With sustainability at the forefront of modern life, there are various avenues one can travel towards in the hope of reducing our carbon footprint and increasing our positive impact on the wider world.
Some of the most mentioned at the moment are those of plastic waste, of fuel emissions, and of meat consumption. Whilst some people have impressively taken to attempt zero of all, notably through the admirable recent rise of veganism, it is also possible for the rest of us to make a massive difference. Oddly enough, this doesn’t necessarily mean buying and eating less meat.
A major part of the problem is the way the food industry is controlled by dominating giants. A trip down the aisle of your favourite supermarket will no doubt see piles of plastic packaging around countless cuts of popular meats, from chicken breasts and pork loins to fillet steaks and lamp chops, each flown in from various parts of the world and with dubious future use-by-dates printed on. Think about it, and none of that’s especially natural.
Aside from the ultimate task of cutting it out completely, there are three things that can happen here to make the system better: buy fresh produce without unnecessary packaging; buy local goods with low mileage; and buy unusual cuts which are otherwise unused. Thankfully for Leeds folk, this ain’t all that difficult, and the hat-trick can be achieved by a simple visit to your local butchers, or one of those in Kirkgate Market.
But it’s all very well saying to pick up the off cuts, how do you go about doing so, and know what the heck you’re buying? Well, simple. First of all, most butchers are delighted to help customers interested in this stuff, and secondly, it’s not so scary once you start. A beef shin should be no more daunting than a chicken leg, a collar of pork no less buyable than a loin. And the good news is, they’re often high in flavour and low in price.
To discover this, take a trip along top row of Kirkgate Market. Previously housed on the opposite side of Leeds’ grand hall, butchers row was moved upon renovation and most now live alongside the fishmongers in the first two aisles.
On the corner you can’t miss Bennett’s, one of the city’s popular suppliers, and owners of another shop in Morley. The display is of lean mean favourites, but beyond these are the less purchased parts. Often advertised as food for your pets, there’s no reason they alone should enjoy the tastes of the likes of turkey neck, which falls off the bone into stews, and beef heart, which braises beautifully.
Nearby, Malcolm Michaels is equally loved in Leeds, and the guys here don’t shirk away from unusual offerings alongside the crowdpleasers. Nose to tail is truly represented, from pig cheek to oxtail, due to the craft and experience of the crew, who will also add a chat and a laugh to the service. Other Kirkgate Market butchers including JP Johnston and B&J Callard also get in on the offer of offal, helping to make up for the acquired taste oddity that sadly closed, The Tripe Shop.
The above are all reliable sources for Leeds restaurants to obtain their meats from in a more sustainable way, and plenty do just that. Whilst the majority of places stick to the most recognised cuts for their diners, some are more adventurous, opting for the optimum flavour packing punch.
At Zaap Thai, for example, there is marinated pork neck on the menu, Mumtaz lists curries of trotters and brain, and at Home (the Cantonese one) their hotpots are filled with tripe, liver and kidney. High end British tasting menus also serve this stuff as delicacies, with both the lauded Home (the British one) and the Michelin starred The Man Behind The Curtain serving up sweetbreads, and The Swine That Dines cooking up specific nose to tail small plate menus.
It is this movement towards using the whole of the animal that educates and drives sustainability. It is one which meat eaters must follow if we’re to join in with positive action, however contrary or counter-productive it may seem that one can consume less meat without consuming less meat.
There’s no excuse either, as quality butchers continue into Leeds suburbs, from Wilson’s and Stephenson’s, through RP Setchfield and JB Wilkinson, to Headingley Farm and Woodends. All can provide you with the best bits of the cheap cuts, so that soon, the offal won’t seem so awful, and the tripe won’t feel so tripe.