More on The Pig Idea

Stop. Wasting. Stuff.

In times BC i.e. pre-March 2020, I was still writing a separate blog about what steps were needed to get to Zero Waste. That’s kind of withered on the vine somewhat during the past year but this piece is one I started for STP a few months back and needs bumping out now, if only so I don’t stop the writing habit altogether!

Some idea of the amazingly obscene levels of waste within the food chain is highlighted by the detail that over 115 million litres of pig blood are produced each year in the US alone. Most of it is turned into blood meal and used to feed young piglets but when meat’s on the menu (it still is of course; where/when/how this will change, is a subject that deserves a whole set of separate posts), it would be sensible to re-purpose this and instead offer alternative uses such as blood sausage; before thinking that feeding pigs to other pigs is a good thing. We all know how feeding animals bits of other animals worked out for us in the UK…

In 2019, 35% of all food in the United States went unsold or uneaten. The good news is that the total amount of this surplus food has leveled off since 2016 after increasing by 11.9% in the earlier part of the last decade – and surplus food per capita actually declined by 2% during the same period. A deeper look at the data also found that:

  1. More than 50% of the produce left behind on farms in 2019 was actually edible. That’s enough fruits and vegetables to theoretically provide each food-insecure American with four servings per day.
  2. 70% of surplus in foodservice comes from consumers not eating everything they’re served.
  3. The residential sector is still the largest source of food waste overall and has the largest GHG footprint given the added energy required to get food from farm to home.

 

There is something that the average person can do to slow down climate change, and it can be accomplished without leaving the house. Don’t waste food. From a report: Some 931 million tons of it went to waste in 2019, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. Individual households were responsible for more than half of that, with the rest coming from retailers and the food service industry. New estimates show that about 17% of food available to consumers worldwide that year ended up being wasted. The matter is even more urgent when considered alongside another UN analysis that tracks the problem further up the supply chain, and shows 14% of food production is lost before it reaches stores. Waste is happening at every point, from the field to the dinner table. Food waste and loss are responsible for as much as 10% of global emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. If it were a country, this discard would rank third in the ranking of the world’s sources of greenhouse gases, after China and the U.S. Among the most effective climate solutions, non-profit Project Drawdown ranks cutting food waste ahead of moving to electric cars and switching to plant-based diets. Thursday’s UNEP report suggests the amount of food wasted by consumers could be about double the previous estimate. The analysis conducted by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization in 2011 relied on data from fewer countries.

For some years now, the Japanese have been exploring the re-purposing of surplus food taken from from retail operations and caterers to feed pigs after first being treated and they trumpet the benefits of their pork fed on surplus food, as “eco-pork”.

In 2018 there were 360 eco-feed producers operating. 47 of them processed surplus food from retailers and 29 specialised in the processing of meat-containing surplus food.

The Odakyu Group is a great example of this virtuous circular operation. They run a chain of department stores, rail transport, hotels and restaurants, all of who deliver their unused food to the Japan Food Ecology Centre (JFEC) factory to be turned into pig feed, and they then go on to buy back the pork raised from this feed, to sell as a premium-quality eco-product in these same stores under brand names such as Yuton, meaning “superior pork,” and Umakabuta, “delicious, flavourful pork.”

JFEC takes in 35 tonnes of surplus food per day to produce 40 tonnes of this eco-feed which is then separated into carbs, fish, vegetables, etc. before going to be heat treated (they only need temperatures of around 80-90 degrees for a few minutes) and then into a lactic acid fermentation process which inactivates any disease pathogens (mainly targeting E. coli and salmonella). They also add various additional nutrients such as calcium lactate and lysine, a kind of amino acid, to make this, as they see it, “a premium feed for premium pigs.” About 24 hours after the waste first arrives, the liquid food is ready for the farms.

pig favourites

© JFEC Japan

Most of the waste is carbohydrates, such as bread, noodles and rice, which is actually better for pigs’ health than it might seem as, just like us human, 70% of the energy pigs require comes from carbohydrates & it’s sufficient to get just 10% from vegetables. Carbohydrates are an important component of quality feed, and bread-and noodle-based waste actually trades at cheaper rates than vegetable-based ones and ultimately costs the farmer less than half the price of dry feed.

It’s a well monitored and safe process and it’s one that’s well overdue for approval here in Blighty.

Pig-Idea-UK-policy-report

 

The earth beneath my feet

“A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.”

I lay no claim to greatness but we have this lovely print on the wall above the fire as  a reminder of the importance of trees.

Martin Luther quote about trees

And have just got the oak sapling to stage where, in about 50 years, it’ll be a decent size.

Oak tree sapling

And this is how the cherry tree looks today. The bees, of every variety are in 7th heaven with the flowers and nectar on offer.

Cherry tree in full blossom

And finally, the wormery continues its magic, turning food scraps and bits of newspaper into stunning compost. A real circular ‘economy’. Fuck capitalism.

Earth from the wormery

A lot of the world is going to hell in a handcart but we continue to plant.

