Step Two: The Low Down on Eating Sustainable Meat

March 23, 2010 Comments Off on Step Two: The Low Down on Eating Sustainable Meat

Step two of going local was  changing the way  that I eat meat, and boy do I love some meat, so it wasn’t and still isn’t easy making the switch. There is so much information out there, and the internet I am convinced was essentially made by marketers so it can be hard to get through it all with out losing your mind or buying weight loss pills. I have included some of the information below that I have managed to sort through as well as some of the steps I am taking to get my local meat feet wet… or whatever.

How I am Making the switch:

*The hardest part was just finding the  meat .  I  just got really lucky because I live in an area with a lot of farmers and the recentish advent of Charlottesville’s  Retail  Relay.  Retail Relay  is really what allowed me to start buying local meat. They are a service that basically  allows you to shop online and then deliver (or you pick up) the food. The great part is that relay  also sort of acts as a coop in which it sells a lot of  products directly  from local farmers. This allows me to try lots of different farms and different cuts, with out having to commit to a whole animal of meat. I may buy a share of an animal later, but I still can barely identify  what different cuts of meat are what, and I have no idea what is tasty. Right now I want to shop around and buying sleected cuts does that, but if you have a large family buying a couple shares of different animals may be the most economically viable.

*Even though I could now get the meat I had  the tiny problem of meat grown sustainably is a  lot more expensive than regular meat from the factory. So I made the hard decision to reduce the amount of meat I eat in favor  of eating less but better quality meat. It’s not really that hard because I need to diet anyway and a serving size of meat is really about  4 ounces which is a similar size to a pack of cards. So far it has been great, I have also been able to add meats that I don’t usually eat like lamb back into my diet.

So  what’s the big deal with eating sustainable meat? I’ll tell you why I am doing it.

* I believe it to be healthier than other meat, makes sense right? What we eat and how we live has an effect on how healthy we are so why shouldn’t it be the same for the tasty animals we eat.

* I believe it is more humane, and I like animals.

* I really like farmers, and by buying local you are supporting farmers, and not a giant corporation, and trust me that farmer needs his or her job.

What the hell is hippie grown organic sustainable local natural meat?

Well to be honest it is all different stuff, and not all of it is necessarily connected, here a simple definition of a lot of the terms used when buying meat. They are roughly placed good to better as buying options.

Natural: This is the most vague of the terms and pretty much just means not man made, aren’t you glad that  that meat is an actual animal and not plastic, yay what an accomplishment!

Organic: This mean that the meat was raised without any pesticides  or inorganic food. There are some rules  that stipulate humane treatment of animals in USDA organic classification, but this doesn’t necessarily coordinate with happy  or pasture fed animals, but is better than regular meat.

Local: There is some  discussion about what this means, and it is really dependent on the person. I have a rough definition of anything within 100 miles preferably less.  What do you think qualifies as local food?

Sustainable: This means that the animals were raised in a way that is healthy and humane for them and the land that they graze on.


How do I find out more about sustainable meat?

Well there are some great resources out, but first I have to warn you that many of them are hyper about going sustainable, and some of them will try to scare you. The important part of  process is you being an informed consumer and drawing your own lines in the sand  and to what extent you want to take this, for example right now I am almost(at least 90%) solely eating local and sustainable meat in my home but I haven’t committed to eating that way while I’m out. Everyone is different, and I mention below sharing is key. So now a couple of links.

*Sustainable Table has a nice overview of what some of the problems with factory farming are.

* Another good site is www.eatwild.com it gives an overview, but also has a directory for farms in your area.

I’m having a hard time keeping the faith, what can I do?

Well you can eat a lot of late night drive in food and drink all your pay, or you can just talk to people. I  can’t rave enough on finding other people who are into doing the same things you do, especially when the change is hard and there are all kinds of issues that make it harder to follow through . There are opporunities everywhere to network with people, this blog isn’t a bad place to start, ask some questions people! I am lucky to be in an area where the Local Food movement is really picking up  and that really helps me stay motivated, like this past weekend I got to go to an  excellent workshop where I heard  some really cool people speak about their part in the local food push here in Charlottesville.John Whiteside, owner of Wolf Creek Farm was one of those speakers and he is is just awesome and super smart, like Harvard smart, so its easy to listen to him.  He is a good example of what sustainable farming looks like, I  was able to talk about what farming meant for him and how he does what he does. The workshop really helped me make a complete picture, John also answered some questions that I hadn’t been able to find an answer to anywhere else. You can see a video  of him telling you a little  about his farm here.  So talk to your farmers,go to farmers markets, go get the meat  from the farm(call them first though,) see the cows, and ask questions. It really makes eating sustainable worth while , especially when there is a human element involved.

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