Grant Hilliard: Why the Term 'Free Range' Is Meaningless


Grant Hilliard: Why the Term ‘Free Range’ Is Meaningless

The video above is 2 minutes 55 seconds long

Guy: Ever wanted to lift the vail up to see what is actually going on with our meat supply? If you do then read on as today we are joined by Grant Hilliard, the founder of Feather and Bone, an ethical meat provider from sustainably raised animals.

If you are wondering what the terms ‘organic’ and ‘free range’ actually mean,  or who’s the producer and if all meats created equal… Then this episode is for you.

Full Grant Hilliard Interview: Why The Meat You Eat Matters

downloaditunesIn this episode we talk about:-

  • What questions we should be asking our local butcher
  • The quality of supermarket meats
  • What the terms ‘organic & free range’ actually mean
  • What goes into the average sausage
  • Tips to buying sustainable meat on a budget
  • And much much more…

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Want to know more about Grant and Feather & Bone?

Got any questions for us? We’d love to hear them in the comments below… Guy

Grant Hilliard of Feather & Bone Transcription

Intro: Brought to you by Welcome to the Health Sessions podcast. With each episode we cut to the chase as we hang out with real people with real results.
Guy Lawrence: This is Guy Lawrence of 180 Nutrition and welcome to the Health Sessions. Today our awesome guest is Grant Hilliard of Feather and Bone. So strap yourselves in for this one, because it is information packed. Absolutely. Now Feather and Bone, in a nutshell, are providers of meat, right? And they are seriously passionate about where their food comes from and how it’s grown, you know, something that we can easily overlook when it’s, you know, from the paddock to the plate and don’t give it a second thought.
And walk into any supermarket and just assume the meat is of the highest quality. So, as you can imagine, I had a lot of questions for him, you know? What they do, they essentially source directly and exclusively from producers that are committed to nurturing the health of the land and the plants and the animals it sustains, you know?
So, it’s actually from the soil all the way through to the animal to then how that animal we digest ourselves. Big topic and very political, as you can imagine, you know, questions that we cover: Who is the producer? You know, how do they grow, harvest, and transport their produce? You know, does this journey to your plate enhance sustainability and genetic diversity as well as your taste buds? Now that is a mouthful of a big question, I know, but we cover a lot, and I got a lot out of it, and I’m certainly going to be delving into this topic a lot more myself.
And if you are listening to this through iTunes, obviously let us know if you’re enjoying the podcast by placing a review within iTunes. It takes two minutes. We really appreciate it, you know. We put these podcasts out every week and we reach a lot of people, but it’s always awesome to get that feedback as well knowing that, you know, we’re out there reaching you guys and you’re learning a lot from it, so, yeah, always great to hear from you.
Anything else? Probably not, so let’s go over to Grant and, yeah, strap yourself in and enjoy the show. Awesome.
Guy Lawrence: All right. Let’s roll. Hey, this is Guy Lawrence. I’m joined today with Mr. Stuart Cooke as always, and our special guest today is Grant Hilliard. Grant, welcome. Thanks for coming on the show.
Grant Hilliard: Hello. How are you?
Guy Lawrence: Excellent.
Grant Hilliard: Planes, as well.
Guy Lawrence: Welcome to Sydney planes. I know we can hear them.
Grant Hilliard: That’s right. That one’s going somewhere special.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, I used to live in Newtown, and it would affect the TV every time an airplane would fly over.
Grant Hilliard: XXThe industrial section of?XX [0:02:54]
Guy Lawrence: Very excited about today’s topic. I think our listeners are going to get a massive amount out of it. Especially, you know, talking about from the paddock to the plate. I think it’s something that a lot of people don’t think about, you know? So I’m looking forward to delving into it.

