Why Local meat?
Sometimes we associate eating local with eating out at a local restaurant or buying veggies from a vendor at the farmer’s market. But what about meat? It can be tough to find locally raised meats these days, especially since local butcher shops are not as common as they once were. With today’s post, I hope you feel a bit more informed about your options for purchasing local meat.
If you are from the West Michigan area, be sure to check out the local farmers list and contact them with questions and for purchasing information. If you have a recommendation for additions to my list, please feel free to contact me, and I will update my list.
- Smaller carbon footprint. Meat you buy from a local farmer only “travels” as far as from the farm, to the processor and to your home. That’s a pretty small carbon footprint. But for commercially raised meats, in the case of beef, calves may be raised in one part of the country, then shipped off to another farm to be “finished off”, before heading to a processor, then a distribution center, then to a grocery store, and THEN to your home. That’s quite a large carbon footprint!
- You know where your meat is coming from. You can actually meet the farmer and learn how they raise their animals: what the animals are fed, if they are able to forage, what breeds the farmer raises, if the animal was born on the farm or purchased from another farm, how the animals are treated, if they are ever given antibiotics, etc. You may even ask how they harvest their animals. Some small farms choose to have someone come to the farm so the animals are less stressed. Some processors require the animals to come to them live. Don’t hesitate to ask these questions. Most farmers will be happy to answer for you. They take pride in their animals and the work they put in to providing you the best quality meat they can.
- You can order meat in much larger quantities to have on hand. This saves on last minute trips to the grocery store (if you’re like me, you go in for one thing and come out with ten things you didn’t need. Whoops!) I especially love this in the dead of winter when I really don’t want to go to the grocery store. I always have something in the freezer to cook up.
- You can customize your order. Generally, when you order a side of beef or pork, you will work with a local butcher for the processing and you can customize your order. (Bonus: you’re giving that butcher business as well! Double local score!) So, for example, you aren’t really a steak eating family but would rather have all ground beef, you can order all ground beef. Or maybe you want some bones set aside to make some stock. You can request that as well. If you’re not sure how you want it processed (it can seem overwhelming the first time), most butchers shops are happy to help you out. Don’t hesitate to call up the farmers preferred butcher and ask up front about the packaging possibilities (vacuum sealed vs. butcher paper), processing fees, possible pick up date, etc.
- You may be able to try bundles. Some farms offer smaller meat bundles if you are not sure if ordering a side of meat is right for you. Give a smaller bundle a try and see if you like it. You may even ask if the farmers supply meat to local butcher shops and you can check out the butcher shop. You could even decide to buy a side or a larger bundle and split with another family. Ask around and see what works for you and your family.
- Superior quality and taste. When we first ordered broiler chickens from a local farm, I could not believe the difference in taste. The difference was clearly visible in the chicken stock it made. A healthier, well-raised animal produces better quality meat! It’s as simple as that!
If you are considering purchasing local meats and you live in the West Michigan area, check out these links to recommended local farmers. If you are visiting from another part of the country (or world!), start by asking around. See if any other friends have ordered from a local farmer and ask for recommendations. You may even be able to score a lower price if you can find someone to go in with you on the entire animal. Contacting a local butcher shop may also be a good lead. Be aware that there are some cases where local butcher shops may be offering a combinations of meats that are local and non-local. The best thing to do is simply ask where they source their meat.