Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Choosing meat

This is a long post, and it's all about food. And not necessarily the fun parts, but important issues that I've been mulling over for a while and want to discuss.

I've been working on improving our diets lately. I'm lucky in that I was raised with really healthy food habits, but when life gets hectic I start to fall back on grilled cheese sandwiches, which is fine for a while but not ideal as a lifestyle. The first step I took was increasing my vegetable intake so that about half of every meal I eat consists of vegetables. Hence, the veg laden breakfasts that we've been having lately. That part was pretty easy, because D and I both love vegetables. I just fall out of the habit of cooking them sometimes because it's faster to ignore side dishes. I find that if I refuse to allow myself to use bread or pasta as a regular crutch, it gets easier to incorporate vegetables. We'll usually have lentils, eggs or meat alongside them. And that's where it gets tricky.

salad with everything
{salad with everything}

Except for a terribly unsuccessful one year stint as a vegetarian, I've always eaten meat. Not much, in general, but some. I should say upfront that I'm fine with eating other animals. I realize that this is one of (many) reasons that some people choose vegetarianism and I respect that, but it isn't an issue for me ethically. But I do have an issue with the animals I eat being treated inhumanely. I've mostly dealt with it by throwing my hands in the air and feeling terrible and then focusing on keeping our meat consumption relatively low. Every once in a while I would try to explore other options and get overwhelmed and give up.

Lauren has been sharing a bit about her decision to be veg, and I respect it a lot. That said, we are fairly committed omnivores. Partly because we like it and partly because I feel physically better with some amount of meat in my diet. But I've been feeling worse and worse about the source of our meat and her posts were the kick in the pants I needed. 

I started exploring options with intense internet searches. Lots of mail order possibilities popped up (a nice change from when I investigated this a few years ago and gave up!), and I think these could be great. My friend Kris and her husband actually purchase a steer share every year which I think is amazing, but we live in an apartment and can't store that much meat at once and our needs are quite a bit lower. 

My goals were to have humanely raised meat first and foremost, with a preference for localish options if available. The cost wasn't the biggest factor, because we don't intend to eat a ton of it, so we can easily fit a higher price into our food budget. Voting with dollars makes sense to me, so I'm glad to spend more to help keep a better option in business. 

When I found out that Novy Ranch has a pick up option at our weekly neighborhood farmer's market, I was pretty much sold. They are fully pastured and fairly local. I can pick up whatever I like at the market without ordering ahead, or I can pick everything out ahead of time and have it waiting for me when I get there. It all comes frozen and vacuum packed, so eating it immediately isn't an issue. And honestly, the cost isn't nearly as high as I thought it would be. We particularly love the ranch cut steaks. We buy enough that we can share a pound of meat between the two of us each week and that gets us through a couple meals. I'm sure that for some people this sounds like an unnecessary amount of meat and for some people it isn't nearly enough. It's what works for us. We do buy extra if we're having people over. 

Grass fed beef does taste a bit different, but I like it. And I feel so much better about this source that everything tastes better. They do age their beef, which is supposed to make a difference. 

Now, for EVERYTHING ELSE. As in, milk and other types of meat. Baby steps. I get overwhelmed by this whole process and have to remind myself to step back, evaluate and not beat myself up for not being perfect about everything. I'll just keep moving forward as best I can. We're currently buying our eggs from a stand at the market that claims to be fully pastured, but honestly, I haven't found a good way of checking up on egg suppliers. How do you guys deal with that? I guess we're always taking everyone at their word, really. It isn't as if I've personally inspected the Novy Ranch farm either.

I should probably note that I still eat meat at restaurants, which can be problematic, but more and more places around here are being transparent about their sourcing, and I try to frequent places that I know make an effort. When we ate at Short Order recently, I noticed that they listed all their sources on the menu, which was amazing. I don't want to get too Portlandia about it, but I really appreciate having a little more information. 

For those of you who aren't local, here are some of the mail order meat options I was considering ... 