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So just to get the ball rolling, mate, can you explain a little bit about Feather and Bone and your journey? What it took you to start it all up…
Grant Hilliard: Yeah. So Feather and Bone is, we’re a wholesale and retail butcher shop, essentially, very much an old-school butcher that we operate within really sort of quite specific parameters. The meat we source, it’s; we’re concentrating on a range of things.
The first of those was genetic diversity. So we’re very much interested in fostering farmers and working with farmers that are working with all the breeds of animals and that concern extends, obviously, to plant crops as well. What we’re looking at at the moment is a radical reduction in the variety of food stuffs that is available to us and a preponderance of the people who own the few that are left. It’s very important, I think, that we maintain all the breeds of livestock, because, in a sense, that’s our common inheritance, humanity’s common inheritance. All of those breeds have been developed over many centuries, and it’s really important that we still get to share them.
(Plane noise)
I’ll let that go over.
Guy Lawrence: That’s cool.
Stuart Cooke: Awesome.
Grant Hilliard: So part of it is to source animals that are growing that way, and one of the issues around that is that they might often take longer to grow or for some other reason are more difficult to grow, so you have to reward the grower often in increased price, but that goes with two other things, which is that all the animals be sourced or grown outside without questions. That’s not just an idea of free range, that is pasture-raised livestock. At all times.
A lot is heard about free range at the moment. We, sort of, don’t use the term so much anymore, because it’s been devalued. What we’re really interested in is pasture-raised produce, and that really distinguishes what we buy from what might otherwise be called free range.
I should note there that there’s no real enforceable standard for free range at the moment, but the A Triple C, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, is working on a standard that will actually have enforceable regulations that can govern what can be called free range and what can’t, which is a very welcome step as far as we’re concerned in the regulatory field.
It’s been a very important area for government to be involved in. So, we work directly with farmers. We don’t deal with third parties and so that means that we visit every farm that we source from and, I think, we’ve probably visited well over fifty different farms in the last eight years and maybe close to a hundred farm visits, because we go back to farms year after year and it’s through going back to farms that you really start to see the development of what they’re trying to do.
I suppose while we set out looking to source animals that were, say, with genetic diversity, what we’re now really focused on is sourcing animals that come from farms where soil fertility is the critical issue and that is achieved through natural means, so grazing stock can be used really, really strategically to generate carbon in the soil and join the right humus and, by increasing carbon in the soil, you dramatically increase water holding capacity and that’s critical.
In Australia we’ve lost 80 percent of carbon in the soil since white people got here, which basically means that we can hold about 80 percent less water in the soil than we used to be able to hold. Now that’s why we can’t, you know, in a landscape that’s got minimal water and irregular and unreliable rainfall, that is a critical issue.
We’ve drained water out of the landscape and it goes straight into creeks, straight into rivers and finishes up in the ocean which is not where you need it, you know? And they take the topsoil with it importantly, so we’re working with farmers that grow top soil. That’s the essence of what we do.
Stuart Cooke: So outside of the soil, quality of the soil, how do the standards of raising cattle in Australia vary?
Grant Hilliard: Well, I mean, about half of the cattle in Australia are grass-fed. We only source grass-fed animals, but there’s grass-fed and grass-fed, and it’s a difficult distinction to make, but what you’re always after is diversity, so the pastures that we look for and the farms that we look for have thirty, forty, fifty different varieties of grasses and perennials and forbs and bitter herbs in that pasture.
And what you’ll find is that the cattle or the sheep or whatever ruminant that it is, any grass-feeder, will select, actively select from that field at different times which matches what their requirements are, so they’re very, sort of, canny and skilled at knowing what they need, you know? It’s the thing that probably humans have lost to some extent because of the abundance that’s available to us, but animals are very sort of key, able to do that.
Guy Lawrence: Is there much of a difference between grass-fed than grass-finished, like, because I hear the terms flying around.
Grant Hilliard: Yeah. There’s a sort of a strange thing in Australia where if an animal is not fed for 100 days on grass, you can’t; I’m sorry, I’ll start again. If an animal is fed for less than 100 days on grain, you’re not even allowed to call it grain-fed, you have to call it grass-fed.
Stuart Cooke: Right.
Grant Hilliard: It’s a weird thing, so a lot of people who buy grass-fed beef, in fact, may be buying beef that’s been fed for up to 100 days on grain.
Stuart Cooke: Wow.
Grant Hilliard: Because it used to be that the value was in grain-fed beef, so to try and stop people sort of giving grain for one day and saying that they were selling grain-fed beef, they said, “Okay, well, it has to be at least fed for three months on grain.”
Guy Lawrence: Okay, and how much do you think that affects the quality of the meat from a grain-fed source to a grass-fed source?
Grant Hilliard: A number of things happen when you feed cattle grain. I mean, they can accommodate it, but as a ruminant, they’re perfectly designed to metabolize the nutrient that they find in complex pasture into body mass. What we like to think, and what we would encourage people who are buying meat to think, is that a good animal represents a concentration of all the goodness of good soil.
And really that’s just sun, effectively, so you’ve taken the energy of the sun that’s been metabolized into grass, the grass is being metabolized into meat, and that’s going to be metabolized into you, so you want to make sure all of those choices are as good as they can be.
So you want to eat an animal that’s at the absolute peak of its health. Now, one thing that happens with grain is that they actually get quite sick as they change over to grain and it produces… A ruminant should be at a neutral ph. What high levels of XX?XX [0:10:20] is that they produce an acid gut, and so most grain-fed animals are suffering from acidosis all the time. Presumably, you want an animal that’s in balance.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Absolutely.

