Monday, November 16, 2009

so you're going to eat red meat...


I know, red meat consumption has taken a lot of flack recently, what with all of the food documentaries, pop authors putting in their two cents, and the general fatness of our country. If you've read my blog at all, you know that my vote is for eating smaller amounts of the best quality meats you can afford. (Please don't mistake this with the "best cuts" of meat; I recommend a cheaper cut of grass fed beef over a filet from the supermarket any day.) For this purpose, "best quality" refers to organic, grass-fed beef.

Here's a cheat sheet for the benefits of grass-fed.

And here are my shopping picks. Just my opinion, of course.

Best choices:
Farmers' markets. Unless you decide to pick up your life and raise your own herd of cattle, this is the closest you'll get to the source. Small farms sell all sorts of fantastic cuts of local, organic, grass-fed beef and are more than willing to share with you exactly how their animals are raised and what the health benefits of their particular methods are. This option requires planning ahead, as jetting to a market on the way home from work usually isn't realistic. Also, be prepared to pay for what you're getting.
Check out localharvest to find a market in your area. You can search by zip code or product.

Online ordering. So you don't live in an area with excellent farmers' markets? Gosh, move to Los Angeles already! Or explore online ordering options. There are heaps of websites that ship top quality meats-- and we're not just talking beef. Bet you'll never be asked to host Thanksgiving again if you serve kangaroo or rattlesnake. Again, doesn't really work for last minute meal planning, but can save time in the long run.
Eatwild is a good place to start. Farms are listed by state and most give great product and shipping details.

Pretty good options:
Your local butcher. Butchers are just wonderful people. Don't you agree? Those white jackets and sharp knives... don't get me started! Butchers are are ideal because they do their meat processing on-site, greatly reducing contamination risks. But do your homework-- not all butchers sell the best quality meats. If they don't sell grass fed, ask why! They are often willing to go the extra mile to make your meat fantasies come true.
Try searching on forums such as yelp, chowhound, and citysearch for local butchers and reviews.

Whole Foods. Afraid of the whole paycheck stereotype? Although their price tags can be daunting, sales are frequent and make purchases more reasonable. Whole Foods carries a range of meats, from "natural" to organic-local-free-range-grass-fed, so watch your labels. Stock up when your favorites go on sale and fill your freezer! Like stand-alone butchers, they grind their meats on-site, and often make their own sausages and dry age beef in-house, so quality is consistent and dependable.

Okay, but you could try harder:
Trader Joe's. Why isn't this higher on my list, you ask? Well, not just because of that darned ground beef recall last week... Okay, maybe because of that a little bit. Trader Joe's (or any local supermarket, these days) sells a decent range of organic meat and occasionally has grass-fed options, but their meats typically come from central processing facilities that are often to blame for large scale contaminations. Just be wary, and cook ground meat thoroughly. Or, buy cuts of beef and grind it yourself! Invite your friends and have a meat grinding party.

Where do you buy your meats? Any tips?

1 comment:

  1. are there any decent "meat co-ops" or have you ever heard of a group of folks chipping in together and buying a whole or partial steer from a responsible rancher, having it butchered, then having it stored someplace or distributed to the members of the co-op as needed/when needed? something tells me that in the long run i should be cheaper than any of the options above. i don't know. anyone with more knowledge about this i would love to hear your take.