I’m just gonna say it.
There IS no sexy meat…
…despite the nauseating attempts of new ‘single-dish’ restaurant businesses to make their ‘burger’ or ‘chicken’ seem exciting, cool and ‘urban.’
(I ain’t naming no names, but I know y’all know damn well the kind of places I’m talking about! The ones I particularly have in mind are in the UK, but this is a ‘thing’ that came here from the States, so US peeps – you know full well what I’m referrin’ to too!)
Using words like ‘honest,’ ‘gourmet,’ ‘real,’ ‘wholesome,’ ‘sustainable,’ ‘bonafide,’ ‘farm fresh,’ natural,’ ‘healthy,’ ‘traditional,’ etc etc; this crop of new, mainly meat-based restaurants are desperate to seduce you with all these self-proclaimed qualities.
A ‘wholesome hipster’ type atmosphere is also seemingly enthusiastically encouraged, and consumers are made to feel ‘in the know,’ for patronising these places.
However, it is possibly an indicator of how big vegetarianism and veganism have become.
In the dying breaths of a meat-based culture, one that is slowly realising that meat consumption is killing the planet (and us!) it is perhaps predictable that there will be more energy than ever concentrated on attempting to give meat a sexy new resonance, to try and pull people back from the overwhelming trend in the US and western Europe of reducing meat intake.
I admit it, some of these restaurants look like great fun – the decor is usually casual and cosy. Many have a bit of a rustic-y, basic-y conceit going on which is quite enticing in its own way, I suppose. People look like they’re having fun inside. Wait staff are youthful and perky. A particular ‘single-dish’ chicken restaurant I am thinking of has buff male fitties in tight t-shirts turning the big spits the chickens are roasting on.
But if I give it even one minutes thought, the fact that certain positive words are being used to manipulate consumers into believing that the food (usually meat) they are eating is associated with the way these words make them feel, makes me heave.
What the hell about a burger or roast chicken is honest? Natural? Healthy? Gourmet? Wholesome?
Let’s examine this for just a moment.
It is made a big deal of that the burgers in these restaurants are made from grass-fed beef.
We know that grass-fed animals emit even more methane than factory farmed, thereby contributing to even more climate change, and that farming this way is just as unsustainable land-wise. If everybody in the world wanted to eat grass-fed cows – we would need another coupla’ planets!
The free-range chicken these places shout about using is not any better than factory farmed chicken. Customers think their chicken roamed free on a lovely grassy farm, but in fact the label free-range is just a marketing term designed to make you THINK this is the case. We know it is not.
‘Traditional’ is another word commonly used, regarding the preparation and style of the food. I find this calculating and manipulative. When we hear this word (as any good advertiser knows) it subconsciously goes beyond the description of the food, and tends to engender a positive, warm feeling in us, and conjure up images of family and celebrations. It makes us feel we are doing something intrinsically ‘right’ and ‘good.’ Er, let’s remember that ‘traditional’ isn’t always good. FGM is traditional. Slavery was traditional.
And on the health aspect? Meat, NO MATTER ITS PROVENANCE, contains saturated fat, cholesterol and hormones. SO even though you are being given the impression that the meat in these restaurants is a healthier version than a fast-food joint might sell you – it’s not, not really.
I even prefer the idea of fast-food joints to these new honest/gourmet/real heart attack emporia. At least they’re not pretending to be something other than what they are.
The only difference really is that Real Natural Honest Meat Place has pretty, rustic distressed wood tables and benches, and the staff wear cooler T-shirts and have more upmarket accents. That’s all.
Yet I’m sure the people who frequent these places are under the impression they are eating in an establishment that cares about the environment and their health.
All I can say is, don’t let a marketer decide what is healthy, honest or cool for you. And if you are vegan, don’t be downhearted about this phenomena, I’m not. It’s annoying, but I truly believe it’s part of a last-ditch attempt to entice us into buying meat before vegetarianism and veganism take an even stronger hold.