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Grant Hilliard: For his sake and also for your sake, you know? I mean, it’s a very direct translation that the thing that you take into your body becomes you as well. It works at a metaphorical level, of course, but it also works at a very literal level, and so that’s why we’re looking for farms where the nutritional plane is as high as it can possible be.
Guy Lawrence: Do farms vary a lot then? Like, is everyone trying to…
Grant Hilliard: They do, and because it depends on how you maintain, you know, there’s a million ways to farm, and some better than others, and the ones we focus on are the ones that are actively growing soil, developing soil fertility through natural means.
Guy Lawrence: Okay. I’m just getting my head around it. So it all starts with the soil? Then transfers to the animal?
Grant Hilliard: Absolutely.
Guy Lawrence: And then the animal transfers to us, in a nutshell.
Grant Hilliard: Absolutely. We are very much part of that cycle. We’re not the end of that cycle, either. We are…it’s a feedback loop. The more you eat of this, you stimulate productions so the farmers are encouraged through this, you know, this form of consumption can go and grow more.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, right.
Grant Hilliard: They’re the farmers that we want to have operating in Australia. The ones that are storing more water and storing more carbon and increasing soil fertility through natural means. The rest can, you know…the rest are in a downward spiral effectively, because most farming essentially requires increasing inputs to maintain outputs, and in essence that is an unsustainable system. What you need is a system where the input level actually reduces over time to either static or increasing outputs, and that is a sustainable system. I mean, we talk about sustainable farming, it’s a really clear way of thinking about it.
Guy Lawrence: Could every farmer out here change their mindset and work toward this, or are there bigger hurdles and logistics beyond that that they just couldn’t do…?
Grant Hilliard: Oh, well, they can, I mean, what they might find initially is that they’re going to have reduced outputs initially, and that’s quite scary and so that transition might be really hard to manage, and so yeah, it requires the confidence, really, to pursue it, but if you’re in it for the long haul, and let’s hope most of our farmers are, hopefully, they’re looking at increased production with low input costs, and I think that’s what’s going to become, you know, probably the end of grain-fed beef. You simply won’t be able to grow grain in one place with all the inputs that that requires.
Stuart Cooke: I was kind of interested actually, just to jump a few questions down, Guy, in light of what you’ve been telling us, Grant, what questions should we be asking our local butcher?
Grant Hilliard: Customers should be able, I mean, a butcher should be able to tell you where the animal came from.
Stuart Cooke: Right.
Grant Hilliard: Which farm it came from.
Stuart Cooke: Got it.
Grant Hilliard: Generally, what they’ll say to you is, “It came from XXCurrimundi?? or XX [0:13:24] but what they mean by that is that it, that’s where it was killed. Which is a totally different story. XXIt happens with?XX [0:13:31] wholesalers as well. They sell meat. They grade their own meat and they buy from the sale yards and they buy from suppliers all around the place, and then they only sell it. The difference in what we do is that we’re buying directly from producers rather than…the abattoirs are really there to do a service kill and so they provide a service, which is slaughtering the animal in a facility which is certified for human consumption, basically. The food authority licenses them, licenses us, licenses all the restaurants that we eat at. It’s the same body that does all the certifications.
So, ask that question, “Which farm?” And if they don’t know which farm, you know, then they’ll never know what the history of that animal is. Was it given antibiotics at any time? Was it given growth hormones at any time? When it was grass-fed, was it XXset stockXX [0:14:30] that is, was it just left in a field for an extended period of time or was it actively moved on to fresh grass every single day? I mean, what was the agricultural, you know, sort of process that boarded from embryo to here? And it’s a long process that can be up to three years.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, it makes it so just really a generalized question about the origins of the meat will give you insight into the knowledge of your butcher?
Grant Hilliard: Well, that’s right, and they should be able to answer those questions and most retailers are fairly skilled at sort of trying to work out what it is that you’re after, whether it be organic or free range and will just say, “Oh, it’s free range, of course it is, madam.” You want it to be free range? It’s free range.
Stuart Cooke: It’s whatever you want it to be. So what do those terms actually mean, organic and free range?
Grant Hilliard: Well, organic is a full certification system and there are a number of bodies in Australia which license to give organic certification. Most people would be familiar with the bud logo, the little curly logo, and that’s the BFA, or Biological Farmers of Australia, that’s their symbol.
But there’s ACO and so there’s about four bodies that certify in Australia, or actually five, there’s one that just operates in Tasmania as well. They do independent audits of the farm. They look at their buying records, their selling records, and come and go through everything that they do to make sure that they’re adhering to a certain set of guidelines.
