Meat, Eggs and Dairy Products 101:

What to Look for and how to Purchase Locally

I’ll be the first to admit, it was hard for me to start thinking about buying these products locally for several reasons:
1. I had never done it before
2. It is a lot more expensive
3. I didn’t understand why it was more expensive.

However, I’ve learned a lot over the past couple years about food and farming. When we choose to buy our meat, eggs and dairy products locally we benefit ourselves, our community and our world. Why? Grass-fed, pastured animal products are so much healthier! I’ll explain why in a little bit. Buying locally is so great for our local cities, counties and states. Keeping money in our local economy is always a good thing. Also it’s a great way to care for our planet. Not only are grass fed, pastured animals treated better, they are gentle on our planet whereas factory farmed animals wreak havoc on our environment and our bodies.

MEAT

Depending on the Farmers’ Market you attend, meat may not be a commodity available. Our local markets usually have at least one meat farmer but they typically bring a limited supply to the market. So if you are looking for a specific cut, don’t expect the full variety like the grocery store. If you are looking to start eating only grass fed beef or pastured pork I HIGHLY recommend buying ¼ of ½ a cow  or pig from a local source. We currently have a freezer stocked with all kinds of delicious grass fed beef which means I NEVER buy beef from the grocery store. Our beef share also came with soup bones (which are wonderful for making beef broth for soups, etc.) and you usually work with the butcher to decide what cuts of beef you prefer. We even asked the butcher to package our ground beef in half pound increments which we have found is the perfect size for our little family. Buying part of a cow does require ample freezer space so please consider this before making the commitment. Another perk: Buying beef in bulk like this is extremely affordable. My father in law ( who we share ½ a cow with) did the math and said it’s about the same price per pound as purchasing regular non- organic beef from the grocery store. WIN! To find a local seller click here.


Same cut of beef! Just different diet! It’s like comparing a human who eats cheetos all day long or someone who eats a balanced diet full of real food! So why is grass-fed beef better? Research has shown that grass fed beef has as much as 10 times more beta-catotene, three times more Vitamin # and three-times more omega-3 fatty acids. (www.thedailygreen.com)

Also the the fat content in grass fed beef is signigicantly lower resulting in a lot less calories. “If you eat a typical amount of beef per year,” Robinson points out in Pasture Perfect, a book about the benefits of pasture raised animals, “which in the United States is about 67 pounds, switching to grass-fed beef will save you 16,642 calories a year.” (www.cnn.com)
Because grass fed beef is much leaner, it needs to be cooked differently. Stayed tuned for some blog posts about my experience in the kitchen with grass-fed beef.

We have recently started purchasing our chicken from the Farmers’ Market as well. The best way to purchase chicken is to purchase a whole bird. You get the most for your money and it’s so much tastier than the typical boneless skinless (tasteless) chicken breast. We buy from a farmer who raises heritage breed chickens. These chickens grow at a more normal pace than factory birds. A big difference from factory farmed birds who are loaded up with antibiotics, crammed in a tight quarters and fed whatever fattens them up quickest. Not to mention that factory birds are genetically engineered to grow in a time frame never possible in nature with proportions not possible in nature. Pastured birds spend their days out in the sun, enjoying bugs and often a high quality organic soy free feed. And heritage breeds are simply birds that grow at a normal rate with normal proportions, i.e. there is less breast meat on a heritage bird than on a factory one.

Pastured chicken
Factory Farmed chicken

 

We don’t eat much pork around our house. If we do it’s usually organic bacon from the grocery store. On my last trip to the Farmers’ Market I purchased Portuguese sausages from a organic pork farmer. We are excited to try them!

When consuming meat:

  • Beef is best  GRASS FED and purchased locally if possible
  • Chicken is best pasture raised but I’ll buy organic chicken from the grocery store in a pinch. Remember it’s so much better to take the plunge and purchase a WHOLE chicken (it’s much more cost effective than buying cuts). Look for a coming post on wrestling whole chickens in the kitchen!
  • Pork should always be organic and local is best. My in-laws are looking into buying half of a pig from a local farmer…I’ll blog about that experience later!


