he studied as a Nelson Mandela Scholar in Austin, Texas in the 1990’s and all the meat he ate was specifically sourced from different farms and areas in America. He returned to SA in 1996 and realized how little choice and knowledge there was in the market, the meat was bland. He spoke to all the major retailers about sourcing grass-fed tasty meat but everyone responded by saying, there is nothing we can do.

Not one to be stopped, he then approached the Meat Board and they too said ,there is nothing we can do. The constraints seem to lie with the grading system i.e. the basis on which meat is graded (Mpumis
grass-fed cow could only ever attain Grade C even if he aged it for 28 days to ensure tenderness) and also with the carcass size constraint from the abattoirs.

Mpumi then provided us with lots of statistics proving that so many of our grass-fed cows never become meat. In order to break this cycle everyone in the value chain needs to understand where the constraints lie, namely with the abattoirs and the grading system. Mpumi also spoke about a mobile abattoir that he has sourced which could slaughter animals on site and reduce stress to the animal. Waste is handled in an eco-friendly way and the cold chain is preserved. He is currently working with the Dept. of Agriculture to get this approved.

He concluded with the fact that change needs to happen in the meat industry to provide consumers with alternatives. He is looking at ways to get grass-fed cows from the small rural farmer to the consumer. He is passionate about being able to trace the meat you eat back to the farm it was reared on. He wants to take traceability one step further and speaks of faceability, meaning being able to recognize the meat you are eating right down to the pasture it was reared on. We learnt about great global practice such as Firstlight in New Zealand and Dick Cates’ family farm in Wisconsin.

Sustainable Change Agent

Mpumi is a change agent, he wants to see big changes in the meat industry which will result in sustainable practices and support of the small farmer. The consumer will benefit from a tastier, healthier, more sustainable product. He believes that the rockstar chefs need to join him as change agents in educating the consumer. The chefs are the voice of authority and that they have the power to exert the change. He challenged 5 chefs to be part of a challenge where every part of a grass-fed cow would be prepared to promote and to educate the consumer. The inaugural Longtable Chefs, Vanessa, Stefan and Christiaan as well as Shane from the Vineyard all embraced the challenge. Bring it on.

He concluded with the 5 Cs necessary for change
1. Connections people and ideas
2. Conversations
3. Collaboration
4. Context
5. Communities



1 october 2013