Now while, you know, organic is important up to a point, we certainly stock a lot of organic meat here, we’re more focused on the particularities of the farm, so I suppose, for us, we’re having to independently order to some extent, but I think it’s a very valuable tool if faced with no other information.
And maybe if it’s just a self-serve thing, no one’s there to give you any other information about the meat that’s in front of you, at least when you buy something that’s been certified organic you can be sure of the whole range of things: that it hasn’t been medicated, that it hasn’t’ received antibiotics, that there are certain welfare things that are looked after there, that there are certain, you know, it’s a whole range of things within the standard that ensure, and if it does have another input, for instance, in the case of pigs or chickens where they’re eating, they are eating grain, because they’re not a ruminant, they’re an omnivore, that that input is also certified organic as well.
Stuart Cooke: Right.
Grant Hilliard: And that they’re processed in organic facilities. So, most abattoirs will do an organic kill, but they do it at the beginning of the day and then they do the so called conventional kill after that.
Guy Lawrence: And the term free range then, does that give them actually free range as well to say what they want?
Grant Hilliard: You would hope so. That’s absolutely the case. It’s really a meaningless term at the moment., so free to range on pasture is what sort of like to see, but stocking density then becomes the issue. It’s like anything, you know, yes, you could have 5,000 chickens on grain field. It wouldn’t be grain for very long, because they’ll eat, chickens eat a lot of grass, actually, but they also get through it. You need to rotate them, so it’s very hard for any certification system to deal with the nuance of stocking densities.
And in a good season, you know, you can carry a lot more of any particular animal in that area, and in a bad season, you know, you might find that, for instance, 1500 birds per hectare is what they’re probably going to go with as legally enforceable number, maximum number for free range eggs. No that could be great in the right season, but in a poor season, for instance, one of our growers runs 15 birds per hectare and the drought was so long that by the end of the drought 15 birds per hectare was too much for that area.
No how can any certification system deal with that sort of level of nuance? That’s very difficult, so what you really need are farms that are highly responsive to the conditions of the season. Which they all are, it’s got to be said, every farmer is, but the…you’ve got to create the conditions that allow the animals to thrive in all seasons, and what tends to happen is that most farmers overstock when the season is good. The season dries up. They’re all forced to sell their stock because they’ve got nothing to feed them, unless they want to buy in lots and lots of hay, and then the market just plummets.
And so they’re buying at the top of the market, selling at the bottom of the market, I mean, that’s not a very good way to run a business. So we don’t tend to sort of run on market prices. We agree the price with the grower, and that is a sustainable price for them to stay in business and year after year, and that’s we pay irrespective of what the season does.
So it’s better for the grower. It’s better for us. And it’s usually over the odds, but at least then it guarantees what we’re getting and it’s a guarantee for the grower as well, and you don’t get into this sort of cut throat thing, “Well, sorry, the lamb prices dropped this week so I’m only going to give you 40 cents less a kilo.” I mean, what’s that? But most commodity growers, that’s exactly the position they’re in. They’re price takers, not price setters.
You’ve got to get into a relationship where your farms become as much price setters as you are. We don’t see ourselves as clients of them; we see ourselves as working with the farmers to make this stock available.
Stuart Cooke: Does that level of connection and relationship exist in the supermarket chains where meat is concerned?
Grant Hilliard: No, not really. I mean, the supermarket chains are buying, as you can imagine, enormous quantities of meat and, you know, one of their growers is a biodynamic, a certified biodynamic grower. He sells a certain amount of his lamb XXor finish up in a collar shopXX [0:20:21] you never know which one and it won’t even be identified as organic. It’s just, it’s sold in the main area. Yeah, so if he has any extra stock it won’t be his best stuff, that’s got to be said. But there are two things. One is that you can never repeat the experience, so, because it’s only marked by the abattoir that it was processed at, say, XX?XX [0:20:43] you won’t be able to repeat that experience next time you go into the shop. And two, they don’t age the meat at all. It’s killed, sliced, packed, and they try to sell it as quickly as they can.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah. Production…
Guy Lawrence: I know so many people they don’t even think twice they just go in and buy a lump of meat in the supermarket. It’s there, it’s packaged, you know, it’s cheap, and then they go home and eat it without even considering where it’s come from or what it’s done.
And, obviously, me and Stu are very passionate about our health, and we’re always investigating and talking and holding podcasts like this and, you know, the biggest hurdle I’ll hear off every single person is almost like, “You know, organic, yeah, it’s expensive. Does it really make a difference?”