I'm sure there are lots of other options and I don't have any personal experience with these, but they looked really promising. You have to commit to a larger mixed order to get the best deal, but it looked like most of the options would work in our apartment sized freezer. 

If you're looking for something in your area, I found the Chowhound local boards to be a good resource.

Questions or suggestions? Bring them up in the comments and I'll make sure to check in. I love talking about this stuff and I'd love to know how you guys handle it.


* Reading this over I realize it is enthusiastic enough to verge on sounding sponsored. Just to clarify - Novy Ranch has never heard of me. I am just really excited about having finally found a convenient, humane supplier. *

73 comments:

  1. I am very similar to you in this regard. I was a vegetarian for about 5 years, but after many times of being rejected at the blood bank for being anemic, I realized I wasn't doing a very good job of taking care of my body. Now that I'm older and a bit wiser, I think I could do a better job of it, but I do think incorporating small doses of meat is a healthy way to live. Ethically, I also don't have a problem with the fact that I'm eating animals, although I can certainly respect those who do. Anyway... I have been slowly making changes to our diet as well. While I can't say we adhere to it 100%, I try to buy only organic, grass-fed beef, and chicken and eggs from our community farm. It is expensive, but worth it in the small doses as you said. I've also researched the shares and couldn't find one that made sense for a small family that doesn't eat a ton of meat (esp. beef). So this works for us for now. Little by little...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, I definitely have the anemia issue and there seems to be no amount of leafy greens + legumes that makes it go away. I still have to take iron supplements even if I eat meat, but I seem to manage better overall.

      Delete
  2. This is an amazing post! I am on the same page with all of this. I am definitely going to give Novy a try at the Brentwood market...the idea of setting up an order ahead of time makes it so much more manageable. Thanks for posting this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's my market! How funny - I wonder if we walk past each other all the time and have no way of knowing it.

      Delete
  3. this is great! i've been on this journey for the past year or two, and have found farmer's markets to be sooo helpful in feeling encouraged in my quest to find humane & ethical meat, milk & eggs. i've recently decided to go permanently veg after a trial four months of doing it (mainly because i found i really didn't need meat anymore, but also because although i could find the ethical meat i wanted at the farmer's market, i still am unsure about where it was was slaughtered) but my husband still eats meat so i still buy it for him, and maybe have a little nibble here or there because i know it's sourced from a farm that cares about its animals. we have some great meat csa's and cow-sharing options around toronto too, which is awesome. i love that this movement is gaining strength towards local, ethical meat - i hate that most animals in north america are simply treated as meat producing machines!! i've mused about it quite a bit on my blog (read if you like at http://curlsandcoffee.blogspot.com) and am always trying out new vegetarian recipes, which i try to post as well. it's a long and complicated journey, and it IS very easy to get overwhelmed. i think just taking it slow and doing the best you can is the best way to prevent giving up and feeling horrible, but instead know that every little thing you do improves our food climate and outlook :) yay!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish I could find more meat (and dairy + eggs) CSA options! I had a tough time tracking any down locally. I'll hop over and check our your posts.

      Delete
  4. I live in a more rural area, so it's easier to look into the treatment of the animals. We buy (usually twice a year) a quarter or half cow from an organic farmer near us. Our eggs come from a guy that my dad works with. We don't use a lot of milk but I buy organic ultra pasteurized, which is twice the price but stays fresh FOREVER. And in the summer we have a giant garden out behind our barn, where we get most of our produce from. Anything else comes from the farmer's market for the most part.
    I personally got into eating very organic/humane a few years ago when my health issues reared their ugly head. It's helped a lot, and we have quite a few restaurants in my area that are locally and organically sourced. It's nice to see where your food comes from!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I envy you for this! Living in Los Angeles can make me feel really isolated from the actual farming process. I count myself lucky that we are getting a lot of options because the trend is on an upswing, but I'd love to have more personal access. Eggs from someone's backyard would thrill me, but around here anyone who has chickens already has their eggs spoken for!

