75 mins ★★★★
This is a documentary for those who prefer Country Calendar to Fast Food Nation.
In a decade where every third documentary or “special investigation” is trying to tell us what’s wrong with our food production processes, this offers an alternative view – straight from the local farmer’s mouth.
Kiwi director David White, who grew up on a farm, wanted to create a slice of cinema that educated all New Zealanders about where their food comes from and prove that those involved aren’t all money-hungry cost-cutters who care not a jot for animal welfare.
Fortunately, he found himself a quartet of effusive and reasonable-sounding men and women of our land. There’s pragmatic, hands-on South Island pig farmer Ian, policewoman-turned-Manawatu-sheep farmer-Jill, former secondary school teacher Tony, who has found a new lease on life (and employment for many Whanganui retirees) as a chicken farmer, and West Coast bushman Josh James.
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The latter has already become a global internet sensation thanks to his You Tube videos and James certainly is the film’s most charismatic figure. As White follows him on his “hunter gatherer” expeditions into the wilderness, the mountain man waxes lyrical on the benefits of “ethical harvesting” by catching your own meat, rather than prowling the supermarket aisles.
It’s perhaps his honesty that makes him so disarming. James admits that while he thinks kids should be more aware of where their food comes from, he doesn’t advocate school trips to the abattoir and confesses to a double-standard himself when it comes to bacon.
While perhaps not quite as memorable, the remaining trio also provide some food for thought and fascinating tidbits. They all believe that ordinary people would waste a lot less if they knew the time, care and resources that went into providing the nation with its meat, while at the same time expressing annoyance at “animal rights” activists.
“If I see a goat driving a car one day then I know they have go their way,” bemoans one.
Yes, at times, it feels like a deliberate response to those who these days seemingly get all the headlines, and things do get a little gruesome for those with sensitive stomachs, but Meat feels like it takes a more balanced approach to a polarising topic than most. Plus, you’ll learn something – even if it’s just the relationship between pork sales and Lotto jackpots.