Daniel Klein: The Human Connection
Daniel Klein is the Founder of The Perennial Plate, a documentary series focusing on sustainable food. I spoke to Daniel earlier this year and we recorded a Cooee! Podcast together.
In advance of our discussion I watched a good number of The Perennial Plate short films. I was touched by each and every one of them because they really do focus on people – on traditional ways of living but also on how we can find solutions to challenging problems if we sit down together. This resonated with me very strongly.
What I love about The Perennial Plate films is that they don’t judge the people they’re filming. They don’t try to force a message down your throat; they’re gentle. They just show their subjects’ way of life and I believe this is profoundly important, profoundly beautiful in fact. Daniel says that, “at the end of the day they’re really stories about people and making a human connection between where our food comes from and where it arrives on our plate or at the grocery store.” I would certainly agree.
I did share my joy at discovering The Perennial Plate with some friends and one wondered at the fact that while Daniel speaks about sustainable food, he also profiles the production and eating of meat. I asked Daniel about this after our discussion and here is his unedited response:
We look at sustainable in a very broad way, basically any story that is providing an alternative concept of food to the industrial food system and also sharing the human story of the people behind our food - developing that connection is probably the only way we can create lasting change. So while McGraths is a far cry from perfect, and in many ways isn't considered sustainable, they do present a model of "small is beautiful" that could provide inspiration or dialogue. They take part in every step of the meat process... something very different from feed-lot cattle, butchered at a facility and shipped around the world to various supermarkets. And of course we get to know them as people behind our food, a concept that can't be quantified. Sustainability is environmental, but also economic, quality of life, culture etc. For us, sharing a beautiful food culture is part of what "sustainable" means - we are humans and we can't just think in terms of numbers, we have to celebrate and enjoy. I think if we lose all culture to be sustainable, that would also not be "sustainable".
The second part of this discussion is that all meat is not the same. I think we should all eat less meat too, but there are farms that mimic the path of buffalo and actually improve soil and wild life - this meat is expensive and not for mass consumption but it is MORE sustainable than not having animals on those pastures. So it frustrates me when meat is all considered to be industrial - we need animals on this planet, and using some of them for meat is a sustainable (economically speaking) way of maintaining and enhancing certain eco systems. McGrath's meat isn't perfect, but it was pasture raised.
The third part is that people have always eaten meat and will probably continue to do so - in a similar manner that you choose to work with logging companies who cut forests, these things are currently inevitable. Many ranchers love their cattle and want the best for them and their land - so to disregard it all as unsustainable is irresponsible, we need to work toward MORE sustainable, not a black and white concept of it. Here is a film of ours that addresses that issue about a cattle rancher and a vegetarian who fell in love: Episode 150 – For Place and For Animals
Certainly food for thought and rich discussion there. Do visit The Perennial Plate website to discover the films, the blogs and the lives of the people showcased. It’s a rich experience.
Here is a list of The Perennial Plate films that Daniel and I discuss in the podcast:
In addition to these films that I watched in preparation for our chat, Daniel mentioned a special one that is his and his wife Mirra’s favourite. It’s called “Tea for Two” and it’s a love story. It’s just short of 4 minutes long, but it is indeed wonderful.
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Daniel Klein: The Human Connection includes sections from the songs “Springlish” and “Adventure Darling” by Gillcuddy and “Today’s your day” by Steve Combs available under Creative Commons Attribution – Noncommercial