      Delete
    2. katherine, it's good to know that organic ultra-pasteurized is an option; i've been buying the minimally-pasteurized stuff from our cheesemonger for the past several months (not on a regular basis, as we drink soymilk in our coffee, but when i want to make treats like homemade ice cream) and haven't always been able to use it before it goes bad (joe: "my coffee is fizzing. that's not good, right?").

      Delete
  5. love this! novy ranch sounds like an amazing option. it's so weird, i never ever used to think about these things, and now i can't help but think about what what i ate ate. haha that looks funny written out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! That did come out funny, but I get it. I think about it a lot too.

      Delete
  6. It can definitely be overwhelming. We (my fiance and I) also enjoy meat but like to be conscious of where it came from and it's definitely hard a) living in a city and b) when life gets hectic. WAMU, my local affiliate of NPR, has been having a series all week on Morning Edition (yeah, a bit early, but interesting still) on meat - you should check it out online!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooh ... I'll check out the series, thanks! Actually, Morning Edition isn't too early for me, my timing is just off! I hear the first bit while I'm up and around the house, but then I'm commuting to work on the bus and by the time I get into work it's usually over. So I miss it most of the time. Bummer.

      Delete
    2. Fellow Washingtonian (WAMU?) - check out South Mountain Creamery. They source local (some from their own farm) meat, eggs, dairy, cheese, even ice cream. You set up an account, order online weekly and they deliver to your doorstep! In reusable glass bottles, no less. They are not certified organic, but follow mostly organic practices. From what I can tell their cows are on both a feed and grass diet - I wish it were all grass-fed, but it's the best I've found in the DC area so far.

      Delete
    3. ps: just found www.eatwild.com for a state-by-state directory on various, local grass-fed items.

      Delete
  7. we literally have the same exact views on meat. to a t. and i agree - while harder in the past, it's gotten so much easier now. i also feel in nyc (where i live) and la (where you live) many stores and restaurants are providing this, and the local farmer's market is perfect. as for milk, i look for those that don't separate calves from their mothers right away and have a closed herd - two come to my farmer's market. i found the best way for me to figure this out was to note what farms i saw at my market and then go check them out online. hope that makes the process easier, and here's to living life as an ethical omnivore.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I feel really grateful for the options we have, especially considering we live in cities!

      My regular farmers market is small and doesn't have dairy (or eggs that come from a farmer I'm familiar with) and I think I probably need to branch out a bit.

      Delete
  8. I started with baby steps a few years ago and have moved to include only eating humanely raised meat/meat products in restaurants too. I think of it as vegan everywhere but at home. I'm by no means perfect at it and tend to relax my standards some while on vacation (I know, I know). That said, it IS getting a lot easier to find restaurants with food ideals that line up with mine. So yay!

    For eggs, a lot of local places here lets you visit the farm and I've found that is the best way to check (also, freshest eggs!).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're definitely better than me! I make an effort to patronize places that serve meat I can feel okay about, but I'll admit that I sometimes order at places I know are not okay. Baby steps.

      Delete
    2. Well, I do make somewhat regular exceptions for pho, so I'm by no means perfect at it! One day I will conquer that broth recipe at home.

      Delete
  9. Thank you for this post! I'm looking into doing the same thing with meat. Not sure what to do about chicken though, since we eat a lot of chicken. I wish Novy Ranch came to the Long Beach farmer's market!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We almost never eat chicken, but I did a little bit of research and it seems like the Mary's chickens sold at most Whole Foods around here are a decent option. I can't completely verify it, but it looked okay online.
      Novy Ranch will ship if you buy in larger quantities! Although I know that isn't quite as appealing.

