Real Food: Animals

After my last two posts, which were more philosophical than I usually tend to be (I’m more of a realist), I wanted to share the food choices we make.  This is what works for us, after a few years of working on making our food more sustainable and seasonal.  I’m going into a lot of detail, so I’m going to split it into different categories over a few different posts.

I’m starting with meat because I believe we can be ethical omnivores.  I believe we can be animal lovers and still eat animals and animal products.

I’ve found a standing freezer to be our most valuable purchase when it comes to eating meat sustainably.  Because we get meat seasonally, we get a whole lot at once and keep it frozen all year.  It’s a great feeling to know that I have a ton of meat in the basement and don’t need to run out to the grocery store.

piglets 007

My husband’s family started raising pigs again a few years ago.  Ed’s dad grew up butchering animals for local farms with his family, so he knows how to slaughter and process the meat.  One pig provides all the pork, bacon, sausage and ham we’ll eat for a year.

My husband’s family also raises turkeys.  We don’t eat a ton of turkey, so the couple that we have in the freezer will last the whole year for us.  We cut it into parts before we freeze it, so I’ve got turkey breast, thighs and drumsticks, as well as parts for soup, in the freezer.

Finally, Ed’s family started raising chickens for the first time this year.  We had our first chicken the other night, and it was great.  One roasted chicken gave us two suppers and lunches for two days as well.  We’ve got three more chickens in the freezer, so I’ll still have to get some antibiotic and hormone free chickens from the store.

We also get beef from Ed’s uncle in Maine.  The beef is grass-fed, and a quarter of a cow lasts the whole year for us.  It’s been interesting, because I’ve learned to cook all different cuts of beef, including roasts, london broil, and making stew.  But, there’s also a ton of ground beef, so I wouldn’t recommend buying a whole or partial cow unless you make a lot with ground beef.

We’re also lucky to live very close to the ocean.  Ed and his family love to go out on the water, and his brother owns a shellfishing business.  So, our seafood is always caught by Ed and his brother.  We enjoy blackfish, porgies and the occasional bluefish or striped bass (it’s suggested to eat no more than one serving every six months from Long Island Sound, and I skip them because I’m “of reproductive age”).  We also get clams and oysters, but I’m not really a fan of either.  Ed’s parents have a cottage on a little island in Maine, and we’re friends with some local lobster fishermen.  So, whenever any of his family goes to Maine, they come home with fresh lobster, scallops and crab meat.  Finally, we eat the occasional wild-caught Alaskan salmon or a can of tuna.  We can’t eat locally all the time!

What choices do you make about meat?

Next Post in my “Real Food” series: Animal Products

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11 Comments

Filed under Food, Living from Scratch, Local Agriculture, Sustainable Living

11 responses to “Real Food: Animals

  1. We’d like to get into a similar routine with our meat purchases–mostly because that’s the only way to buy meat/poultry/fish sustainably.

    But I’d also like to do it as a way to keep moving away from the grocery store rat race. When we lived in Michigan, the Meijer stores there had the slogan, “A Million Reasons in a Single Store.” Big box stores, and even just-groceries stores, are put together so that I come home with more than I planned to buy.

    Maybe the bottom line of what I’m saying is this: who controls my life? Do I decide what I want to buy, what I want to eat? Or am I being manipulated by advertising, product placement, etc.?

  2. I think (hope!) we’ll be where you are in a couple years, in terms of sourcing our meats. Right now 100% of the beef and turkey that we eat at home is our own. We’ll be able to say that about chickens by the end of the summer. It is going to be challenging for me to eat other cuts of chicken when I’ve always preferred the breasts. It will be worth is though, without a doubt.

    We rarely eat pork because we have to buy it. I’m looking forward to raising pigs next year so we can have all our own. As for fish, I buy canned Wild Alaskan Salmon and serve it at least twice a month. Everything I’ve read said that is one of the safer sources of fish, not to mention an excellent source of Omega-3s. We occasionally splurge on a meal out and have fish from the Great Lakes. I know of a great little fishing spot around here and if I ever get my hands on a little boat I’d love to fill our freezer with some bluegill.

