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By Ralph Loglisci, Slow Meat 2014 Delegate

Slow Meat 2014 wasnt just a series of talks. Delegates were given the chance to explore, taste and learn about sustainable and humane meat production. In addition to ranch tours and sausage making demonstrations, one of the centerpiece events was the fabrication of a grass fed pasture-raised bison. The animal was slaughtered off-site and brought to the Auraria Hospitality Learning Center, where much of the Slow Meat symposium took place.

{{ image(2818,{“class”: “flor round”, “width”:”200″, “height”:”300″, “method”: “img”}) }}Expert butchers, such as Chef Jon Emanuel, demonstrated how to fabricate a whole animal. The bison produced 600 pounds of meat – none of which went to waste. Several guest chefs prepared two full days worth of meals for the more than 120 delegates and staff. The additional meat was donated to Project Angel Heart, where Emanuel serves as executive chef. Project Angel Heart prepares and delivers meals to people with life-threatening illnesses. Emanuel says he was able to prepare more than 1,000 meals with the donated meat. In all, we calculated that the entire animal provided about 2,500 meals.

In order to make that many meals, each of the more than a dozen chefs were instructed to find ways to make the meals taste delicious but with less meat. According to our calculation each meal contained about 3.84 ounces. Chef Matthew Raiford, Assistant Professor of the Culinary Arts at the College of Coastal Georgia and organic farmer, lead one of the many workshops, and taught delegates simple and flavorful ways to create meals that move meat away from the center of the plate.

While not every delegate immediately supported the idea of encouraging everyone to eat less meat, Slow Food USA promoted campaigns designed to reduce meat consumption, such as Meatless Monday. Reducing the amount of meat people eat can support sustainable meat producers by allowing their customers to spend a little bit more for their products. And considering that the vast majority of meat that is sold and bought in this country is industrially produced in unsustainable ways, cutting back meat consumption can reduce the environmental and health risks associated with that production system.

For some people, the idea of eating any meat does not match their ethical values. Slow Food USA Executive Director Richard McCarthy can relate. He has been a vegetarian sine he was 15 years old. “However,” he says “I have also come to recognize a growing community of grass-fed ranchers, humane hog farmers, and backyard chicken enthusiasts who care about the quality of life for their animals.” Animal welfare was an important topic discussed among the delegates. Each farmer said they hold themselves to strict animal welfare standards. Some delegates felt not every producer there went far enough. However, all agreed that respecting the animals we eat and ensuring they lived comfortable natural lives was extremely important.