I’ve come to call our Cooked family a travelling circus, because in many respects that’s exactly what we are.

A band of nomadic misfits travelling through our wonderful African home. This particular stop off was in the Camdeboo National Park while filming Karoo: Land of Thirst. 

This is one of my fondest memories from my two year journey across the length and breadth of the Karoo. We spent a night in a Bushman cave on a farm called Ganora just outside Nieu Bethesda and just look at it! A truly amazing experience. It’s difficult for me to explain what it feels like spending a night in a cave that was once used by our great ancestors. There are no words, but I think South African artist Walter Battis captured it quite perfectly:

 “There is no ugliness, but only beauty in what remains of their frail existence. Nature was not destroyed, injured, or walked by their proximity. As casual as the wind and the water, they lived in undisturbed serenity while the ages came and went…now they have all gone…but their art remains.”

During my investigation into where our food comes from and what’s in it, I was absolutely shocked to see how we treat the domesticated livestock that we eat. As consumers, the wool has been pulled over our eyes and we’ve become completely disconnected from the farmers who produce our food.

The increasing number of middle men and corporations who dominate the industry are making good, healthy farmers become a thing of the past as they can’t compete with the efficiency and scale of large scale factory farms. The farmers receive a fraction of what we pay for our meat in the supermarkets and the meat that we’re eating is not good I’m afraid to say. For a lot of us, it’s much easier to not think about where our meat comes from, let alone the lamb chops that we buy at our supermarkets.

I’m a big meat fan, and I have no problem with eating meat in our daily diets, but what I can’t do is buy a product that I have no knowledge of where it comes from, who produced it, how it was produced, and what’s in it. Unfortunately we can’t have cows and chickens and pigs in our city gardens the way we can change our lawns into veggie patches, but we can make a choice. Our consumer vote counts every time an item passes through the checkout, and that’s something we need to remember and understand, because we have the ability to change the way that the current system works.

This also doesn’t mean that we need to drive for 3 hours to get to a farm in the Karoo to buy a sheep, but it does mean that we need to look more closely at where our meat comes from and which outlets we choose to support, and trust me, there are more than enough brilliant people who are bringing that connection back. Take Tania Harrison for example. She is a Karoo girl that I met when I was filming a series in the Karoo and she has taken it upon herself to connect the farmer and the consumer directly through her business, Food from the Karoo. This is where I get my lamb from, and I support her because I’ve been to her farm, and she does things in a much more natural and real way, which results in better, healthier produce.

We need to remember our connection to the meat that we eat and make the right choices when it comes to our food. We should all know and want to know where our food comes from. In my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to investigate the food train and to see where our food is produced first hand and it has changed the way that I eat, shop and cook.

“I’m not a vegetarian because I enjoy eating meat, meat is nutritious food, and I believe there are ways to eat meat that are in keeping with my environmental and ethical values. I don’t make the decision to eat meat lightly. Meat-eating has always been a messy business, shadowed by the shame of killing and, since Upton Sinclair’s writing of The Jungle, by questions about what we’re really eating when we eat meat.” – Michael Pollan