    Oh, as for all that hamburger – I use 10-20 pounds all at once in the fall when I can meat sauce. I canned 52 pints last year so we could have spaghetti once a week if we wanted. We don’t eat it that much but it takes a couple jars to make rotini so it evens out. It’s also nice to dilute with some broth and serve as tomato soup. I love never having to thaw the burger when I come home.

  3. As I’m currently (and will for a while) city-living, the closest I get to humane, local meat is at the Farmer’s Market. There’s a great farm that sells beef and lamb at the Farmer’s Market around the corner, but I’ll have to check out other ones to find fowl or pigs I’m sure.

    Oh for the time when I’m secure enough in my garden to build a trade network… :-P

  4. I envy your family farms. It’s taken me about 3 years, but we get about 90% of our protein from local sustainable farms. The beef has come from 2 sources now. The first is a local strawberry farmer who decided to raise cows last year in his back pasture. Otherwise we’ve gotten it from a local butcher who has a farm of his own where he raises a wide variety of animals. He is also where I get my pork and sometimes chicken.

    We have laying hens in our backyard. I would love to get meat birds, but seem to have run out of time and space for now. Hopefully in the future we’ll be able to raise our own. Fish here is quite local. We live about 20 minutes from Cape Cod and have many friends that fish. If we want something else there are lots of small fish places that have fresh caught local fish. There is even talk of a CSF (community supported fishery) starting up nearby. There is already one north of us that is doing quite well.

    I’ve recently been reflecting on how far our diet has come in the 3 or so years since I really started on this journey. I agree that a freezer is your best friend when you want to eat this way, although our farmers market sells local meats in smaller quantities as well. They’re just much pricier.

  5. I buy a lot of my meat and seafood at my local farmer’s market, where I can talk to the farmers and fishers personally. I also frequent a local butcher shop that specializes in locally-produced, hormone and antibiotic free meat, raised humanely.

    I am currently working on eating less meat. I am not about to give it up, but I think that reducing my intake would be reasonable for me. I am also working on eating meat differently. Instead of buying just chicken breasts, for example, I buy a whole chicken. Then I get a few meals out of it, and I also make soup out of it. There’s less waste, which feels more sustainable to me, and it’s cheaper in the long run.

  6. We don’t have a source of local grass-fed stuff, so we buy the hormoned-antibioticed stuff and just try not to eat so much of it. We’re old, so we’ve probably already got a huge build-up in our bodies.

    For our new person, when she stops eating anything besides breast milk, it’ll probably only be organically grown vegetables when she eats at our house. My daughter already told me that she’ll be fed the hormoned-antibioticed milk at their house because they’re poor. We buy that kindof milk, too, but I’ll probably encourage her to drink distilled water when she’s here.

  7. I just got started this year on making different choices about meat. I’m raising two pigs, one for my own freezer and one for some friends of mine. My partner and I have vowed that once our pig goes to slaughter in the fall, we’ll never buy pork from the store again. The same goes for chicken. Just today we bought four layers from an Amish farm market near us, and that’s enough birds to keep us in plenty of eggs! I’m looking to add meat birds as well and possibly goats or sheep for meat or milk. I don’t have enough land here for a cow, so I’d love to find someone local to buy beef from, but I haven’t found that yet. I’m adding changes, one bit at a time.

  8. Leslie

    We do grass fed beef, and have just joined a local chicken coop. Would love to find a good source for pork around here.

  9. Rosa

    When I was younger and broker, people gave us lots of meat – mostly venison, sometimes wild turkey or trout.

    Now, we have more money & we belong to a coop with a great meat counter. I can get pastured pork brats without having to make them myself – it’s great!

  10. Rob

    I would like to say that I don’t eat meat. I wouls also like to say that everyone mistakes me for Brad Pitt. I have cut my meat consumption way down. Not so much for enivormental reasons. More for health and personal reasons. And I have to say I never met a pig I didn’t like, including Uncle Hank’s Mean old Sow. I have also never met a strip of bacon I didn’t eat.

  11. You are so lucky to have those wonderful choices. I don’t eat red meat, only poultry and fish, and try to make sure those are local, but that is hard sometimes. We try and only eat meat about 3-4 times a week. My kids will eat red meat when we go out to eat occasionally. I started the no red meat thing and only hormone free milk products when I was trying to get pg years ago and having so many hormonal problems. It worked for me, which tells me how scary some of the meat choices in the grocery store are.

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