Saturday, October 23, 2010

Obtaining Locally Grown Meat

The book by Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Food Life, had a tremendous impact in the way I look and think about food. In this book Barbara discusses the way her family strictly limited the foods they consumed to those produced locally, with few exceptions. After reading the book, I realised that I needed to make more of an effort to move away from the mass produced products that flood our grocery stores.

In my concerted effort to consume more locally grown and raised food, I wanted to identify local farmers as a source for meat products such as pork. I was able to find a few such farmers that were raising animals in a humane environment on sustainable farms a little way from our house. We purchased a pig from a farmer 20 minutes away and a lamb from a farmer less than 5 minutes away.

One thing we have learned from the years of processing venison is that it is always preferable for us to process the meat ourselves to as much of an extent as possible, without relying on a processing facility. There are a lot of reasons for this preference: you ensure the animal is indeed the animal you purchased from the farmer, there is more control in the cuts of meat that you end up with, and you can take steps to eliminate waste.

A few weekends ago we processed the pig. For this pig we asked the processing facility to simply half and quarter the pig, leaving us to cut the pig into the various cuts.

Next time, I think we will make every effort to take it from the farmer and process the meat all ourselves. Farmer's in our area often have issues with the local processing facilities. They either don't process the animal in the cuts requested or they grind a vast majority of the meat.

Don't get me wrong, ground meat is convenient and delicious in dishes but I'd prefer to have it the freshest I can get by grinding it myself, when I need it. Also, I want to maximize the amount of large cuts of meat, which I can grind later if needed. There will always be some scraps of meat during the butchering process. However, It was surprising too see how few scraps we had to grind compared to what we would have had if we had a processing facility process the entire animal.

After butchering the pig, I took the scraps and ground them and separated the meat into one pound portions to put in the freezer for future use. I only had four, 1-pound packages of ground meat. I guarentee you if we would of had our local processing facility process the meat we would of had at least 50 pounds of ground meat. Processing yourself is hard work but I think it's easy to see the benefits.

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