      Delete
  10. I struggle with the exact same issue. I too am taking baby steps and trying not to beat myself up when I'm not perfect. Complete change takes time. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    ReplyDelete
  11. oh, boy. i have to say, i've mostly given up meat entirely. never was much of a meat eater (at age 12 i swore off red meat and pork, but continued, for reasons unclear, to eat chicken and fish). these days, i'm down to just fish, and only when i know it comes from a sustainable fishery. james still eats all kinds of meat, but only when he knows how it was raised. that being said, we almost never cook it at home. there are a fair number of portlandia moments around here. it's tough stuff. when my b-in-law made the film king corn (now 5 whole years ago), i first really started to understand the larger implications of our meat-heavy diets. funnily enough, it was working at a sustainable farm that got me off chicken. seeing even happy chickens being raised on a farm was enough to make me lose my appetite for them. eggs on the other hand, i'll take 'em golden and pasture raised, and i eat enough of those to make up for everything else. i think asking your farmer really is the best way to go. sadly, phrases like cage-free mean something so far from what most people realize that it's better to just strike up a conversation. still, it's tricky. talk to a farmer and tread too far into portlandia territory and you risk sounding pretty durn insulting. like everything else, i guess, patience and grace win out. localharvest is a good online resource for farms and food!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the cage free bit drives me crazy. I think I need to branch out and check out different sources for eggs. The person who sells the eggs at our market is clearly not the farmer and can't do a good job answering questions. They claim "fully pastured" and have little pictures of chickens and the eggs are decent (I've had family raised eggs vs. grocery store eggs, so I'm at least familiar with that!) but I'm not 100% convinced. I got to a point where I was searching Craigslist to see if anyone had pet chickens and an egg surplus, but those go so quickly here!

      Delete
  12. I'm so glad you posted this! I've been having similar struggles. I'm not a huge meat eater either, but I can tell when I go long periods without it that I just don't feel my best. I only eat red meat at restaurants, and usually only when it's specified grass-fed. (Also not to get "too Portlandia" about this, but if you ever find yourself in Austin, TX, you should check out Hopdoddy's which is an upscale burger/beer joint where the menu tells you exactly where each item is sourced from.) Since moving to LA a few weeks ago, I've had such an easier time focusing on buying farm-direct local fruits and veggies, but hadn't seen any meat options near me yet. (Though plenty of eggs.) I haven't checked out the farmer's market at the grove but I've heard they have a big variety so I'll be trying there this weekend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The meat options are sometimes there but easy to miss! Our place has a tiny little trailer sandwiched in between the stalls and they don't have anything on display. I'd been going to that market for years and never realized we had a meat vendor until I did the online research!

      Welcome to LA! And you should check out Short Order - especially if you're already venturing into the Grove. And if you haven't been to the Grove yet, please be forewarned that it is packed with people and I find it a little terrifying.

      Delete
  13. This is a really great post. I find myself having a difficult time when I'm at the grocery store because I feel like most of the options aren't good ones. Living without a car in San Francisco, it is most convenient for us to shop at Safeway because it's close to work and we can stop there on the way home. But most of their meet and dairy products come from Texas, and I wish they didn't travel so far. I want to buy local milk but it is so ridiculous how inflated the prices are compared to Texas milk. And I try to stay away from anything including ingredients from government subsidized agriculture, such as corn syrup or soybean oil because it isn't sustainable. Or very healthy. Being a responsible consumer while trying to feed my family on a budget is a constant struggle. Maybe if enough of us care it will get easier over time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is such a problem, and I feel for you. We're really lucky because we have options close by and it makes everything easier. I think if people care it does matter. I'm amazed by how many more options we have here in LA now than we did when we moved here 6 years ago.

      Delete
  14. http://765nestinprogress.blogspot.comJune 27, 2012 at 8:55 PM

    www.slowfoodusa.org is always a good resource for local food sources, and I also check out eatwild.com
    I live in Louisiana and our farmers market has actually gotten an amazing selection of local meats, dairy and grain, along with the veggies. Our meat vendor was kind enough to take us to the farm, so we were able to see exactly what conditions they were raised under. I can't bring myself to buy any other meat now. As for eggs, that's a tough one. We ended up getting two hens just for the eggs and it was by far the best investment in our food/health we have ever made.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is amazing! I could probably check and see if our ranch allows visits.

