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If meat, smoke and fire are your thing, then Meatopia, a festival based on these things will be right up your street!

I was lucky enough to be invited by Pasture For Life to the festival, to give a talk along with Rebecca Mayhew, a beef and dairy farmer from Norfolk. The festival is held at Tobacco Dock, a Grade 1 listed 200 year old set of warehouses in Wapping, East London. Its vaulted brick arches, flag stone floors and catwalks are pretty atmospheric, especially with the smell of sizzling meat, sound of live music and bustle of people. Each day they have about 30 chefs cooking up a small meaty dish, which you can get in exchange for a token - the idea is to have a pocket of tokens and work your way around the place trying cuisines from all over the world, BUT only cooked over wood. No gas, no electric, no short cuts. Interestingly most just had a big metal tray with a wood fire on and a big grill over the top, or an oil drum type smoker - it was simple. I was very keen to try as many diverse things as possible and enjoyed smoked lamb and date sausages, rib of beef on cheesy roast potatoes, burmese mutton with pickled cauliflower to name a few. However the hands down winner was the slow braised ox cheek on a crumpet with pastrami granola. Anyway why were we there? Well each day they have a range of speakers and demos, and we were lucky enough to get a spot to talk about Pasture for life. After an intro from Jimmy from PFL, Rebecca and myself talked about our farms, the meat we produce and how you can have productive livestock producing great meat but in an ethical and environmental way. We had over 100 people sit down and listen to us, and some good questions at the end. Being a foodie event they were very interested in flavour and we had a number of questions about this.

We had also bought some meat for the chefs to cook and hand out to the audience. Rebecca bought some big chunks of aged ribs, and I bought 3 hangar steaks / onglet (that survived the train journey and tube trip across London). These were expertly cooked and then the crowds descended to hoover up every morsel and lick the bones clean (I am not joking). Rebecca's super juicey tender ribs with lots of fat were a great contrast to my lean rare onglets with a bit more bite. Overall it was a great experience and I hope some of the folk attending seek out Pasture for life meat.

Tempted to go next year? - Its great and well worth going, but it does get very crowded and some queues for particular chefs were long, and they did sell out. Also be prepared to dig deep into that wallet, its not a cheap day out, but then you are getting some of the best established and up and coming chefs all in one place.


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