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I guess my question would be: Is it a more cost-effective way, or an answer I could say to these people who go, “Look.” You know?
Grant Hilliard: “I can’t afford that.”
Guy Lawrence: The ones that say that, yeah.
Grant Hilliard: Yeah, well, there are two ways to approach that question. The first is that if you’re always expecting to eat chicken breast or eye fillet all the time, you won’t be able to afford organic or really well-grown meat, but then again think of it this way: the eye fillet on beef is about one-and-a-half percent of its total body weight which gives you an idea how often you should eat it.
Stuart Cooke: Right. Yeah, okay.
Grant Hilliard: Where’s all that eye fillet coming from? What’s happening to the other 98.5 percent of the body? So, you have to work with producers. I mean, it’s a very recent thing where we think we can just go and pick the eyes out of things and leave the rest lying around. I mean that’s a sense of abundance which we need to really reevaluate and recalibrate.
It’s certainly, you know, our parents and, depending on your age, our parents or our grandparents certainly would have had that recalibration. You ate everything and that’s just the way it was, you know? Shoulder today, breast tomorrow, and at one stage on a very special day you ate some fillet or some loin. You don’t every day.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah. Nose to tail. Tips then perhaps for buying like organic sustainable produce on a budget. What could we do?
Grant Hilliard: Well, you buy what are called secondary cuts, but the, you know, if you look at something like beef blade which is cut from shoulder, you know, we’ll sell that that’s been dry aged on the bone for four weeks at the same price as it would cost for yearling that was put in plastic the day it was killed.
To me, it’s a lot better value to buy a fantastic animal and the distinction here is that most beef in Australia is yearling beef. It’s sold at 14 months old which is essentially teenager or young teenager. It’s not a lot of growing so it’s a high return in terms of kilogram to the grower, but it’s sort of at a certain size but it’s not at a certain quality.
So whenever you reduce something to purely, you know, you’re only going to get paid on the kilograms that you supply, you withdraw all the ideas of quality that might surround that and or qualities and I suppose that’s what I’m interested in. I’m interested in the qualities of things and how they attach to the whole body and that’s what we buy, the whole body that arrives here. It’s our job to break it up to sell the whole carcass. That’s our job. That shouldn’t be the abattoir’s job. It shouldn’t be the grower’s job. It should be our job. So we look for qualities of things and the quality takes care of itself.
Guy Lawrence: Is all pork created equally? We’re quite involved with the CrossFit community and everyone loves bacon, and I always see these arguments coming up from whether we should be eating bacon or not or the sources it comes from. What’s your thought on that?
Grant Hilliard: Well, like chickens or poultry, generally, pigs are the most abused of farm animals, and in Australia around 98 percent of pigs are grown in intensive conditions, and to me that’s an unethical position to take. I just don’t think we should be eating pigs that are grown in that way. I don’t think we should be eating chickens that grown in that way, either.
It’s interesting how we’re focused on chickens. Pigs are, not to be unfair to chickens, which I love, but pigs are highly intelligent, sentient, that have really complex familial structures and they are literally tortured. I mean it is a release for them to die in those conditions. If you’ve ever seen pigs outside, and very few people have, I mean, we have no picture of what a herd of pigs looks like outside, because they’re just nonexistent. We source from maybe six farms right through New South Wales that grow all their pigs outside, but I think most of your viewers, I’d be surprised if more than two percent have actually seen a herd of pigs outside, more than one or two at a time.
And you know, they’re fantastic creatures, absolutely brilliant creatures, but you’ve got to grow them like that and in terms of cured goods, well, you know, curing is a really particular thing and it’s a great way of extending the life of something, but if…it’s all about balance, isn’t it? Some bacon is fine, but it’s quite a salty product, I mean, that’s how it’s cured, so you need to put it in balance. I wouldn’t eat bacon every morning, for instance.
Stuart Cooke: Would there be a vast difference in quality from a butcher bought to supermarket bought perhaps?
Grant Hilliard: Probably not, on the whole, I mean, most of it is coming from the same peeps.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah, okay. I just, it’s unusual to, obviously, when you’re buying from a butcher you buy your meat and your goods and it’s packed up and you go home and cook it, but when you go to the supermarket you actually get to see all the ingredients that are in there on the package and sugar, of all things, makes its way into…
Grant Hilliard: Well, salt and sugar is a very traditional curing combination, usually in a ratio of three to one…
Stuart Cooke: Right.
