Almost all of the meat we eat comes from animals that lived quite short lives. Chicken is slaughtered at between six weeks and eight weeks, hogs at around six months, and cattle at around two years. That makes for tender meat that’s relatively inexpensive and consistent. But there’s a movement to eat more mature animals. Chicken producer Perdue Farms is considering plans to raise chicken more slowly both to make the birds more comfortable, and also more flavorful. On a smaller scale, butchers such as Adam Danforth, author of “Butchering Poultry, Rabbit, Lamb, Goat and Pork: The Comprehensive Photographic Guide to Humane Slaughtering and Butchering,” are advocating eating more mature animals both as a more natural culmination of their life cycle, and because they taste good. Mature meat can reflect the terroir of where it was raised and has robust flavor and a desirable chewiness that makes it enjoyable in a different way than younger, tender meat.
Mature meat doesn’t have to be expensive, Danforth says: He’s talking about dairy sheep and cattle that have already earned their keep by providing milk. Typically their meat would be used for hamburger or sausages, but by taking the middle meats, possibly dry-aging them, which is what Mindful Meats of Point Reyes Station, Calif., does, and selling it at a premium compared to ground meat, the dairy farmers benefit and restaurateurs have a unique, tasty product with a great story behind it about the circle of life.
This will be a thing in 2017.