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Stressor animal transport - How to do it better
Stress - an emotional state we all know. However, this also includes cattle, pigs, poultry and co. Stress also causes their immune systems, hormones and bodies to be attacked. And it is precisely this that is ultimately reflected in the pale taste and tough meat structure.
In modern animal husbandry, there are heaps of these stressors lurking - starting with rearing, through animal transports to slaughter. We will show you why a very short transport time, careful rearing and, above all, great empathy on the part of our farmers are so important to us and how we manage all of this.
Meat quality starts from day 1
When it comes to enjoying a truly excellent piece of meat in the end, the process starts far earlier than when you buy it. More precisely, from day one. The way an animal has lived and been fed is ultimately how the meat tastes.
This includes careful rearing, with large areas to play and chill, as well as optimal feeding adapted to the animal. Here we already have two factors that are problematic for industrial meat production.
Huge yards and minimal space for animals
For many producers, it is first and foremost about making money. That's understandable. But the fact that they resort to reprehensible means and measures is anything but understandable.
Most people will be familiar with the horrific images of farms and slaughterhouses. Whether cattle, pigs or poultry - the animals live in confined spaces, without access to open air or light, and are fed the cheapest (because profitable) feed possible.
It is simply impossible that in the end a prime steak, as we understand it, should come out of this. Raising animals in this way causes an infinite amount of stress. This ultimately leads to a lot of adrenaline being released into the blood.
While the glycogen level drops as a result, the ph-value of the animal skyrockets. It should be clear by now that something is going very wrong here. In terms of taste, this means for the consumer that the meat becomes extremely tough and can hardly hold any meat juice. The well-known piece of meat that splatters all over the kitchen when roasted and shrinks in the process. Well, meal time.
Pigs are intelligent hygiene lovers
Is it really so difficult to provide animals with optimal rearing and first-class meat quality? No! Is it costly? Yes! Is it worth the effort? Definitely! For us, news like "Breakthrough in pig farming - full slatted floors to be banned from 2040" are not achievements.
Pigs are incredibly hygienic and clean animals that need straw, exercise and a lot of comfort as well as mental exercise, and they need it now. Not just in the distant future. With an average "life expectancy" of a fattening pig of only 6-7 months, that would mean that as of today (note: as of 08/2022 at the time of the article's publication) almost 30 "generations" will have to endure this ordeal!
We pay close attention to this with our selected small farmers. In an idyllic family farm, they lead a really fine life and grow up sheltered in small groups. The farms offer them play and activity opportunities, they can cuddle in the straw and simply feel super comfortable. What do our Gustino straw pigs like best? Clearly, the wonderful farm-produced vegetable feed.
A healthy portion of protein is provided by GMO-free donut soya from regional cultivation as well as minerals and vitamins. The result? Juicy, high-quality meat with an ingenious flavour and low roasting loss.
Animals need lush pastures and fresh fodder
Whether calf (heifer), Wagyu beef, corn-fed chicken or straw pig: all the animals we have processed for Fitmeat come 100% from Austria and are awarded 4x AT. This means that birth, slaughter, rearing and cutting took place in Austria.
Chilling on fresh meadows and pastures is just as natural for our animals as really good feed. Because this also plays an essential role in animal welfare and results in optimal meat quality. While our chickens are passionate about picking maize, our pigs are fed a mixture of barley, wheat, rape, beans, peas and maize. Our cattle's diet consists mainly of fresh grasses, herbs and hay.
Good things take time - the beautiful marbling of our steaks is no coincidence. Fresh feed, which is adapted to the animals and free of concentrated feed, leads to natural growth. This allows the animals to develop perfectly instead of being fattened to the desired slaughter weight at record pace.
Therefore, species-appropriate and caring rearing is the be-all and end-all for us. A requirement that is also noticeable in the taste. If you compare pigs from factory farms, for example, one thing is immediately clear: due to the permanent stress, the meat is much firmer, loses a lot of water when roasted and has hardly any flavour of its own. The same effect can be seen in poultry, beef and the like!
Good things take time - this applies to all our Fitmeat animals
Careful rearing of the animals is an absolute prerequisite for us. Because we don't just love exceptionally good meat, we fight for species-appropriate animal husbandry and the appreciation of meat products. Mass animal husbandry could not be further from our minds.
Animals need time to develop and our farmers allow them this time. The only thing that has to happen quickly is the transport route.
Stressor animal transport
Unfortunately, animals are still transported alive across Europe or even the whole world under terrible conditions. Injuries, stress and diseases are virtually pre-programmed. These are images that leave us stunned and the fact that the meat of these animals is later found in the chiller cabinet leaves us speechless.
Within the EU alone, about 3.8 million animals are transported over distances of at least 8 hours every day. 1 The following problems often occur during long animal transports:
Due to the lack of space, animals injure themselves by jamming their legs, hooves or horns. Friction between animals leads to a kind of panic.
In many animal transports, the animals are not supplied with sufficient water, because the water systems are inaccessible or too polluted. Also heat and cold stress is also an extreme problem.
For animal transporters, no minimum height of the blanket has been prescribed so far. The only exception here is for horses. Only a "sufficient height" is required - but how this is defined is left up to the transporters themselves. Unfortunately, this is often interpreted to the disadvantage of the animals.
The extent to which the animals are affected varies, of course. However, the individual factors add up and the consequences are all the more serious the longer a transport lasts.
Animal transport at Fitmeat: really short, if at all.
We source 100% of our meat from small Austrian farmers. The farms are located around Salzburg, in beautiful Lower Austria, in the Waldviertel and in the Salzkammergut. We distance ourselves from long transport routes as well as from factory farming.
If animals cannot be slaughtered directly and stress-free at the farm, the transport takes a maximum of 15 minutes and leads to the nearby butcher or slaughterhouse.
Slaughter is not a topic that people like to talk about. But it is part of the process, so more information should be provided. Next to animal transport, this process is one of the most delicate moments. So good planning and a calm process is an absolute must for the animals.
In order to make this process as gentle and stress-free as possible for our animals, we also pay attention to respectful individual slaughtering of the animals. It is important to know the animals well and to be able to respond to them. This is the only way to avoid unnecessary stress. Our master butchers know both our farmers and our animals personally and know exactly how this process works smoothly.
An example from Fitmeat practice: One of our "regular farmers" is himself a master butcher and has built his farm in such a way that the cattle walk from the stable to the pasture through or past the slaughter room. This means that his animals are already used to the environment, which makes the slaughtering process stress-free and peaceful.
This not only benefits our animals, but also our customers. After all, we at Fitmeat stand for the highest quality meat and want to guarantee our customers exactly that.
It is an effort that we are happy to accept and one that is noticeable in terms of taste as well as quality from the first bite of a Fitmeat cut. We will continue to campaign for stricter and better guidelines in Austria.
We welcome approaches such as mobile slaughter containers to be set up on pastures or the pasture shot and hope that the legal conditions will also develop in this direction.
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