Grant Hilliard: Before refrigeration, we had to do things to maintain the life of food stuffs. If you going to kill a whole animal, you’re not going to eat it that day, so what’re you going to do with the rest of it? And we cured, we brined, we smoked, we stored things under fat comfit, all of those techniques are very good ways to maintain the life of something, but you want to balance that.
I mean, I think probably in tougher climates than ours, traditionally that’s all you would have eaten in the winter months because there would be very little fresh stuff around and, you know, you’d killed the pig in light autumn and then you eat it slowly all the way through winter. That was traditionally how you did it. You’d eat the liver on the first day and then the last thing would probably be the cured leg about six months later.
Guy Lawrence: There you go, yeah. We don’t do that now, do we?
Stuart Cooke: Well, it does actually sound like a quite tasty existence.
Grant Hilliard: It’s not bad at all. I mean, it just means that you’re being, by necessity, you’re being more responsive to the season because that was more available to you, and it’s sort of a commonplace and sort of a cliché really, but I mean, to eat seasonally is really the secret of it all, and there will be times when, you know, the seasons aren’t favorable that, you know, quality will drop. There will be times that you’ll be absolutely reveling in excess which is where preserving comes in. And not just for meat, but you know, jams and everything else, all of that summer abundance. What’re you going to do?
Stuart Cooke: I have a question regarding…
Grant Hilliard:…tomatoes XX… winter?XX [0:28:34] It comes out of that tradition. That’s the tradition that we’re interested in.
Stuart Cooke: Got a question regarding the humble sausage, and so traditionally people think, “Well, your sausage is just your rubbish. It’s, you know, it’s all the rubbish meat and it’s pushed together into the sausage machine and, you know, you have them every now and again, but it’s certainly not quality meat.” What’s your take on that? What goes into the average sausage?
Grant Hilliard: The average sausage? Probably not what you’d want to eat. I mean XXit costs 99XX [0:29:13] a kilo. What could it possibly be?
Guy Lawrence: I do wonder.
Grant Hilliard: XX?XX [0:29:20] the refuse. We put shoulder meat, so it’s predominantly shoulder meat from the pig, you know, and obviously trim from when we’re cutting up the rest of the animal, but it’s a particular ratio of fat to lean. We don’t do emulsified sausages, so you can actually XXaudio outXX [0:29:38] it’s really clear what’s meat and what’s fat.
With an emulsified sausage, which is most sausages, where it’s so fine that it’s actually, it has no grain, that could be anything, and we don’t put preservatives in our sausages and we don’t, equally, we don’t…we use salt as a preservative, but that’s all and we hand grind, you know, we just hand grind spices and, you know, we charge four times the price of a $4.99 sausage, but then we’re not using grain in it, either. There are no fillers in our sausages, so, you know, a lot of people will say you need some sort of rice flour or something to make it stick together, but that’s…In our experience that’s not the case.
If you’ve got the right meat and the right balance of lean and fat, it sticks together fine. Grain’s just a very cheap way of bulking out a sausage with water, because you make, basically, porridge and put that in.
Guy Lawrence: It just comes back to following the source, doesn’t it? You know, it all just comes back to following the source of where it comes from, doesn’t it?
Grant Hilliard: Yeah, that’s right. And, I mean, we would welcome anybody to walk through our production area and see how we make anything. We run sausage classes and, you know, the way we teach people to make sausages is the way we do them ourselves, and there are no secrets in it. It’s just using good quality produce and grinding spices to order. I mean 95 percent of sausages are just made…you buy a packet mix which has the grain in it. It already has all the spices, so-called the Mexican mix or whatever, and it will just say, “Tip this in 15 kilos of meat and 20 liters of water and there’s your sausage.”
I mean, that’s an industrial way of making sausage, so if that’s a sausage you want to…
Guy Lawrence: …choose.
Grant Hilliard: I mean, it won’t cost much.
Guy Lawrence: No. Not for me.
Grant Hilliard: Well, no, most people just say, “Oh, just give those to kids.” I mean, are you kidding?
Stuart Cooke: I know, yeah.
Grant Hilliard: Kids and old people should be getting the best of nutrition, not the worst.
Stuart Cooke: You raise a very good point, because, of course, the Australian barbecue is a weekly thing. You go down, you buy the cheapest package of sausages you can and a billion white rolls and off you go. You’ve got a good day ahead of you.
Guy Lawrence: Throw in a few beans.
Grant Hilliard: That’s about the social activity of it, and you know, the wonderful thing about food is that it is the locus for that sort of activity and provides a focus that’s why you can pretty much discuss anything when food is the basis of it.
You can talk about soil fertility. You can talk about genetic diversity. You can talk about how families come together on Sundays for barbecues, I mean, it’s a key social, you know, thing that holds everything together.
Stuart Cooke: It is.