      Chickens are out for us - I'm pretty sure our landlord would object to having them on our balcony!

      Delete
  15. Food for thought: Even though the animals may (MAY, if you have the privilege to go to a farm and check yourself) be treated humanely, "slow food" is still an unsustainable system. Even if everyone in the world ate it there wouldn't be enough land, space, or resources to do so. The environmental impact of meat is too high, and it's why I went vegan. Conventional dairy (including cheese, yogurt, etc), especially, is something you should consider changing sooner than later. It's always seemed weird to me that we consume another species milk beyond our own time of infancy, and it's terrible for the animals.

    My biggest push to go beyond "baby steps" was (and is) reminding myself every day that every time I buy a food produced unsustainably or unethically, I'm directly supporting a system that I hate to its core. I researched the food system for years when I was vegetarian, and I felt so much like a hypocrite each time I picked up a candy bar (cane sugar from who knows where, mysterious dairy, palm oil, etc.) that now I have no desire for it.

    Good luck in this mess! :P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are so many implications that it gets complicated! I'm definitely not an expert, but I believe our current food system is unsustainable and I'd like to see how we could change it.

      I can't see myself going vegan anytime soon. I don't have the "milk of another species" issue. I honestly just don't see it as that weird. We're also the only species that cooks our food, but I'm okay with that too.

      It's great that you're at this point in your journey! It sounds like you're really comfortable with your choices and that's so important.

      Delete
  16. Apparently Novy Ranch is not too far from where I live and comes to my farmer's market too. I've never noticed them, but I will now. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They can be hard to spot! They have a tiny trailer and it's usually sandwiched in between all the stalls and they don't have anything on display. Just keep looking - they're really nice.

      Delete
  17. Great post! I think about these things a lot myself. I'm an on again off again vegetarian and at present I just eat poultry and seafood. I actually don't love meat so giving up red meat and pork isn't much of a challenge but I would find it hard to give up the rest. For one, I think it would break my boyfriend's heart if I ate no meat since he so loves grilling out and eating meals together that involve some type of meat. At this point I do the best I can to buy the most ethically/environmentally friendly chicken/turkey I can when I'm shopping for us and try to do vegetarian when eating out. Even with all the thought I put into it though I still find myself with some amazingly bad habits, ahem, hooters wings and turkey bacon. hahah I try to think about things in baby steps and just go from there. So happy to see all these resources which I will be looking at today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eating is complicated because it isn't just rational - it's all bound up in the emotional and social aspects of our lives. I'm so impressed with all of you that do veg when eating out! For some reason, that's one of the hardest habits for me to break, no matter how little meat I'm eating at home.

      Delete
  18. Rachel, I'm really glad you shared this, thank you! It inspired me! I have a question: how do you feel about the environmental impact of meat production? (eg the fact that meat-rearing takes up more space and resources and the methane produced by cows). Here in Europe, whenever people talk about ethical food production there's usually some mention in the discussion about the fact that cows produce so much more methane than other animals so people are encouraged to eat more lamb, pork, poultry etc and less beef and drink goat's milk instead of cows milk. But whenever I read about this topic on American websites, they rarely mention this. Is it something people are concerned about? I know you're focusing on eating humanely-reared meat (quite rightly), I'm just interested how you feel about this too.
    Ps - I love your blog!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right - the methane issue doesn't come up as often here and I'm not sure why. It isn't something I know much about and I'd have to do some research, but my understanding is that the biggest problem comes from feedlot cattle, which I'm trying to avoid. If we all ate less meat, and pastured meat, I think it would be less of an environmental issue.

      But! I'm still mostly thinking on a very small scale (how it makes me feel to know that the animal I'm eating was raised under cruel conditions) vs. globally. Hopefully I'll get a broader vision as I move along.

      I would love to incorporate smaller impact meat sources into our diet, but I'm having an even harder time finding suppliers for those! I'm still coming up with nothing on locally pastured pigs, which makes me really sad. More research is needed (which means I somehow need more time to do that research!).

