Ever since I read Fast Food Nation, I haven’t been able to stomach commercial ground beef. At first it was because of the book’s graphic accounts of disgusting conditions in most feedlots and slaughterhouses.
I wasn’t ready to swear off meat altogether but I figured that ground beef was a good place to start because it could almost literally have anything in it, as far as I could tell from looking. After being off the commercial stuff for a while, I discovered that if I did try it again, I became queasy. This convinced me to go local and organic for good.
This proved challenging for my family and friends, as they often prepare dishes that use ground beef to feed a crowd: chili, burgers, lasagne, etc. But I brought my own alternatives, encouraged my mom to find a butcher in her area who carried organic meat, and muddled through.
About 6 months ago, I came across the Sangudo Custom Meat Packers booth at a farmers’ market and decided to take things a bit further.
Turns out, they offer local, organically raised, ethically slaughtered half pigs and quarter cows for sale. That was a bit much for my two-adult-one-baby household, so we approached my parents about splitting it. After much calculating and some research to determine if the price-per-pound compares to the supermarket meat (it does), we went ahead.
About a month later, my dad drove out to Sangudo for our pork and beef. We’ve had a good stock of it in the freezer ever since, and are only now starting to reach the bottom of the pile.
With few exceptions, the quality has been outstanding. It’s made life easier, too: I no longer have to make special trips to the organic butcher shops or farmers’ markets for my ground beef – I just have a bunch, in my freezer. And so does my mom.
An unexpected advantage was that, along with the familiar cuts (steaks, chops, hams, roasts, ground beef), there was a variety of things I didn’t know how to use, so I Googled them. I learned to make pulled pork from ham hocks, cook minute steaks, and make my own sauerkraut for a ground pork recipe that turned out to be delicious.
Like many do gooder lifestyle choices, buying ethical meat from local producers turned out to be easier than buying it the ‘old’ way, from the supermarket. The difficulty lies in adjusting to the new way. In this case: finding a supplier, researching cost, learning about different cuts, and sorting out the logistics. Now that we’ve got that down, I expect we will rarely buy supermarket meat again.