It was only two years ago that I started eating red meat after 20 years of abstinence. And now I go and buy a cow.
Last week, my friend and colleague Lynne Eppel (Edible Front Range Magazine) and I went in together to purchase a quarter of a local, grass-fed cow. Much to my husband’s chagrin, his homemade coconut popsicles were confiscated as our freezer became the home to every kind of steak you can think of, three large roasts, a stack of short ribs, brisket, stew meat, stock bones, liver, and 30 pounds of ground beef. (This is called foreshadowing… I’m preparing you for meat loaf, meatballs and hamburger recipes in the very near future!)
Since I started to eat red meat, I purchased most of it from my local farmers’ market. In the winter, I resorted to Whole Foods Market. I’m grateful that they offer naturally processed meats, but I have never been proud of purchasing meat that was grain fed (as opposed to pasture fed) and had been shipped possibly thousands of miles to get to me. From my personal ethical perspective, as well and an environmental one, I’d much rather purchase a portion of a local cow that was processed humanely and raised on a small farm in open pastures (not even two miles from my house, mind you!) than to buy “part and parcel” meat from a large farm hundreds or thousands of miles from my home.
How Do I Buy Local Meat?
I get a lot of my insider information direct from the farmers at the farmers’ market. Unfortunately, most markets are seasonal and have closed for the winter. So, where to find a local source for food when the markets are closed for the season?
Of course, a Google search (i.e. grass-fed beef, your city and state) is one of the best ways to see what’s available in your area.
Another solution is a national farm search website called Local Harvest that will list local farms in your area. Each farm listing will tell you what they sell: veggies only, grass-fed meats, free-range chickens and eggs, milk, cheeses, fruits, honey. Not only can you find local farms, but also restaurants and markets that sell local food to their patrons. LocalHarvest.org
Why Do I Buy Local Food?
For one, with all the meat recalls, it’s going to be safer to eat meats and produce from small, local farms where smaller amounts of food is handled with more care.
The food is also fresher (since it doesn’t have to travel so far) and therefore has retained more of its nutrient content.
Small farms are also a better choice for the environment and for humane care of the animals. (I watched Food, Inc. a few weeks ago and was appalled to see cows tromping knee deep in their own manure and crammed into small areas with hundreds of other animals.)
It’s also imperative that our local farmers get as much financial support and emotional encouragement as we can possibly give them. What would we do if we lost all our farmers and farm land?
December commences many months (how many, I do not know!) of cooking my way through all the meat that’s in my freezer! With every dish I make from this animal, I am profoundly thankful for the life that it unknowingly sacrificed for me, the nourishment that it provides me, and for all the hard work and care that went into raising and producing it.