      Delete
    2. Thanks Rachel! You're right, pastured meat is the way to go. Isn't it sad that eating ethically takes so much effort? I think lots of people like the idea of it but don't have the time, energy and money to make it happen.

      Delete
  19. You are the type of eater I respect! After learning what really happens to animals who are used as meat (ignorance, in my case, was bliss!) I was horrified and stopped eating meat. I understand the way I feel, but also understand the feelings of others in my life, such as my husband who is a big meat eater. I am not opposed to people eating meat - that is the circle of life. I am just opposed to how the animals are treated, so I completely respect and agree with your approach. I often confess that I will probably, one day, eat meat again. When I do, I will be much more conscious of where my meat comes from. Being from MA, I appreciate you sharing links that may apply to me for my future return to meat eating. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My sister has been completely vegetarian for over a decade for that reason. It's felt right to her. Interestingly, she's cautiously considering trying meat again if she can feel 100% comfortable with the source and the slaughter method. I think everyone has to figure out what works for them and then keep exploring it. Not thinking about it at all seems like the worse choice for us as a society, if that doesn't sound way too high minded and snobby!

      Delete
  20. rock on, rachel - you know from our conversations on my site how much i appreciate your diligence when it comes to what you eat (as JSF puts it - yeah, i guess i'm the gal who continues to quote him - consistency isn't required, but engagement with the problem is).

    on the egg-sourcing issue, according to the humane society, animal welfare approved farms are the ones you want (that second link has a search field that will get you to farms and restaurants using animal welfare approved eggs in your area). it's a step in the right direction.

    the only meat in our house is the meat we feed our cats, and i'm still working on how to get that to them in the most responsible way possible. i didn't know until i read eating animals that some brands of pet food actually include the rendered parts of animals euthanized in shelters (accepting that my cats are obligate carnivores is one thing; accidentally making them cannibals is another); that shocked me into realizing that i need to be as diligent about the welfare of the animals they eat as i am about the welfare of the animals that provide for me. that problem is going to be the third installment of my series, one of these days.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the links, lady! I just searched and sadly, we seem to have very few options in LA (although a restaurant I frequent is on there, which is nice). I'm hoping that part of that is that not all the farmers have gone through the certification process, rather than that most of them are not responsible and humane. It just gets so tricky. I know the certification can be a burden too, but it would be nice to have a standard.

      I had never considered the cat thing and it's totally creepy. I guess your next step is homemade cat food? There must be a market for that - cruelty free cat food business! Someone get on it!

      Delete
  21. Hi Rachel, great post. This is something I've been working on for the past year, and in reflection I'm very proud of the changes I've made in my diet and purchases for my family. So you're right that baby steps are key -- for me, I started by reading everything I could get my hands on and doing as much research as I could. Like you, I started finding sources and learning about said sources, and slowly incorporating them into my grocery shopping. Now, I'm proud to say that I buy mostly local, and always farmed, grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish, pastured eggs from the farmers market (not sure about how to check up on them though) and raw milk from some awesome goat farmers. That, and tons of veggies, sometimes from the local markets, sometimes not. In living this way, I have to prioritize. Often my budget keeps my from buying ALL organic/eco-friendly/blahblah, but I just buy quality of the things that really matter and give myself some grace with the supermarket celery and bell peppers. Not becoming dogmatic is key in this sort of thing.

    It's more difficult to live this way, definitely, because to do this we as consumers have to think and research and often travel to get what we want, but it makes a difference in the long run in our health, our conscience, and the quality of the environment. I applaud you for your decision to make changes, and I encourage you to keep going. It will get easier, and all of a sudden you'll look up and realize you've reached your goal.

