Book Excerpt

Good Meat

The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat

November 23, 2010

From the Introduction

Over the years, many small incidents and experiences inspired this book.

One such moment came when I read a New York Times article in which the author wrote about not knowing how to cook lamb shoulder from the Union Square Greenmarket. I was struck by how quickly we’ve lost our ability to cook anything more than steaks, burgers, and chops.

A second was the recognition that, years before anyone was talking about locavores or 100-mile diets, nearly all the meat, fruit, and vegetables my family ate came from within a 20-mile radius of our home. I thought this was interesting but not terribly useful for other people, until I began to notice that it was increasingly possible to eat this way nearly everywhere in America, thanks to CSA (community-supported agriculture) shares, farmers’ markets, websites that lead consumers to local farmers, and other direct farm-to-market schemes.

In one year, as I cooked my way through a quarter cow, a half pig, and a whole lamb, I discovered cuts and tastes I hadn’t experienced in years. Here in Vermont, grocery stores and even our local co-ops often don’t stock briskets, short ribs, lamb breasts, pig’s trotters, or pork shanks. It was a treat to cook them and a delight to share their flavors with friends and family.

packaged meat
Frozen roast from a grass-fed cow.

Those long-simmering pot roasts and braises and soup bases were, for me, the stuff of memory — some of them were the foods I remember my grandmother and mother cooking, and some were the dishes I cooked in the early days of my marriage.

What is extraordinary is that, once tasted, the lovely, honest flavors of pastured meat create instant converts. This was true not just for me, but for my culinary guests as well. People from all over the country who attend my culinary vacations ate these ingredients enthusiastically, saying this was how meat tasted when they were kids! In the past, guests used to have to order meat from my Vermont suppliers, but these days they can often go home and order meats comparable in taste, sustainability, and price from their own local farmers.

This is a sea change, and a promising opportunity both for the continued viability of sustainable farms and for consumers looking for great taste, healthful food, and a chance to support environmental responsibility.

As I began to taste, cook, and source more broadly, I became an increasingly passionate advocate for grass-fed and pastured meat. Although I had been ordering pastured lamb for a very long time, I began to buy grass-fed beef and local heirloom pork in half- and whole-animal quantities, going further in subsequent years to include local poultry and rabbits. Recently I’ve begun raising poultry, eggs, and lamb myself.

Because of my experiences, I wanted to write this book to show everyone how it’s possible to eat healthy, fairly priced, and sustainable meat no matter where you live. Today, all over this country, people can buy traditionally raised, pastured meat from farmers in their state (see Eat Wild and Local Harvest) as well as fresh by mail order in retail portions from such national consortia as Heritage Foods USA.

Consumers can choose meats from heirloom animals or from more familiar breeds, all raised outside and fed a mostly traditional foraged diet. (I say “mostly” because there are some purchased or locally grown feeds and minerals that enhance meat production without adding ingredients that should not be part of a ruminant’s diet.)

I want to encourage others to cook the whole animal, piece by piece, and nose to tail, in ways that honor both the animal and the farmer who raised, it, ways that enhance the vitality of the dinners at your table, the environment in general, and your local landscape.

My other hopes are easily listed. I hope you’ll

  • bypass the industrial food system and support local farmers who raise sustainable food;
  • buy local pastured meat from the farmers who raise it and from farm stands or specialty retailers, asking lots of questions in the process;
  • buy this meat in quarter-, half-, or whole-animal quantities to reap great savings, and
  • become knowledgeable about the choices available to you when buying this way so that you, not the processor or farmer, determine the cuts you get.

Bypassing the industrial food system benefits all of us, allowing transparency along the whole chain, from growers to consumers.

Much like buying vegetables at a farmers’ market, buying meat from local farmers enables consumers to understand how the animal was raised, fed, and processed. In turn, they know much more about what goes into their mouths.

There are 4 comments on this item
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1. by Leslie Bauer on Nov 24, 2010 at 10:10 PM PST

Please when you are talking about the food safety modernization act, give your readership more to feed on that the tiny bit of information at the beginning of the post. The Tester Amendment would exempt small family farms from the draconian measures sought by the bill, SB 510, that would certainly put them out of business overnight. PLEASE, have your readership call this weekend, and urge them to NOT support this bill without the needed amendments. This is a dire time, and we need to keep local, sustainable, organic family farms ALIVE and supported by us all! Please google it or see Farm to Consumer, Organic Consumers, Weston A Price, etc...there are thousands of people that are opposing this bill and Culinate stands for real food, real people, real issues. Please correct this post! They are lying to us once again about ‘safety’ and what they really want to do!

2. by Fasenfest on Nov 26, 2010 at 6:00 AM PST

Love this post. Advising people to attempt head to tail cooking is important - it can change part of the processing challenges (what to do with cuts folks don’t want or know how to cook). But I will definitely look into the Test Amendment to bill SB 510. I love the way this site connects folks who are passionate about both the flavor and politics of food.

3. by Fasenfest on Nov 26, 2010 at 6:19 AM PST

Here it is. There is a lot of debate whether this “lipstick on a pig”.

Summary: The Tester Amendment exempts small businesses from the regulations proposed in S. 510 and establishes some new guidelines for those businesses. Specifically, it:

• Exempts businesses that have annual sales of less than $500,000 and sell the majority of their products to consumers, or to restaurants and retailers within the State or within 275 miles. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will have the power to revoke an exemption if the facility has been associated with a food borne illness outbreak.

• Exempts all “very small businesses,” to be defined by FDA.
• Defines farmer’s market sales as “direct-to-consumer” for FDA purposes
• Requires exempted businesses to submit to the FDA documentation that demonstrates that the facilities qualify for the exemption and are in compliance with state and local laws.
• Requires exempted businesses to put their business name and address on all product labels.
These businesses would not be exempt from any other existing or future regulations, only those established by this legislation

Supporters: Small and local farm organizations,
• Supporters, argue that small farmers provide an important option for consumers and that the regulations proposed in S. 510 could push many of them out of business. The also point out that the recent, well-publicized incidents involving food-borne illnesses resulted from “industrial food supply chains” and not small farms.

Opposition: American Meat Institute, National Chicken Council, etc., and some food safety advocates
• Most opponents argue that federal food safety frameworks should apply to all segments of the food industry regardless of size, location, or type of operation.

4. by Ulf Kintzel on Dec 24, 2010 at 5:04 PM PST

I am a producer as well as a consumer. I raise grass-fed lamb ( in upstate NY and sell most of it locally. We as a family raise all our meats ourselves: lamb, chickens, ducks, geese, squabs and aside from meat also eggs. We grow much of our vegetables in our own garden. We practice what we preach, so to speak. As a producer I must say that this “buy local” as well as the increased interest in grass-fed and naturally raised food movement is real and far surpasses what organic has ever been. Why? Because my customer base is a cross section of the American people: all income levels, all ages, all ethnic groups. This is real, folks. As a producer I say Thank you to all of you who support your local farmer. Ulf Kintzel, White Clover Sheep Farm, Rushville, NY.

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