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Grant Hilliard: Our argument would be that you take that very seriously and you eat things that you know that…where respect is embedded in the process. Trouble is that most of our food production, all respect has been drained out of it.
And dignity really, you know, there’s no respect in a shed of pigs, 300 pigs lined up where they can’t turn around. That’s not a respectful existence.
Stuart Cooke: No.
Guy Lawrence: I noticed that you’re moving on to the topic of fat as well. I noticed on your website you sell a great range of quality fats and beef drippings and things like that, and it’s interesting because everyone…we’ve been indoctrinated with the low fat message. Do you find people are coming in and consuming these fats and are more educated to the fact that having these quality fats in their diet is they’re going to benefit from them?
Grant Hilliard: Certainly, I mean, a lot of the paleo, I suppose, within the paleo community and other communities that are interested in bone broths and fats, you know, we can’t keep up with the demand for bones for broths and we, especially beef and veal, we usually have a bit of lamb left over, so you know, if people want to make broths in lamb that’s a good way to go because the beef broths, the beef stock, you know, bones go very quickly.
And, yeah, we render our own as well. So we render beef fat and we render leaf lard, which is the kidney fat in pigs which is a different quality of fat and we like XX?XX [0:34:09] as well…
Guy Lawrence: Do you use the fats off the top of the bone broth as well?
Grant Hilliard: At the moment we can’t make bone broth because we haven’t got a commercial kitchen.
Guy Lawrence: Right.
Grant Hilliard: But we’re between kitchens really. We’d like to be able to do it in time, but we’re not in the position to at the moment, but we’ve got still fats that we rendered at the last time we were in a commercial kitchen. We hire on basically irregularly, so.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic.
Grant Hilliard: But we’d love to be able to produce, you know, more stocks and bone brothers and do all those things for people.
Stuart Cooke: So what particular fats would you personally cook with given your knowledge and understanding?
Grant Hilliard: Well I sort of use, you know, we use whatever sort of appropriate to the dish, really, so you know, most things will render enough fat. You know, I also use oils like olive oil occasionally and beef fat and lard, you know. So, it really depends on the dish you’re cooking.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah.
Grant Hilliard: You want something that’s sort of complementary. I mean they can be quite strongly flavored as well. It depends on how you purify it, but if you’re after the full flavor of it, and the full mineralization of it, and that’s what you’re hoping to get from those bones, so to go back to that idea of young animals, they just can’t put enough in their bones in that period of time to get much out of them.
So, and you hear it on the saw when you use the saw on the animals that we buy, which are two-and-a-half, three years old, the saw absolutely screams because the density of those bones. With yearling beef it just goes through like butter.
Guy Lawrence / Stuart Cooke: Wow.
Grant Hilliard: Which is a really good measure of how dense the bone is on the animal that’s a year older.
Stuart Cooke: Have you seen any trends in meat or cuts in particular over the last year or so?
Grant Hilliard: Well, people are much more willing to eat, you know, so-called secondary cuts and briskets and XXchuck?XX [0:35:56] and things like that, you know? And that’s fantastic for us, because when you’ve got whole bodies, you’ve got a lot of it.
Stuart Cooke: And how about the offal? Is that…?
Grant Hilliard: Yeah, we sell a lot of offal as well, you know, and offal is a bit tricky, because it’s, despite the fact that we buy whole animals only, it’s still really hard to get the offal from those animals all the time.
Stuart Cooke: Right.
Grant Hilliard: Just because of the nature of the abattoir system really. We can reliably get about half of it.
Stuart Cooke: Okay.
Grant Hilliard: And most of that’s, you know, things like organic veal liver, organic beef liver, really good quality, you know, liver is really such a fantastic sort of source of nutrient. You don’t need much of it.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah.
Grant Hilliard: Make sure it’s from the highest quality animal possible.
Stuart Cooke: Well, I always purchase liver from my local butchers and I seem to be the only person that does that.
Guy Lawrence: I think you’re the only person that has it for breakfast as well, Stu.
