“Eat local? Why would I want to eat a bird I might know?”- The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Hi there, Kristen here. For two years, my husband and I have been eating locally raised beef almost exclusively. It all started in 2014 when one of my husband’s coworkers asked us if we’d like to buy part of a cow with him. It gets rather expensive to buy meat in bulk, but my in-laws also decided to go in on it with us. It is a lot of money to pay up front, but you probably won’t be buying beef for a year or more, and you know your meat is healthier, and hormone free. Plus, you have the benefit of knowing where your food is coming from. I have to say, that held a lot of the appeal for me. While I am by no means a vegetarian, whenever I read or hear about factory farming, I become extremely uncomfortable. I do not believe that eating meat is wrong, but I do believe that God has given us the responsibility to be good stewards of our planet, and that definitely extends to how we treat the animals in our care. Many of the men in my family are hunters who do their best to only take quick, clean shots, and only shoot what they plan to eat. We try to have respect for the animals who nourish us. My husband and I definitely liked the idea of supporting a local farm where the cow was living a good life up until the very end.
The first year that we bought a cow, we used the farm Anderson Acres, and got grass fed/grain finished beef. This was absolutely our favorite year. The steaks were tender, and the ground beef was the best we’d ever tasted. Although we realized that a good, fancy steak was from a higher quality of meat, we had never really considered the quality of our ground beef. Meatballs, sauces and meatloaves were out of this world good that year- and I used the same recipes that I’ve been using for years.
Last year, we decided to try a different farm, West Wind Acres, and buy a cow that was completely grass fed. We are still working through our supply! The quality of the meat is very good, and being entirely grass fed means it is leaner, and healthier, but admittedly, not as tasty. It has a slightly gamier taste that reminds me of the venison that my husband goes hunting for every year. Over time, we learned the best way to prepare this meat is to add a little fat such as olive oil to it. This seems to improve the level of moisture. I also find that a good seasoning goes a long way toward masking the slightly gamey flavor. We now have several delicious go-to recipes when it comes to preparing this meat. While we had a good experience with this cow, we decided we’d like to go back to grass fed/ grain finished next time.
When it comes to selecting a farm to work with, you’ll definitely want to do your research! Shortly after we picked up our meat from West Wind Acres, we were dismayed to discover that the farmer was being investigated for animal neglect! We were very upset, but after my husband talked to the farmer and did some more research to find out exactly what the charges were, it turns out to have been a big misunderstanding. It made us feel better to educate ourselves and to see the community rallying around to support this farm, with local high school students volunteering to help out while the farmer fought these charges. Today, West Wind Acres has an excellent local reputation. This experience impressed upon us the importance of educating ourselves about who we are choosing to support and work with.
The next thing to consider is filling out what is known as a cut sheet. This lets the butcher know exactly how you would like your meat- ground beef, steaks, roasts etc. If you are purchasing a cow with a group, its important to communicate with the others to compromise on who gets what and wants what. There are only so many filet mignons to be had! Discussing this with the group is only fair.
Now- where do you plan on storing this large amount of meat? We only had a standard size refrigerator/ freezer the first year we did this. We definitely needed to clean out our freezer to fit our quarter of the cow in there! The next year that we did this, we had a chest freezer that my in-laws generously gifted to my husband and I during deer season. Now I use my upstairs freezer for things I use most often, and my freezer in the basement as storage. Make sure you have room for your meat before you commit to purchasing it!
I realize that not everyone has the space or money to purchase local meat in bulk like this. I also do buy my other meat from the grocery store, so it is not like everything we eat is local. This is just a small step that our little family has decided to take toward eating more ethically and supporting local businesses. I am all about small steps. Trying to dive headfirst into a huge lifestyle change is just unrealistic. Maybe meat isn’t your thing, but over the summer you can sign up for a CSA and purchase a bounty of vegetables from a local farm. Maybe you grow your own beautiful garden every year. I have a friend who uses only beauty products from companies that never test on animals, and my siblings love to shop at thrift stores and make an effort to re-use. I also know families who use cloth diapers. All of these things count. Know that however small, your effort to make the world a better place matters. Small changes lead to bigger ones. I would love to eventually only eat local meat, even if it means reducing the amount of meat that our family consumes. For now, I’ll focus on the little changes that are realistic for our family. What steps do you try to take to live or eat ethically?
I’ll be back in a few days to share a few ways that we cook our grass fed beef!