“It’s terrible, there’s blood eeeeverrrrywhere…”

A year or so back, in a US TV report of a pitched battle between rival Hells Angels gangs, held in some nameless, mid-Western, flea-bitten, side of the highway, pit-stop, the police office attending used these memorable words to describe the scene of carnage that unfolded in front of him, when he first arrived. We now use them here for everything.

And the arrival today of this paperback delight, recommended on Twitter by Thom Eagle (op.cit. around here quite often), all the way from the land of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, great, great food, maple syrup and the Trudeau dynasty, reminded me of this policeman’s words again.

"Blood" by Jennifer McLagann

The author, Australian born Jennifer McLagan, whose site is well worth a visit, has been described as

“perhaps the most idiosyncratic and underrated cookbook author of our time.”

and has written some fantastic books inc. “Fat“, “Bitter“, “Bones” and “Odd Bits“, so you know, straight off, exactly where her head is at. I first came across her writing in the book “Offal: Rejected and Reclaimed Food 2016: Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food” where she’d contributed a chapter titled “Blood, Not So Simple“, the title, I imagine, an homage to the blood in the first Coen Brothers’ film.

This mini book — there’s only around 30 pages — nevertheless manages to cover a wide range of uses for blood, especially by not just sticking with the more obvious use in savoury dishes but — in an attempt to woo those of a more squeamish disposition esp. those white, Westerners to whom blood is still something that’s supposed to stay hidden inside things rather than as something that can and should be ingested and eaten — also using it in breads, sweets and even cocktails.

Some blood recipes

And thanks to her, I was reminded — having read this 40+ years ago, you’ll forgive me, I hope, that I’d long forgotten this detail — of an early description of the joys of blood pudding that came via Homer’s The Odyssey:

“Listen to me,” said Antinous, “there are some goats’ paunches down at the fire, which we have filled with blood and fat, and set aside for supper; he who is victorious and proves himself to be the better man shall have his pick of the lot; he shall be free of our table and we will not allow any other beggar about the house at all.”

And one last thing? Apparently Buddhist monks use their own blood to write (as Nepalese women, their own, plucked, hair to weave) to demonstrate their piety. There’s a long scholarly piece here, from last year, via Nature magazine.

The thanks for giving me that detail, go to Val but she’s not responsible for the subsequent ear-worm of

“If I could stick a knife in my heart
Suicide right on stage
Would it be enough for your teenage lust
Would it help to ease the pain?
Ease your brain?”

As a callow youth of just 17, I well remember the accompanying, laughably camp, “sailor suits in bubble bath” video…

Japanese bacon

Whilst bacon possibly isn’t the first ingredient that springs to mind when you start thinking about Japanese food, you may be surprised at how often it’s used over there. It’s popular on izakaya (those small pub or tapas like bars scattered in every city) menus where items like scallops or asparagus come wrapped in bacon, grilled over charcoal on konro or hibachi grills and then drizzled with a soy-mirin glaze and we’ve even seen it used in okonomiyaki (the street food pancakes that we enjoyed in Osaka).

This recipe for curing bacon has a distinct Japanese hue to it, thanks to some inspiration from the (possibly insane) Scott Hallsworth of Korobuta fame.

This’ll yield around 800g. of “angels dancing on your tongue” bacon. Do it right and it should look like this
Japanese cured bacon
You’ll need to start with a 1kg piece of (boneless) pork belly. You can leave the rind on by the way.
The cure I use here, will make enough for 2kg pork but will store well or you can use as part of a kimchi mix
1kg fine sea salt
80g Sichuan peppercorns
30g dried red chillies
570g dark brown or cane sugar
20cm piece kombu
Firstly, in a hot pan, toast the peppercorns. Toast not burn. Then blend — at a fine setting — all the rub ingredients together in a spice grinder. I’d suggest using a pair of gloves (or, if you use your bare fingers, don’t then touch any ‘sensitive’ bits of your body with them before you’ve washed them thoroughly!) to help rub the mix vigorously into the pork belly. You’ve got to give it a firm, almost Turkish baths type massage, whilst at the same time, you caress it, so all the cure is really well rubbed into all the nooks & crannies. Finish it off by adding an extra coating layer for good luck.
Next grab some muslin. You’ll need enough to be able to triple wrap the pork belly. Use some kitchen string, to bundle it up tightly and secure with a knot or two, just like you were wrapping a bow around a present. Now you’ve got to hang it by one of these bows from a shelf in your fridge. For 4 days. And it’s really important that the bacon isn’t touching anything. If it does, it can attract a build up of moisture, which’ll lead it to spoil. The aim here is to allow it to carry on drying out, which lets the flavours develop as it cures.
On day 5, unwrap your parcel, rinse off the cure then dry well with a paper towel or tea towel. Rewrap as before but in some fresh muslin. Now for an even longer wait…
Hang it once again from a shelf in your fridge for 2 weeks.
When it’s time to use, cut carefully into long delicious slices. Use up any trimmings in stir-fries, risottos, or just fry them until crunchy and blend it into a big, fat, porky homemade mayonnaise. Finest kind.