    About restaurants: I'm so glad you mentioned Portlandia, because I think about that every time I see meat on a menu! One thing I've started to practice is not eating a meat dish at a restaurant unless it's locally sourced or something like that. I'd rather have a veggie dish and avoid the added cost and calories of something mediocre, and then splurge on a local dish with meat somewhere that I trust. This also helps with the increase in veggies that you've mentioned you're trying to incorporate. Something that I do is have a meat-free lunch (salads, omlettes, grain dishes, etc) and save my meat for dinner with my husband. This keeps us within our budget and gets some added veg into my diet without an issue!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're ahead of me! I'm definitely in the beginning stages. I haven't even really started worrying about my produce yet (much easier to stress about animals!) so I still have a lot to figure out.

      I was realizing yesterday that we actually don't spend much on food. Our 1lb of meat each week stretches for a couple meals and then we mostly eat produce and beans! Embarrassingly, I think our biggest grocery expenses are fancy cheese and good beer.

      Delete
    2. Fancy cheese and good beer are worthy expenses. Rock on, girlfriend.

      Delete
  22. Thanks for posting this! I am in exactly the same situation -- I've been a vegetarian, but my health goes downhill when I don't eat animals, especially red meat. So two years ago I started buying only ethically sourced meat, fish, and poultry. And boy, is it expensive! But also it's the best we've ever eaten. I'm less likely to order meat at restaurants now, just because I know it won't taste as good as what we eat at home.

    I did a lot of legwork and I finally found quite a few sources here in the San Diego area. It's definitely out there once you start looking and asking around! (The Edible publications are really helpful with sources, as well as Eatwild and Local Harvest.)

    I get my eggs from the farmers' market too (I ask the farmer lots of questions because some of the farmers' market eggs are battery eggs, not true free range).

    And a tip for dairy products: I find the organic label doesn't mean a whole lot, but grass-fed does -- if the farmer is keeping his dairy cows outdoors on pasture, he's probably treating them well in all aspects. Straus Dairy (in the glass bottles at Whole Foods) is my favorite. It's also sold at Trader Joe's under their private label as "Cream Top Milk." Kerrygold cheese/butter is also grass fed, as are many dairy products from Europe and Australia/NZ where they've always kept cows on pasture.

    OK, food geek overload. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I love the Trader Joe's detective work! Nice to know that Straus is sold there as well. I love TJs but hate their private labeling because I can't figure out if their eggs are okay or not and I've given up on them.

      Delete
  23. I envy you for having these options! Growing up my dad hunted so we ate elk instead of beef and he caught all the fish we ate which was often but now that I am in college and cooking for one it is so hard to justify the expensive stuff! I cant remember the last time I had red meat. O well; hopefully one day I can find a super snazzy farmers market option like you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That sounds like an amazing way to grow up!

      I actually find if you cook for one, it makes more sense to go pricey at a good butcher. We don't have a fancy butcher, but Whole Foods is an okay substitute. Their meat is fairly well vetted and I love that I can buy just what I need (i.e. a single sausage, which seems weird, but saves a lot of money if I don't need a package).

      Delete
  24. Thank you for sharing this! This is something that I have also been struggling with and I have been trying my best to make my dollars count. For me, eggs, milk and cheese have been the easiest in my area to source locally and humanely. I just need to put more efforts into the meats I eat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think everyone has to start somewhere! I need to get on the dairy stuff now. It's clearly the next step. Good luck!

      Delete
  25. Great post! Good for you for starting the process of thinking more about where your food comes from. It really does make a difference, from supporting farms that treat their animals humanely, to quality, and in turn, to taste.

    As for meat (including poultry) sources, have you ever been to Lundy & Grundy? They're a wonderful butcher located at Fairfax and Melrose, near the Coffee Commissary and Fat Dog (also both great). The owners are this wonderful couple from Brooklyn that moved here to open up this butchery.