All About EGGS

Eggs. Just a glance at the egg selection at the grocery store makes my head spin. You can buy regular white eggs, brown eggs, free range brown eggs, cage free eggs, free- range eggs with dha, vegetarian fed eggs and even soy free eggs! What does all of it mean!!?!?! In my opinion it’s all one big gimmick to convince you one brand is better than the other. Nevertheless here is a breakdown of common egg jargon:

  • Cage free- The chickens probably still live indoors in a chicken house, they might have access to the outdoors and they might not. They just don’t live in individual cages. If they are organic cage-free eggs they are fed organic feed and have stricter guidelines as far as treatment and the use of antibiotics.
  • Free range- This probably means the chickens have access to the outdoors but how much access is hard to say without speaking to the specific producer.

If I am forced to purchase my eggs from the grocery store I usually purchase the free range organic eggs.

Still confused??
The trick to purchasing REAL eggs from chickens that graze on pastures is to purchase them from your LOCAL FARMER, often you will find these eggs for sale at the farmers market. Get to the market early because pastured eggs sell out fast. You can also put your name on a list for the next week with a farmer who sells eggs.

So why are pastured/organic/Farmers’ Market eggs better than the eggs from the grocery store?
Let me give you a visual.

Not to mention pastured eggs are lower in cholesterol than store bought eggs and much higher in vitamins A and D plus they have naturally occurring DHAExpect to pay a premium amount for a premium product. But trust me they are worth every penny!Another great place to looks for eggs is CRAIGSLIST. We purchase our eggs from a local farmer we found on craigslist and they are wonderful. Just type eggs into your local craigslist search field and see what you find. Remember to ask what they feed their chickens. Organic is best because it means there are no GMOs in the feed.

Dairy

This is something less frequently found at a typical market but I want to cover it here for those who have an option to purchase dairy products at their market.

Our market has two vendors who sell cheese. I’m always on the hunt for grass-fed raw cheese (which is the best tasting and the best for you in my book).
Again if you are looking to buy cheese locally craigslist could be a great option. We buy our milk locally and the farmer is currently making cheese they hope to start selling in the spring.
If you find a cheese vendor at your market ask about the milk they use to make their cheese. The most important thing for me is whether or not the milk comes from a cow that is grass fed.

I haven’t seen a market in our area that sells milk but I’m going to write a post about milk. I have a lot to share about where to purchase milk, what type to buy, and why it matters.

Ok! That about wraps it up! This post is broad so please ask questions in the comments below and happy shopping!!!

3 Comments

  1. I love this post!! I particularly like the picture of the two eggs…I never liked eggs until I tried free range eggs from happy, grazing chickens. They taste as different as they look!

    When I first started eating grass fed beef I did not like it as much as corn-fed. There is a definite taste difference for me but I find now I love grass fed beef. It cooks differently and I think isn’t as forgiving as far as cooking times and how to make it tender. But once I learned that the beef sold in grocery stores and conventional restaurants comes from cows who are slaughtered just before they would otherwise die because they’re systems aren’t made to digest the corn diet they’re fed, corn-fed beef didn’t taste so great anymore. Not to mention we’re eating sick cows when we eat conventional beef (or chicken for that matter)…they all live too close together, rarely moving and standing in they’re own manure (hence the necessity to pump them with antibiotics to keep them alive long enough to get them to size for slaughter). Knowing all of this is sad but it definitely makes the work of figuring out how to cook grass fed beef feel worth it.

    I’m so looking forward to your milk post!

  2. I so enjoyed this post! I am looking forward to your post on cooking grass-fed beef and wrestling a whole chicken, are you going to cut one up into parts?! I have yet to do that and am curious how its done. Also do y’all use a chest freezer? About how much space do you need per half of cow? We are thinking about going in on a cow with some other people but I have no idea how much space we will need.

  3. Yes I’m thinking I’ll cut it up into parts hopefully on a youtube video! So you can really see how to do it.
    We don’t have a chest freezer. David’s parents have an extra freezer in their garage and they are kind enough to share it with us. You probably need an extra freezer if you plan on purchasing 1/4 of a cow or more at a time. It’s a lot of meat! Plus this time I asked for lots of bones for broth and the organ meat(heart and liver).

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