Braeside Meat Market Talks Lady Gaga's Meat Dress

Braeside Meat Market Talks Lady Gaga's Meat Dress

My parents are animal farmers, so I know how disgusting the meat industry is, and why people should be picky about the meat they eat.

But to be honest, I don't actually think about what meat will do to me in the long run. All I care about is finding the best cut for the dish I'm preparing, and getting the results I want. And my experience is that free range meat grown to an organic standard tastes a whole lot better than factory farmed meat. Sadly, the local supermarket where I live doesn't stock free range or organic meat. I settled, like most people, for mediocre, tasteless and mushy grain-fed meat stuff.

I came across Braeside Meat Market, a free range butchery on 4th Avenue in Parkhurst, in a newspaper article that cited them as the suppliers of the grass-fed meat used in the making of South Africa's version of Lady Gaga's Dress. I wasn't impressed by the whole meat as fashion thing, but I thought that this, just maybe, could be the butchery I'd been searching for on the taste front.

I spoke to the owner, Caroline McCann:

JHBLive: Who supplies your meat?

CM: Farmers directly.

JHBLive: Your meat is free range, but is it grown to an organic standard?

CM:  No. Organic meat is indigenous grass fed. So to go and get the indigenous grass certified as organic is one, an incredibly expensive process, and two, completely unnecessary. Nothing has ever changed in that grass. It's grass that was there 1 000 years ago and it's still the same. So, the meat is organic standard in the sense that there are no growth hormones or routine antibiotics given.
But it's not organic in the sense that there is no certification.



JHBLive: Are the farmers that supply you accredited by an association that ensures that the meat is free range?

CM: No, and this is a frustration. There is no body that certifies free range. There are guidelines that are published for chickens to be regarded as free range but that's it. So you can go and get an organic certification but you can't get a free range certification.

In order for me to know what is happening I take it upon myself; I spend the time, the money and the effort going to the farms, finding out who they (farmers) are, finding out what the animals are eating, finding out how the animals are treated, finding out how the animals are slaughtered. Finding out how the meat will be delivered to my shop. So I kind of do my own certification.





JHBLive: Recently you supplied meat for the making of the South African version of Lady Gaga's dress. The reason, it is stated in your newsletter, for the collaboration is three-fold: to welcome the eccentric performer on her tour of South Africa; to provide education on ethical meat production practices and instil an appreciation of the provenance of the food we place on our plates; and to introduce the dynamic way in which the new fashion pages, edited by Nadine Dreyer in Sunday Times Lifestyle, will be covering hot trends in South Africa.

Didn't you feel, at any point, that it would be unethical for you to use meat for fashion purposes?

CM: Absolutely not. And I love the fact that maybe 10 people out of thousands who've contacted me have been very upset about that. My answer is simple: people walk into a supermarket every day; they pick up meat in a Styrofoam packet that has been wrapped in plastic, they take it home and they eat it. For those same people to get upset that meat is being used as a dress is completely and utterly ridiculous.

Where we should be getting upset is in asking where does this meat come from and how is it being treated? Why is it that we have major feedlotting in this country that doesn't benefit the majority of us? Not from a health perspective, not from the economic perspective, but to get our meat industry open. So I see absolutely no ethical problem.

What I'm glad about is that it gave me a platform to talk about grass-fed meat. It made people stop and say mmh, what's the big deal about grass-fed meat being used to make a lady Gaga dress?

I must add that the meat that was used in that dress was then donated to the Zoo and the Sunday Times donated money to an animal welfare society as well. So there was no excess, there was no wastefulness, this was done with a very specific purpose in mind.





JHBLive: What advice would you give our readers on becoming better meat shoppers?

CM:  One of my favourite chefs, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, wrote a book where he set out the questions you should ask your suppliers. So what I'm saying now is not my own work.

First and foremost go to a butchery, don't go to a supermarket, because you are never going to able to ask questions of anyone in a supermarket.

When you go into a butchery, the first question you should ask your butcher is who is the farmer of this meat?

The second question you should ask your butcher is what age is the animal and what diet was the animal on?





The third question you should ask your butcher is what is the most appropriate cut of meat for the dish you're doing? A lot of South Africans like to use fillet for everything: you're doing a Prego steak, you're going to do a fillet; you're making cubes, you're going to do a fillet; you're making steaks, you do a fillet. The truth is, there are so many more appropriate cuts to use for your dish - and a decent butcher would be able to tell you which to use.

Lastly, you should ask your butcher what offal is available.

You know you have the right butchery when the butcher is able to answer all those questions confidently, honestly and to your absolute satisfaction.





Where? 4th Avenue, Parkhurst, Johannesburg

Photographs: Anele Khoza







by Nkandu Chipale Mwenge
Nkandu Mwengu chatted to the owner of the Braeside Meat Market about replicating Lady Gaga's dress, and other important issues of the animal flesh.