The truth, we cannot deny it. Kevin and I love meat. We’re not vegetarians, nor are we contract killers. But there you have it.
Durning the course of our relationship, this was one of our only dietary struggles. I was raised to be very aware of what was in my food. No pre-mixed packages or ingredients, everything was made from scratch and very little pork because of the nitrates. Kevin loved pork, and honestly, it really freaked me out. I would do nearly anything to get him not to buy pork. Eventually, we found a compromise and would always check the ingredients before we took something home. But there was still that nagging thought, what else is in that meat?
Eventually, as awareness grew, we started shifting more and more toward organic meats. We also became increasingly dependent on Whole Foods to supply them. But again, as time moved on and awareness grew, I became not quite comfortable with what they were providing. And then we moved.
Charlotte does not have Whole Foods and the grocery stores here have thrown us back 10 years in organics. Not even a smidgen of organic meat to be had. There are some “natural” grocery stores here, but half look just like Whole Foods and others are the real thing, but have very limited selections and are unbelievably expensive. So the hunt for meat began because I couldn’t go back to conventional. What I found has made me infinitely happier.
If you can’t grow your own, go to the source.
What I’ve found is that there are many independent growers all over the country who raise organic, grass-fed beef, happy, healthy porkers and fowl for all your festive and everyday occasions and you can buy directly from them. They sell in the same cuts or quantities you might get in your grocery store. The prices are comparable and there are a variety of delivery methods, from pick up at the farmers market, delivery to your home similar to door to door organics, as well as weekly pick up at a particular location. I even email our preferred pork provider to have them set aside what items I want to pick up so I know it will be there, and I’m not dependent on how slammed they are at the farmer’s market.
Here are some sites I’ve found which can help you search your area for those growers.
Eat Wild I’ve found to be the most helpful and it covers the country.
Eat Well Guide is more general and includes much more than meat. I haven’t used it too much, but it looks pretty good.
Some sites are also regional, such as Know Your Farms, so do a search for your area. As an example, this is a wonderful site. The organization even has an annual farm tour which I think would be interesting, especially for those with kids.
Most independent growers also have their own sites now, so do a search for what you’re interested in and your area. That’s how I found my pork people, Grateful Growers.
Don’t limit your thoughts. Think about eggs, quail, quail eggs, rabbit. We’ve even been able to find our prized heritage turkeys for the holidays. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, say buffalo, email a farmer on the list and ask them if they know of someone or who they would recommend. I did this with my favorite pork and fowl people and they were a wealth of information. Chances are if it’s there, they’ll know. Many things are possible and many different items are available. Broaden your horizons.
Most local growers have an email newsletter they send out. This is one of those times when it pays to pay attention to the contents. The farmers will announce limited offerings, such as the turkeys, what farmers markets they participate in, local restaurants who source their products. They may not supply a detailed bio of the chicken you might be buying, but I’ll bet you could see his coup if you really wanted.
Another benefit of buying your meets like this is the obvious locovorism. The meat is really fresh, has a reduced carbon footprint because of it’s proximity to your area and you’re pumping money back into the local economy. Win, win, win in my mind.
In the end, if you are like I am and deeply care about what you’re putting in your body, don’t take some big chain’s word for it. Their word isn’t always that good. For example, Whole Foods, along with Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm have caved into Monsanto and have agreed to stop fighting the use of GMO crops which will endanger many supply chains, including beef, pork and poultry (learn more here). How can you have organic beef if they are eating GMO crops? In 2008, California filed a lawsuit against Whole Foods, among others, for not putting warning labels on organic hair care products which contained high levels of 1,4-Dioxane, a known carcinogen (learn more here). Sadly, what was once a staple in our daily lives is now tarnished, but I’m really grateful for the new options I’ve found and we’ll never go back.