Grant Hilliard | From Sommelier to Meat Smith - The Journey of a True Food Facilitator

03.15.2021 - By The Regenerative Journey with Charlie Arnott

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In this episode Charlie interviews Grant Hilliard. Grant has been at the forefront of the paddock to plate scene in Sydney for many years, providing a vital link between curious and passionate 'eaters' in the city with the farmers who are producing regeneratively and ethically grown meat. Charlie and Grant traverse the line between government regulation, consumer sentiment and farming behaviours in exploring the current food system, its short comings and opportunities. Episode Takeaways: Grant operates a wholesale and retail butcher shop in Marrickville, Sydney, selling meat  and cuts of meat not usually seen in butcher shops eg. 3-4 year old beef, sourcing direct from producers | Buying direct from farmers is Feather and Bones point of difference | Grant grew up in suburban Melbourne with little time on farms | At Primary school he did a farm trip for a week to a dairy, and witnessed the slaughter of a sheep for food, which had profound formative effect on him | He was a vegetarian for a couple years whilst living in a remote nature reserve | Grant studied communications in Sydney and was involved in the making of a number of films | Whilst studying he worked as a waiter to pay the bills,  the famous Tony Bilson was one of his first bosses | He was the sommelier at Sean’s Panaroma in Bondi when he visited vineyards that got him interested in the location of food production | Information on the source of food was very scarce back then. He went looking for lamb, and found the rare Southdown breed near Oberon in the Central tablelands of NSW | He sold 3 different lambs to 3 different chefs, which was the beginning of his journey into sourcing good food direct from producers | The wool industry in Australia has pulled the meat sheep industry out of shape, with the wool breed Merino being used to produce most of the lamb available as a cross bred lamb | Grant visits every farm to understand them and provide that special link between farmers, not just between farmers and consumers | Whilst focused on rare breeds initially, Grant also now appreciates genetic diversity and the interconnection of things | Phenotype of an animal ( the influence of its environment such as food available) is just as important as it’s genotype |  Feeding of animals in a restricted environment (such as in feedlots) restricts their ability to source a full profile of nutrients | A diverse diet produced in a diverse landscape produces a diverse nutrient profile in the product | Angus cattle as a breed are highly genetically meddled with | Grant only sells one Angus producer’s beef and it originates from an old closed herd from the US with original Aberdeen Angus type genetics | The breed has been genetically commoditized | The current beef available is a reflection on the convenience for processors with little regard for consumer access to quality produce | One needs less of the meat that Grant sources and it goes further with more variety of cuts and a shorter supply chain creating a more diverse and resilient business model | 3 main challenges the food system in Australia faces incl. incorporating indigenous wisdom into food production, recognizing and accounting for the true cost of food & creating  government policy that recognizes we can't keep farming on a declining fertility plain | Political departmental disparity is challenging the effectiveness of food policy | A super department of health, land, environment & water would help address this! | Grant suggests if farmers are thinking about supplying good meat direct to wholesalers they need to consider their distance from processors and the overall logistics, and the quality of the water supplied to their livestock | Grant’s message of hope is that land can be rehabilitated and there is plenty if evidence of that happening at a rate faster than anticipated under the appropriate regenerative management. Episode Links :  Grant Hilliard -  Sydney Morning Herald article  Feather and Bone - 8/10-14 Lilian Fowler Place, Marrickville, Sydney, NSW 2204 The Ethical Omnivore - Grant Hilliard’s book  From the Feather & Bone website ‘The Ethical Omnivore is a user-friendly recipe and handbook that will open your eyes to a better way to buy, cook and eat.  this book to answer the questions we're asked every day in our butchery and it's an unapologetic paean of praise for regenerative agriculture and the importance of community.  We live in an affluent era marked by an increasingly fraught relationship to food, and meat is arguably the most controversial ingredient. There is a communal ache for authenticity, for a way forward with good conscience. Our book explores the solution: living with a conscience; asking the right questions of whomever sells you meat or of the labels you read; and learning how to respect the animal so much that you're willing to cook something other than chicken breast. We hope that it shows all of us how to live with less impact on the animals and environment that support us. Seans Panorama  - Restaurateur Sean Moran Phion water device - NSW, Aus

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