Growing demand for organic meat

By Mathias Huckert ,

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LOCAL FOOD: There is a very strong push for more organic food in Samoa.

LOCAL FOOD: There is a very strong push for more organic food in Samoa.

Most people do not waste a single thought about where their meat comes from when cooking at home. This might even less be the case when eating out in a restaurant. 

But what if the origin of meat does not only have influence on taste, but could also guarantee that it might be healthier for the consumer?

In a report provided in November 2014 by the World Bank, an international financial institution that provides support for developing countries as part of the United Nations, it is stated that 60% of the meat sold in Samoa is imported from overseas.  Most likely, this kind of meat descends from factory farms in which chickens, pigs or cows are forced to lead a short life under pathetic conditions. But not only the given conditions for these animals are bad, this treatment can also directly affect the health of the meat’s consumer in a bad way.

This affection is for instance caused by the fact that animals in factory farming are fed huge amounts of antibiotics to keep them healthy. 

This has been verified for meat originating from countries all around the world, including New Zealand and Australia. As a side effect, this nurturing with too much anti-biotics creates a nidus for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In the end, this can infect the consumer of the meat. 

As a result of this infection, the efficiency of antibiotics might no longer be guaranteed against these kinds of bacteria, presenting modern medicine with a serious problem.

The only logical way to prevent the impact of this dangerous development in the food industry is to fall back on a manageable number of livestock animals in an appropriate environment, which most likely can be found in local farming. A way of farming that is already practiced in Samoa. 

But now, the demand for such products seems to find its way into the minds of those who understand the serving of food as an important service for society: the restaurants.

Businesses like Apia’s Sails Restaurant openly speak out about the demand for organic meat.  “We would love to offer the opportunity for our customers to choose between the regular meat we serve, which already is up to really high standards, or the locally produced, organic meat,” said Owner Lyvia Black. 

But with Samoan businesses like Sails Restaurant simply demanding organic meat for their use, it is still a difficult way to establish this different culinary lifestyle in the country, as the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries was able to explain to Weekend Observer.

“Concerning this kind of meat, I would agree that on the health side, it is better than what you find in industrial farming,” said Tony Aiolupo, Principal Research Development Officer of Animal Protection and Health Division (A.P.H.D.) at the Ministry.

But Mr. Aiolupo, who formerly worked as Senior Meat Inspector for the Ministry, did also point out the problems that occur with the term “organic”.

 “I’ve seen that around town, there’s sometimes a meeting of agricultural church groups. When they do bring in their products from the harvest, they tend to sell chicken as well. The problem one could see with that is simply, that there are no certifications which mark the product as organic or not in Samoa.”

According to Mr. Aiolupo, the classification of food products should not be there to confuse the consumer in the end but rather to create clear and understandable information. 

“With the term ‘organic’ and the term ‘naturally produced’, we are speaking about two definitions which might sound similar, but they can have completely different meanings. It certainly is another opportunity for the marketing of the products, but without clear structures, it is difficult to establish this kind of food.”

With these clear structures as well as the demands coming from the food service industry itself, Mr. Aiolupo would not see a problem for organic meat to find its way to the consumers. 

“With a certain demand for it, it could certainly enrich our variety of food in the country. At the bottom line, it all comes down to the market. When there’s a market for it, the ministry can come up with any ideas at any time but it is up to the local farmers. If they’re interested in applying this way of organic meat production, why not?”

 As Mr. Aiolupo explained, meat is not the only area where consumers tend to utter a certain demand for organic food. Also, this trend recently was picked up by the Samoan authorities. 

“At the moment, the government is pushing organically produced crops.” 

The enquiry in this specific area has shown that people are willing to think about what they eat and this could be the same in terms of meat.

“I am aware that nowadays, people are more health conscious. Still, the privilege of such products belongs most likely to people who can afford buying such [organically produced] goods, but if there’s more of it available as well as with a growing demand from the restaurants, this could change.”

This change could in the end also lead to an actual certification for organic meat in the country, so that a healthier and also more sustainable way of eating might be achieved in Samoa, Mr. Aiolupo concluded.    

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