Saturday, October 13, 2012
Switching to Organic Meats
In general as a society we have given up on knowing where our food is produced in the name of convenience. The conditions in which the animals are being raised for meat is pretty attrocious in factory farms today. There are several documentaries out there that show some of the negatives of factory farms such as Food Inc. I have gotten to the point that when I eat factory farm meat (which is pretty much any meat in the grocery store) I think about the treatment and thats the last thing you want to think about when you are eating a delicious meal! I have decided that I no longer wish to support factory farm meats with my business.
And all of this may sound like it's easy to switch to locally farmed organic meats. However regularly buying organic, free range, and grassfed meats can be very expensive and really a lot of work to track down farmers within your area. Some people are lucky to have organic options available in their grocery store or even local CSA co-ops (www.localharvest.org is a great place to start) in which to get organic food on a budget. Our problem has been that the distance to drive every month to go and pick up a box of organic food is just too great.
In Alaska we participated in the Full Circle Farm box every other week. This was a great way for us to get organic fruits and vegetables I could not grow in our garden. It was also very affordable. Also when we were in Alaska we had a lot of local salmon, halibut, moose, and caribou (from my brother.) When you live in a place a long time you find ways to get wild meats and I think that is a great way to go!
However, now that we are in the midwest and our families are not close, we find it hard to get wild meats. I do hope to someday learn to dear hunt! But for now we must be content to buy our meats from the farmers. This poses several challenges:
1) It is usually only affordable to buy in bulk ie half or whole animals. This has been a problem for us. We do not have enough freezer space and we dont need that much meat for only two people.
2) We often have to drive quite a bit to get the meats we would like. If you are factoring it in to the cost this makes the meat much more expensive. I like to look at it as my personal entertainment :) since I'm not a huge fan of sporting events like my husband.
3) Buying in bulk or semi bulk is a lot of upfront cost for your meat. If you are on a strict monthly budget with no extra cash to spend on food this will not work for you! To stay within a monthly budge often you can get involved with a meat CSA in your area. This is a great way to go if it is near your area. Another thing to keep in mind is sometimes if you have several friends that can commit to a year long monthly subscription to the CSA you can often start one in your area. If we knew more people in our area I would love to do this!
However, in our case the closest CSA has a drop off time that would require that either I don't work that day or my husband gets off work early to pick up the box. This isn't something we want to lock ourselves into. So for now we have decided to try and buy larger quantities from farmers. I have found some farmers that are willing to sell me smaller quantities of meats for still a reasonable price.
We are also opporating on a yearly food budget. But, this is our first time doing this so we'll see how it goes... Another change I am working on is using less meat in our meals. I think in general Americans including us eat too much meat. I do believe that meat is good for you and includes many essential nutrients however I do not believe that it needs to be the majority or main focus of the meal. I do feel that eating less meat is a key in making regular consumption of organic/free-range/grassfed meats affordable. I use a lot more beans in dishes I use to make mainly out of meat. For example tacos: I used to just brown a bunch of hamburger and season it and put it on our tacos. Now I use half as much beef and combine with black beans and season. The result is just as tasty, but with less meat. Beans are also very reasonably priced and quite good for us!
Whatever your stance on meat I'd like to encourage you to research some of the health benefits of organic/free-range/grassfed meats over conventional corn fed meats at the grocery store. And if the health benefits aren't enough seeing some of the videos out there showing the treatment of the animals in factory farms is enough to make you feel sick. These are a few that I find interesting about this topic in general:
NPR Article Comparing Grassfed Beef to Cornfed Beef
Humane Society Video