Food

A dose of kindness on your plate

Farmville Nishanth Chandran of TenderCuts with free-range goats SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Before you reach out for that plump chicken leg, stop and think. Do you know where your meat has come from? What conditions the chicken was reared in or culled? The same applies to the eggs you might consume or even dairy. Were the animals crammed in a tiny facility and pumped with hormones and antibiotics? Do we actually know if the food we consume comes from a healthy animal or bird reared in a humane manner?

Of late, these are some of the questions being raised. After all, we are what we eat. And, how our food is grown or reared is directly proportional to the nutrients we consume. Terms such as free-range, antibiotic-free and organic are catching on for animal products; with many people consciously making the switch and looking specifically for such food options.

According to Ram Mohan of Farm Made Foods, which supplies free-range eggs to several stores across Chennai, the awareness about these kinder alternatives that ensure the animals are reared in humane conditions has only gone up in the last few years. “There’s been a conscious shift towards free-range products. From a time when we had to explain to stores why they should stock free-range products, to now, when we have a presence across 150 stores in the city with clients consciously picking up free-range products, there’s been a huge shift. People everywhere are talking about the amount of hormones and antibiotics that go into chicken; which is then being consumed by them.”

Born free

He adds that free-range simply means the animal has been allowed to grow in a natural environment. “For instance, in our farms, we let the chickens run about and scratch the ground for their feed. There are no hormones or antibiotics involved; nor are they forced to lay eggs. Everything is a natural process. This does mean that production costs are higher and the yield lower, but that’s how it usually pans out when it comes to natural products. This is also why free-range products might cost a little more.”

Meat producers such as Herboo and TenderCuts have also begun catering to the need of the hour with their antibiotic-free and free-range meat and chicken. Nishanth Chandran, CEO of TenderCuts, says that there is an increase in the number of people who want to know where their food comes from. “TenderCuts came about when we realised that there was no grading or choice of quality of meat in the country. We’ve adopted multiple steps to ensure quality; we have tied up with farms and make sure they follow the guidelines we’ve set for them — right from breeding to sourcing. The meat we procure is free-range and antibiotic-free; even the fish we get are from smaller boats that return to shore in one day. Larger boats are usually out at sea for a while and chemicals are used to preserve the catch; which we avoid,” he says, adding that 80% of their sales is based on online orders.

Health above all

One of the biggest advantages of choosing free-range products, says Chandran, is that the animal takes its own time to grow. “This directly translates to better composition of protein and vitamins and reduced fat. Everything is natural; the growth is not accelerated with hormones. It’s a healthier alternative.”

At The Farm in Semmancheri, where one can buy free-range eggs and organic dairy products such as cheese, paneer, curd, butter and ghee, the focus is on letting their animals lead a free life. “The cows are not tied up; they move about freely. Also, we milk them once the calf has been fed. There are no machines involved in the process, which means that there’s no pain or discomfort caused to the animal. When they walk around the farm, the bull is around too; there’s no artificial insemination involved. The natural grass they feed on adds tremendously to their diet. All of this translates to great quality milk and the nutrients that we get from it,” says Shalini Philip, who runs The Farm with Arul Futnani. She adds that while a conscious shift has happened in terms of choosing free-range eggs, a lot of people are yet to make that switch to organic or free-range meat. “While some people can make the connection between organic meat and animal products and better health, there are several who are still catching on.”

Milk matters
  • Sidharth Vijayakumaran, co-founder of Madras Milk, says, “When I first started my company, people would ask how the animal was treated; but it was not a deciding factor for them to buy the milk. The price was.”
  • He adds that the focus has now switched to A2 milk and people aren’t really looking at organic any more. “But, then again, everything depends on the price. If the farmer is not paid well or on time, he is going to resort to practices such as using hormone injections, diluting milk with water or simply selling the animal to a slaughter house. At Madras Milk, we ensure that the farmers are paid on time. Because, if they are happy, the cattle is happy.


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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 5:34:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/a-dose-of-kindness-on-your-plate/article17433445.ece

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