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The last episode, we introduced you to terms like Grass-Fed, Pastured, Certified Humane. Where do you buy grass-fed beef? Is pastured pork worth the extra cost? How much freezer space does a half-hog take, and is the taste of grass-fed bacon really all that different?
Let’s meet your meat.
The waiter approached. ‘Would you like to see the menu?’ he said, ‘or would you like meet the Dish of the Day?’
‘Huh?’ said Ford.
‘Huh?’ said Arthur.
‘Huh?’ said Trillian.
‘That’s cool,’ said Zaphod, ‘we’ll meet the meat.’
A large dairy animal approached Zaphod Beeblebrox’s table, a large fat meaty quadruped of the bovine type with large watery eyes, small horns and what might almost have been an ingratiating smile on its lips.
‘Good evening’, it lowed and sat back heavily on its haunches, ‘I am the main Dish of the Day. May I interest you in the parts of my body?’
– Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
The Gray Family raised a litter of pigs and turkeys for Jason’s son Travis’s 4-H project. Both the kids, aged 9 and 6, were surprisingly cool about the fact the animals they raised, ran around with, scratched ears or rubbed wattles, were going to be eaten by either them or someone else.
The animals were never going to be pets. They were always going to be livestock. Food.
Still, they had names. Ainsley, the six-year-old, insisted on going along on pork deliveries to make sure each customer knew “their pig’s name” and something interesting about it.
Some of the customers were really into that. A few told Jason later they really didn’t want to know that their breakfast’s name was Ron. Although they admitted Ron was REALLY DELICIOUS.
How to Buy Local Meat Safely
So let’s say you want to dive in to the local food thing mouth first and buy your next chicken, turkey, or meat from a local farm? What do you need to know?
It can be kind of scary, because what if they mess up? And get your family sick? After all, we always see so many beef and chicken recalls even from the big guys.
Disclaimer: Follow Your Local Laws for Meat Processing
An important thing to know is that in every state in the U.S., and every country worldwide (now that we’re starting to get more listeners from Canada, Germany, Denmark, Brazil… hey guys!) the laws for meat processing and sale are going to be a bit different.
So please, if you’re a small farm listening to this, please make sure you are carefully researching your state’s or country’s laws on processing, because we’re going to be talking in generalities and things that we know are common in Colorado.
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What Are the Benefits of Local Grass-Fed Beef, Pork and Chicken?
Why do you want to buy meat from a local provider?
Three big reasons, in our opinion:
- tastes better
- supports your local foodshed
Grass Fed Meat is Healthier
We’ve spent the last 16 episodes telling you some of the many ways that buying from a local, regenerative, humane farm is going to give you meat — or eggs, or veggies — that are fresher, have more micro-nutrients, and have fewer stress hormones, as well as not nearly the kinds of antibiotics, etc that you’ll find in industrially grown meats.
It was about 40 years ago or so that the larger producers started adding so many hormones, low level constant antibiotics to keep the animals from getting sick in the dense, confined environments, and even steroids to grow faster.
We’re not scientists, we just make fun of their ethics issues with funding on podcasts, but you can’t totally discard the fact that so much changed in all parts of agriculture in the last 40 to 60 years, and that was about when so many things changed in the West’s health.
Grass Fed Meat Tastes Amazing
Hopefully after Day 5 “cracking the cage-free egg myth” episode you decided to try some real local, pastured eggs. And you will know by now how amazing those taste compared to the “99 cents per dozen on sale” eggs at the grocery.
Imagine how much that will be true when you try bacon from a pastured pig that can actually run around.
After all, pork isn’t supposed to be “the other white meat.” Pork from pigs that can run around, root, dig themselves a wallow and act happy as a pig in… well, a wallow… is a dark red meat, with a totally different texture and taste than what is raised in confined indoor buildings.
Grass-fed beef, pastured pork, pastured chicken will also have less fat on the outside of the cuts, but more marbling on the inside… which is exactly what we want for grilling, roasts, whatever manly meat prep we have planned for dinner.
It’s important to know that the taste and texture will be different. We may need to change our recipes a little or our cooking styles. Just like super-fresh eggs are hard to peel when hard-boiled, real pork and beef need a little tweaking. Since there’s less surface fat, you need to make sure you don’t overcook it to dry it out. Jason has found that pastured bacon does best cooked in the oven rather than on the skillet. But these simple tweaks are totally worth the effort for the amazing taste and quality difference.
Support Local Farms and Ranches
Every time you buy anything from a local business, you’re supporting your local community. But that’s even more true with farms. We need more farms distributed throughout the country. Not to get too doomsday prepper about it, but at some point, we will have a disaster that keeps the trucks from running beef or chicken or pork from far off states to our local grocery stores. It makes sense from a resilience point of view to make sure we have farms everywhere, so we can have food everywhere no matter what happens.
Also, every time you spend a dollar with a local food provider, they end up spending that dollar — sometimes more than that dollar, unfortunately — in local businesses for feed, fencing, water infrastructure, etc.
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Tips and Tricks to Buying Local Grass-Fed Meats
What do you need to know about how your local farms have to process these, and how to find, buy, and store bulk local meat?
Again, each state is going to be different. But we’ll tell you some of the possibilities.
Generally, you can buy local chicken either as a whole processed bird that you can part up yourself or roast, or in a lot of places you can buy just drumsticks or chicken breast, just like you would in a grocery store. In areas that have good USDA-inspected processing facilities for small flock growers, or state governments who are pro-agriculture, you can even buy your boneless skinless chicken breast you’re used to from the farmers market.
Alas, we wish we could do that. In Colorado, buying real local chicken by the part is illegal because we don’t have USDA inspection for small-flock poultry. And even buying whole processed chicken only became legal in the last year or so. Each state is VERY different on these regulations.
You can buy a pound of bacon or a sampler pack of maybe as much as 10 pounds from your local pork farms. That will help you learn the difference in flavor and learn how to cook the more interesting cuts before you invest in a half hog.
Buying a half or whole hog. This is the fun part. You get “everything but the oink” off the hog, and you get to choose all the specific seasonings, whether you want thick or thin bacon, etc when your local farm sends you the “cut sheet” before the pigs go off to “freezer camp.”
Doneil and Jason actually munched on some fresh-grilled grass fed local beef from Doneil’s freezer as we prepared for this episode. The total distance from where the cow was raised to Doneil’s grill. Five miles.
Check out localharvest.com to find out local producers in your are if you don’t know any. Develop a relationship with your local meat your farms. As always, ask to visit the farm.
Go meet your meat!
Tell us in the comments below if you’ve ever tried getting a half hog, quarter cow or more, or a locally pastured chicken. How did it taste? What kind of cooking methods did you use compared to grocery store meat?