Why does local meat from the local farmer taste better? – By Dr Jessica Steel BVSc
When you buy meat from a smaller scale, local farmer you are buying meat from animals who have experienced a lower level of stress in their lives and the meat production process. Less stress not only makes for happier, healthier animals but also results in tastier, more tender meat – as described by famous author and livestock welfare advocate Dr Temple Grandin.
Meat produced in large amounts for sale at supermarkets comes from animals that have usually been transported large distances (more than 1500km on journeys over 24hrs long!). They have also spent time in yards, sometimes with new herd-mates. When confined in yards or transport trucks animals are forced into close quarters which increases social stress – just like many of us have felt through lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic! Access to food and water is also restricted in these situations and can legally be deprived of food and water for up to 48hrs, all exacerbating the stress. The time from farm to slaughter can be days to weeks depending on the animal.
In comparison, when buying direct from the farm to a local processor. The cattle are transported shorter distances in smaller numbers and usually held in yards for less than 24hrs. Overall this means they have less stress and for a much shorter period of time.
So why does lower stress result in better quality meat for the consumer?
The answer is related to lactic acid production. When animals have gone through large amounts of stress and movement the muscles use up this glycogen to produce energy, resulting in less glycogen in the meat at slaughter. This results in lower levels of lactic acid production post-mortem and meat that is pale, tough and tasteless. Lactic acid is also associated with reduced bacterial growth, so meat from stressed animals will also spoil faster!
Why buy meat locally?
When you buy meat from local farmers you will be buying meat from happier animals which results in better animal welfare and better meat:
· More tender
· Better colour
· Longer shelf-life
In summary, despite the best efforts of the large scale meat industry, many factors that increase their efficiency also negatively impact the overall stress levels of production animals and therefore taste of your meat.