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Swan Valley brings humane food to CBR

Natassja Hoogstad Hay

The little-known region of Swan Valley in Western Australia is defining itself by its ethically sourced produce.

There’s no doubt that there’s been a recent shift in the way people think about food. I’m not just talking about trends in how it looks or tastes, but how food actually gets to a person’s plate.

Are the animals raised in a healthy environment? Does the produce have to travel far to get to me? These are the types of things we are thinking about more and more as we head out to restaurants and supermarkets.

You only have to look at Woolworths’ recent commitment to phasing out cage eggs by 2018 to see the impact of this change in the way we, as a society, think about food.

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American chains like Chipotle and Whole Foods have built their brand around ethically and locally sourced food. The wine region of Swan Valley in Western Australia has also embraced this food trend.

With the help of the RSPCA, 30 restaurants and cafes in the area have committed to cage free eggs, free-range pork and wholesome produce from animals living happier, healthier lives.

For almost a year, the Swan Valley has held the title of Australia’s first and only RSPCA certified humane food region.

Located just north of Perth, the Swan Valley is one of the oldest wine regions in Australia and is a destination for food, wine and art. Although I haven’t been myself, I’m intrigued by what I saw at a food expo of the region held at Parliament House last month.

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As well as sampling some of the top-notch food and wine from around the region, I had the chance to chat to Sittella Winery’s Head Chef Mike Price, who’s made the commitment to using humane food in his restaurant wherever he can.

A decision, he says, inspired by his grandchildren. He thinks it’s a “generational thing” and that young Australians will keep pushing us towards ethically and sustainably grown food.

“With the humane food, we’re just kick-starting that and trying to create an awareness,” he says.

“When suppliers and producers begin to see there’s a real demand for it, like organic became, I think it’s the next step.”

While chatting to Mike, he introduced me to Sitella Winery’s 2013 Coffee Rock Shiraz, probably the best shiraz I’ve tried in a long time. I’m no wine critic, but this was an incredibly smooth drop with chocolate and cherry tones… yum!

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Back to the Sittella restaurant menu, and Mike says it’s modern Australian, incorporating regional produce whenever possible, such as seasonal fruit from the vineyard’s orchards.

“We try to find products locally that we can develop the cooking and develop the clientele, get them to understand more or less what we’re trying to do,” he says.

“It’s a talking point for the wait staff to be able to tell the customers that the chef goes and picks the mandarins himself.”

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“Honesty with the food, honesty with the wine, that’s really where we’re at.”

The RSPCA is hoping that eventually this model of regional adoption of humane food will expand to other parts of Australia.

As someone who cares where my food is from, the thought of being able to easily see that it’s been ethically sourced is definitely appealing. Oh and the wine is delicious too.

Photos supplied. 

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Natassja Hoogstad Hay

Natassja Hoogstad Hay is a communications professional working in Canberra. An unashamed foodie, she loves cooking and going out to eat, and has a special love of coffee and wine. She’s obsessed with social media (handy in her field!) and is working on perfecting her Instagram game. In her spare time you might find her at a yoga class, cosied up on the couch with a book or the TV, or outside taking photos of beautiful Canberra sunsets.

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