Farmer respect and eating meat

I generally respect farmers (most deserve it, some don’t), but I am gradually eating less and less meat due to lifestyle changes (and a slowing metabolism, meaning greater dietary care is required). Cost of meat is also a significant factor.

Some interesting comments at Reddit: Kiwi Farmers feel that they are not respected as sustainability concerns lead to the average Kiwi eating 20kg less meat

I don’t think it’s sustainability that is causing the average New Zealander to eat less meat but cost, I’m also consuming far less dairy than I once did, and I’m eating more eggs.

I’m not eating more eggs either , even though I run a few chooks (and sheep).

Even if the reason is the sustainability, why should that offend the farmers? I value their well-offness less than I value the state of the environment in terms of atmospheric methane and waterway eutriphication. Why does that make me the bad guy, those are pretty decent reasons to disagree with someone’s business practices.

It’s not people making personal eating choices that farmers find offensive – most farm production is exported anyway. But farmers have been increasingly targeted and criticised by some on environmental matters. Farm pollution has become a dirty issue, as well as methane emissions.

It’s the same for me as well. As a student, it’s getting a bit harder to have a proper diet with rising food costs.

The only dairy I normally have is milk in my coffee and as for meat, I buy the cheapest cuts I can as I’ve got a pressure cooker which means that it can be cost effective.

I have noticed that I’m eating more chicken than I used to as well.

Because chicken is relatively cheap (as well as cheep). Beef and lamb/mutton in particular have become very expensive.

A farmer’s view:

Im not offended if you dont buy ruminant products. I stopped eating red meat because it was by far and away the most effective measure i could undertake to reduce my ecological footprint. I think what dick and di are referring to in this article is more in regard to the interactions that we have with people outside of purely transactional contexts.

Ive had people spit at me, curse me, i had a gp that spent my entire appointment telling me how morally degenerate i am for being a farmer. These are extreme examples of course, and i dont hold these peoples passion for an incredibly important topic against them, but for most of my friends they find themselves being made pariahs simply for being born into a particular passion in life.

We arent saints when it comes to our reaction to the attitude of others, very few are, but that shouldnt preclude the extension of empathy and understanding beyond the simplistic and all too common characterisation of us as motivated solely by greed.

Empathy from all people is the most necessary development in our discussion about the environment. When even mike joy reiterates that the situation we face is not the fault of farmers then shouldnt that tell us something. I have taken responsibility for my actions and the attitudes of my friends and colleagues.

You will not break through to farmers until you vehemently disavow the small minded and ill informed commentary made by the vocal minority.

The vocal minority are unlikely to change their activism.

And taste. Lamb tastes like shit, now that i’m out of home i don’t have to deal with eating a shitty Sunday roast every week because of tradition. I might cook a stir fry but that’s about it for meat.

Maybe that’s a personal thing rather than a change, but it could also be how the product is handled – possibly packed too quickly.

Lamb has always had not a lot of taste. Hogget and whether is better, but it needs to be hung properly before using or freezing. In the summer I hang sheep for  3-4 days depending on the weather, and up to 6 days in the winter. Aged meat is tastier. We had a delicious Sunday roast yesterday.

I think the article is a little misleading.

The reason lamb consumption has fallen through the floor is because the vast majority of them converted their farms over into Dairy farms for higher returns (and increased ‘dirty dairying’). The lamb that was left went into overseas exports, and we are paying far more domestically for lamb. THAT’s the reason why our lamb consumption has fallen off.

We’re actually eating MORE chicken than we used to.

Both of those factors can be explained by price. Chicken is cheaper, lamb is hella expensive. And beef is somewhere in the middle.

Speaking personally, we buy a cattlebeast a year, which works out at about $5.50/kg. If we have to buy beef at $15/kg at the supermarket you bet we’d be eating far less meat. It’s just too expensive.

I think the reason people are less ‘respectful’ of farmers has several reasons:

  • It’s no longer the backbone of our economy, tourism is bigger
  • All of the ‘dirty dairying’ and other farming polluting stories suck, and directly undermine our Tourism industry, which is more important.
  • When times are good, farmers are millionaries and did it all themselves
  • When times are bad, they need government bailouts, everyone needs to club together behind them
  • NZ was in a unique position as post WW2 Europe recovered. Wanting to ‘go back’ to farming smacks of trying to turn back the clock to an era that can’t possibly exist in the current world climate.
  • Producing commodities for export is a very poor way of growing wealth. That’s what the developed countries want the third world countries to do.

A response to that:

Yes. I think a lot of people have grown a little tired of farmers telling others to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, knuckle down and work hard instead of expecting welfare but then immediately having their hands out when the going gets tough.

Complaining that they can’t get good workers when they are not prepared to pay an acceptable rate for hard physical labour with sometimes awful working conditions and poor job security.

I do realise not all farmers are like this but it definitely seems to be the prevailing mentality. As a sector of society these types are extremely loud on social media and people often form their opinions around farmers based on what they see/hear them saying, rightly or wrongly.

Bleating about how city folk have no idea about hard work is divisive and does nothing to help their cause. They definitely have a public image problem.

The main problem here doesn’t seem to be farmers or anti-farmers, but more the amplification of attacks and bleating online.

I also think the article is misleading, but disagree on the reason why farmers aren’t respected; I’d say it’s the media coverage they get.


The media does a pretty poor job of dealing with nuanced issues, preferring to have a sensational (positive or negative) spin on everything. Rightly or wrongly, farmers are on the receiving end of negative attention. I’m not suggesting the criticism is baseless, but that it isn’t balanced when compared to treatment of favoured topics.

Media does play a part in amplifying the negatives and the bleating from any side of an argument.

Simple economics:

  • Chicken portions (incl bone) $5/kg
  • Chicken breast $8-10/kg
  • Mince $10/kg
  • Lamb chops (incl bone) $15/kg
  • Eye fillet $30/kg
  • Fish (whole) $10-15/kg
  • Fish fillet $20-30/kg

Stuff with bones needs double. Our household eats a lot of mince and chicken. Eye fillet turns out to be a cheaper treat than lamb chops.

Rather than buy expensive (nice) steak to cook I tend to eat out now. If I am paying through the nose I’d rather someone else does the cooking and cleaning up. Same for fish, my favourite is blue cod but it’s now about $35 a kilo, and it’s a hassle cooking small amounts properly, so that’s another eat out or takeaway (and that’s only occasionally).

Have they considered that maybe the price of meat is what is causing us to eat less of it? Do these people really think that behaviour change due to changing economics is really a lack of respect? Do they feel that they deserve a certain consumption of their product as a god-given right?

I don’t think it’s a lack of consumption that’s the problem, it’s the lack of respect for their farming practices, or abuse.

Interesting graphic showing difference in consumption of chicken, pork, beef and lamb between 2006 and 2016

Year Chicken Pork Beef Lamb
2006 32.1kg 16.0kg 17.2kg 19.4kg
2016 40kg 17.6kg 10.4kg 0.9kg

Statistics NZ food price index tables are available online. Page for June 2005 – May 2008 and June 2008 to present.

Consumption is mostly economic.

Funny thing is, while I produce my own mutton (I prefer that to lamb), despite running chooks and having plenty of space for more we only produce eggs, not chicken meat. We have done it but the killing and plucking and cleaning is a turnoff.

I may have a phobia about plucking poultry – when I was a kid my father would arrive home from opening weekend with a bag of ducks. Plucking was a pain, but as I had smaller hands I also got to pluck the guts. And then had to pick out the shot when eating. And I don’t really like eating duck. But I don’t disrespect duck farmers, i just choose not to eat their products.