Stuart Cooke: It’s affordable. It’s nutritious. Yeah, it’s my go to. I love it.
Guy Lawrence: A few spices and it tastes beautiful.
Grant Hilliard: Well, you know 50 grams goes a long way.
Stuart Cooke: It does. It really does.
Guy Lawrence: Absolutely. Just before we wrap up, Grant, we always ask a question on our podcast and it can be non-nutritional related or anything, but it’s, “What’s the single best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?”
Grant Hilliard: I did see that on your list of questions yesterday and I thought, “I should think about that.” I had a lot on last night. I was making ham glaze last night so I sort of didn’t get to it. Best piece of advice that I’ve been given? Well…given as opposed to necessarily taken?
Guy Lawrence: Or both, yeah.
Grant Hilliard: It’s to remain open to the possibility that the way you thought about something is completely wrong and that there are a million ways to do things really. I mean, I think, you know, we all should be in a position where we can continue to learn, and keeping your mind in a position where it’s ready to accept that is the hardest thing to do and, at least I find it so, anyway, but it’s the ting that I’d like to be able to do. This business has, you know, certainly made me more humble about that.
You know, there are people out there with huge banks of knowledge and vast resources of information and care and passion and being able to recognize those people and give them a voice, in a sense, through what we do is really sort of, you know, rewarding, so, and it’s only because of a curiosity that really started this business. It certainly wasn’t started as a commercial enterprise and it still struggling to work out how it can be.
But it’s a business founded on ideas and the idea being that there’s got to be a better way to source and grow meat and better for yourself but also better for the country that we’re in, and you know, feeding people is, and water security and food security are the two most important things that we have and all need to be concerned about, so being open to the natural ways of solving those problems is the most important thing that we confront at the moment.
Guy Lawrence: Absolutely. A question just sprung in there, and I can’t remember if we mentioned it or not. If everyone decided tomorrow, had an epiphany and went, “You know what? I’m just going to eat grass fed. I want to eat sustainable meat.” Would Australia be able to cope or…?
Grant Hilliard: Yes, it would, I mean, it would actually, it would make it easier for most farmers, because at the moment they’re sort of tied into a commodity market which only rewards a certain set of parameters that don’t actually suit sustainable production, so it’s always working against the best way to farm in a way.
So, it would have a profound impact and a very positive impact.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic. Well, we’re going to keep pushing the message anyway. That’s for sure. And, if anyone wants to hear more about Feather and Bone and…just go to the website?
Grant Hilliard: Yeah. We’re just in the throes of building a new one so in about three weeks’ time, two weeks’ time, there’ll be a completely new website which will hopefully have a lot more of the, you know, photographs and information from the farms that we visit, because over that time and all those farm visits we’ve got a massive bank of documentary material that I think a lot of people would find extremely interesting, and the current website doesn’t really make that available, so, you know, it’s a way of accessing the people who are growing your food.
Stuart Cooke: Perfect. Well, we’ll put all that information up in our supporting materials section on the website and punch some traffic there, so hopefully more people can get to understand and appreciate what you’re doing.
Grant Hilliard: Okay. Well thanks very much.
Guy Lawrence: Awesome. Thanks to have us on.
Stuart Cooke: Thank you so much for your time again, yeah. You’re a wealth of knowledge and some real, really valuable chunks of information there as well which we’re really looking forward to sharing.
Grant Hilliard: Appreciate it.
Guy Lawrence: Cheers, Grant.
Outro: Thanks for listening to our show The Health Sessions. If you would like more information on anything health from our blog, free eBook or podcasts, simply visit Also, if you have any questions or topics you’d like us to see cover in future episodes, we’d really love to hear from you. Simply drop us an email to, and if you listen to us through iTunes and enjoy the show, we’d really appreciate a review in the review section. So, until next time, wherever you are in the world, have a fantastic week.

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