Putting Down Roots

bacon and liver and wings, oh my!
January 22, 2011, 4:25 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

OK, y’all, I just made a big step for someone who’s been a mostly-vegetarian for 7 years. I just bought me some meat.

I was going to go to the farmers market this morning to buy some grass-fed ground beef from some farmers I met a few weeks ago, but got too absorbed in letter-writing to get in the car and drive. When I left this afternoon to meet a new friend for coffee at the food co-op, Nathan gave me a gift certificate he had for $20 at New Leaf, and instructed me to buy “meat. Lots of meat.”

When I tell you that I spent at least 15 minutes in front of the meat case (not including the time I spent in other parts of the store before second-guessing my choices, returning to the meat section three separate times, and changing my selection). I probably picked up dozens of packages of meat: lamb saugage, buffalo steaks, ostrich patties, chicken liver, chicken tenders, chicken thighs, chicken drumstricks, ground beef in plastic bags, ground beef on styrofoam trays. Things were labelled “all-natural” or “free-range” or “grass-finished” or “grass-fed” or “vegetarian-fed” or “organic” or just ambiguously “sustainable.”

I had to think about what meat I actually know how to prepare (very little).

I had to prioritize: do I care more that something is local, or organic, or pasture-raised?

It should have been easy. I was, after all shopping at a natural-foods co-op, so you’d think that all of it should be fine. But I just finished Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, which has made me particularly suspicious of meat-sellers’ claims. New Leaf was selling Niman Ranch products, which I’ve heard look really good on paper but actually might be suspect: inhumane slaughtering practices, raising pigs in confinment facilities, using antimicrobials. And then there was other meat with very little labelling except “all natural”? What the heck does that even mean?

After much deliberation, I settled on ground beef from White Oak Pastures and pork sausage from Thompson Farms.

When I came home, the first thing I did was look the farms up online. Both are local (White Oak Pastures is 94.2 miles away in Bluffton, GA, and Thomspon Farms is 56 miles away in Dixie, GA). Both websites had videos showing truly happy animals running around on pastures, and both videos were narrated by farmers with delightful southern drawls (which doesn’t affect meat quality but at least is nice to the ear).

What it comes down to is: I trust these guys. Anyone who will take someone with a video camera on a full tour of their operation clearly doesn’t have anything to hide (unlike the folks at Woodstock Farms Organic, who produced the cheese I bought today; their website is full of nice-sounding stuff about organic food, but I don’t see any real proof that their cows are living good lives and having good deaths. I got tired of sifting through opinions on the internet, but it looks like they’re essentially confined-animal feeding operations (CAFOs), also known as factory farms. Bottom line: they’re not transparent, and I don’t trust them).

After an afternoon’s worth of deliberation, questioning, purchasing, and researching, I’m worn out, but feel good about the meat that’s in my fridge. Now it’s time to go figure out what to make for dinner.

(Here are my farmers. Check them out!

Thompson Farms

Thompson Farms’ Video (from Whole Foods) with lots of good pig pictures

White Oak Pastures with some good cattle-running footage)


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