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The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Melissa Batai. Melissa is a freelance writer who covers topics ranging from personal finance to business to organics to food. She blogs at Mom’s Plans, where she shares her family’s journey to healthier living and paying down debt.
Meat gets a bad rap. Doctors warn that it is bad for our health, especially our cholesterol, and there are routinely stories of meat that causes widespread illness. However, meat is also an excellent source of protein, and if you eat the right type of meat, it is not as damaging to your health.
Animals that are fed corn based diets almost exclusively are generally sickly animals. Their fat stores toxins, which we in turn eat. Also, many large processors use antibiotics on these sickly animals, which we also ingest. When these animals are processed, they are taken to a large factory, and a package of hamburger may be made up of several cow’s meat all mixed together. No wonder there are occasional outbreaks of illness. It is surprising human illness from consuming this meat doesn’t happen more often!
You can take a stand against this kind of meat production and perhaps save money by buying meat directly from the farmer. Our family hasn’t bought any meat from the grocery store for over three years, and we don’t have any plans to. The meat that comes straight from the farmer is much tastier and healthier, in my opinion.
If you would like to buy directly from the farmer, here is what you need to do:
Find a Farmer Near You – CSAs
If you don’t know of a farmer, finding a place to buy your meat is often most difficult. However, there are some websites to assist you. LocalHarvest.org is a great resource. Type in your zip code, and you will get a list of the CSAs near you. The majority of farms will list their produce CSAs first. You will have to probe a bit deeper to see if the farm also offers a meat CSA.
With a meat CSA, you will get a variety of types of meats, often once a month. We subscribed to a meat CSA last year, and typically got cuts of beef, pork, and lamb in our monthly deliveries as well as whole chickens sometimes.
Most of the animals that come from a CSA are not given antibiotics and are allowed to freely graze. Still, calling the farmer to discuss how the animals are raised and how much grain they receive is a good idea. Remember, the higher the quality of meat you consume, the healthier you will be.
Grass Fed Animals
If you want to find the highest quality meats that are high in healthy omega-3’s, you will likely want to consume entirely grass fed meat. The site, eatwild.com, has a listing of farmers near your area that only feed their animals grass. (In the winter, farmers often feed them grass that has been dried in the summer rather than feeding them grains.)
Because this meat is considered the highest quality, it is great for your health, but it is not a frugal option.
Buy Direct from the Farmer
The most cost efficient option when buying meat is to buy direct from the farmer. My cousin is an Angus cow farmer, and we buy 1/2 side of beef from him every year. Our order 18 months ago gave us cuts like chuck roasts, T-bone steaks, Porterhouse steaks, sirloin steaks, and ground beef, to name a few. We paid $514 for 117.5 pounds of meat, averaging $4.37 per pound. Sure, that isn’t the best price for ground beef, but it is a good deal on the nicer cuts of meat. Even more importantly, we know where our meat comes from, how it was raised, and how it was processed. We know our ground beef only includes meat from one steer.
If you would like to find a farmer, check with your friends who may buy a 1/2 side of beef, or look in the phone book. Another option is to just Google “farmers selling beef in Nebraska” substituting your desired type of meat and state.
Questions to Ask the Farmer
Before you agree to buy any meat, you will want to ask some questions. Some that may be important to you are as follows:
-Are your animals given antibiotics or other medicines or chemicals?
-Are they exclusively grass fed?
-If they consume feed, what type? Is the corn non-GMO? Is the soy? Are there any animal bi-products in the feed?
-How are the animals processed?
-Is there a discount for bulk purchases? (Perhaps you could buy an entire cow for a discount and split the meat with some friends and relatives.)
Buying locally from a farmer can help your bottom line. Even if you don’t find the meat to be cheaper than the meat in the grocery store, you will typically be eating higher quality meat. While I skimp in lots of areas of my life, I don’t like to skimp on food. Even though organic produce and meat is more expensive, I hope that I am saving on healthcare costs in the long run by taking care of my health and my family’s.
How about you all? Have you ever bought direct from the farmer? Would you consider doing so?
Share your experiences by commenting below!
***Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/audreyjm529/1799343748/sizes/l/in/photostream/