To buy a fat pig. Home again, home again, jiggety jig. Nostalgia anyone?
Yesterday (Saturday) was pretty exciting for me. For a long time, I’ve been wanting to get some local animal products from a farm who properly raises them. However, being that I’m super introverted and usually really shy, I always talked myself out of asking some important questions. Well I finally wiggled out of my comfort zone yesterday and had a lovely chat with the farmers of Full Quiver Farm at our local farmers market and came away with these pasture raised products.
That’s a dozen pasture raised eggs, a whole pasture raised chicken, pasture raised chicken wings (which were given to us for free thanks to my inquiry), and pasture raised bacon. So.much.yum.
Why buy local when you can do a one stop shop at the grocery store?
Well, there are many reasons, but here are a few:
–Less transit. Buying local food means it didn’t have to travel from who knows where over however many days to get to the supermarket shelf where it again sits for days. Foods lose nutrients over time. So food that didn’t have to travel means it’s fresher and healthier.
–Support local families. When you buy local food, you are directly supporting the livelihood of another local family, rather than a big business corporation.
–Food quality. If the farm is local, most farmers would love to have you come by, talk with you and answer questions about their operations. This means you are able to go there and check out the situation, look how the animals are being raised, look at their produce, notice the cleanliness of the rest of the space, etc. This can be huge because while a farm may be practicing organic procedures, perhaps they don’t have that USDA certification because, sadly it costs them money. Get to know your farmers.
–Environmental benefits. Every time you buy local, you decrease the demand of big business food in supermarkets. This means less food will have to travel long distances via vehicle. Also, you’re promoting the local farming practice which gives back to the environment.
–Better service. Check out the vendors at the farmers market. They are typically so kind and willing to talk with you. Yes, granted, they are also there trying to sell their products…but a nice chat with a nice farmer sure beats dealing with the long checkout line at the supermarket that might end with the annoyed cashier counting down the minutes until lunch.
So what should you be asking if you want to find a good animal product? (This applies to straight meat, as well as things like eggs, butter, cream, milk, rendered fat, etc.)
–How are the animals raised? You want animals that are raised in healthy happy conditions. This means they are roaming freely in the grass most of the day, soaking up that sunshine, enjoying life, as well as have access to protection from predators and inclement weather. I think the grass is really key here. Since farms can claim chickens are “free range” because they have access to the outside, but their “outside” may be full of gravel. When chickens are in the grass, they are pecking around for bugs, worms, and caterpillars. This is a natural source of protein. When a chicken is placed in its natural environment, it will instinctively find its food.
–What are they fed? Animals should be eating what nature intended. For cows, this is grass for their whole life. (There are ways of promoting “grass fed” that can just mean they ate grass at some point in their lives, usually either the beginning or the end, also called grass finished. Ideally you’ll find 100% grass fed, so be sure to ask additional questions.) Animals like cows, bison, goats, and sheep, have the ability to turn grass into a high quality protein, leaving their meat to be richer in omega 3s and other nutrients. According to Michael Pollan in Omnivore’s Dilemma, it’s also safer because a diet of corn can lead to things like acidosis (diarrhea, ulcers, liver disease, weakened immune system) and bloat (a layer of slimy foam blocks the gas that would naturally be expelled, leading the rumen to inflate and press against the cows lungs possibly leading to suffocation). That feed can often be GMO feed too. Chickens, as mentioned above, need to be finding those natural creepy crawlers. So when you see on an egg carton or on a chicken meat package “fed a vegetarian diet”… that’s a problem because chickens, by nature, are not vegetarians. Animals eating their natural diets are more nutritious all around.
Properly raised animals are also beneficial for the environment. It takes a lot more energy and resources to grow grains than grass. Check out the book Defending Beef.
A big reservation about healthier meats/animal products is the price. Understandably so. A great way to help justify, especially when it comes to meats, is to use every part that you can. Here are three:
–Use the bones. Make bone broth. This is such an incredible health food and is chalk full of beneficial nutrients like minerals, collagen, and amino acids. Bone broth is amazing for joint health, bone health, skin health, gut health and repair, and anti-inflammatory. It’s pretty much a super food, and is surprisingly comforting. It can also be used for cooking in place of stock.
–Save the fat. Drain and store that bacon fat that’s left in the pan after cooking. You can use it for roasting vegetables and chicken, etc.
–Egg shells. Save the shells (and the carton) to start seedlings for your own garden. Or crush them up to use in compost which will add minerals to the soil.
Farmers markets can be an amazing resource to getting great tasting fresh local food. Go check it out!
In good health,