    We moved back to LA from San Francisco over a year ago, where finding good quality food sources is a little easier. The community in SF is more developed, but the same is slowly and surely developing here in LA. They're the meat contingency of this growing community and it's worth a visit! They'll answer all your questions. They buy meat only from places they source personally, which means they actually go to the farms, check out the facilities & processes and KNOW the farmers. All organic and pastured, nearly all local (I think they may get some lamb product from the Bay Area)....Great quality meat, and a good place to go if you need some kind of speciality cut. You can call ahead and order, or just stop in. Sign up for their email newsletters...they'll give regular updates on inventory. Delicious housemade sausages as well!

    They have eggs sources at Lundy & Grundy. I think they even sell some there. Pastured, quality eggs DO make a difference--again, in quality and taste, but also nutritionally. The quality of a pasture-raised, organically fed chicken produces eggs with better nutritional content than conventional ones.

    Strauss Creamery is a great dairy option!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for this! I don't know how I managed to overlook it in my internet searching! I'm going to try to drop by this weekend (it's a fair way away from me, in LA traffic, but totally worth the trek). Really excited.

      Delete
  26. Great post Rachel! We try to be so conscious about what we eat as well and it can get a bit overwhelming so I try to take it one step at a time too. I'm not a big meat eater either but do try to make good choices when I do eat it. Organic or grass fed is definitely the way to go! Thanks for sharing your research.

    Check out my post today if you get some time.. it's about harmful chemicals and ingredients that can be found in beauty and personal care products!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Rachael! That's a whole area that I haven't even started researching yet. To be fair, I work around harmful chemicals all day (lab geek!), so sometimes I feel like my face products probably aren't making a dent. I should be better.

      Delete
  27. As an almost life-long pescatarian I applaud your examination of this topic. It's easy to get overwhelmed and just think "oh, well" but the truth is that if each and every one of us made small changes to our intake and/or sources, it would make a big difference.

    My personal criteria is that if I couldn't raise the animal myself from a to z (from four-legged to plastic-wrapped) I have no business eating it. To be honest, I have trouble smooshing bugs so I might be overestimating my ability to take a fish or shrimp's life - still, it's a guideline I'm comfortable with.

    Eggs and dairy are harder, I buy local when I can and we have a wonderful local source for free-range eggs (they use old buses parked out in fields as chicken coops!) that are carried at Whole Foods.

    This is my first time posting on your blog, but I've been enjoying reading for a while now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, your Whole Foods egg options sound better than mine! I need to do a little more investigating. I went to a different farmer's market this weekend to buy eggs from a highly recommended source (Lily's eggs) but was a little bummed to discover that they sell three tiers of eggs ("cage free", "free range" and "sprout fed"). I opted for the free range, but found it disturbing that a farmer who is concerned with animal welfare would have different tiers! Sigh. I'll keep looking.

      Delete
  28. How many times a week would you say you eat animal protein and how do you prepare it (generally speaking)? Very thought-provoking post, thanks for taking the time to articulate your process to us!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, it does vary a bit, but we generally have one pound of beef per week and we get two dinners out of it. We'll frequently get steaks, which come out between 3/4 lb and a full lb. With steaks, all we ever do is grill them or pan fry them in a heavy skillet. We each eat 3 - 4 oz of the cooked meat (big servings of a few different veggies on the side), so we usually have 1/2 left over and we'll eat it cold for dinner the next day, often sliced and tossed in salad.

      We also do ground beef, which I'll make into meatballs (I use this recipe so you get more bulk with less meat) or sloppy joes or meatloaf or spaghetti sauce. Again, we aim to eat about 4 oz for a serving, so we get two meals for two out of a pound.

      Since I still haven't found time to source other proteins, this has been our only source (other than eggs, of course!). We haven't had chicken or pork in months, but I plan to figure that out soon and then we might eat meat one additional night per week.

      We get more meat than that sounds like, because we'll often eat a meal out on the weekends and end up ordering meat. I'm working on that.

      Delete
    2. Sorry, forgot to include the meatball recipe link - they're here!

      Delete
  29. Rachel,

    As a 95% vegan, 5% vegetarian (I try to be flexible so I'm not annoying to the loved ones in my life)I was so happy to see this post! I wish more people who liked eating meat thought about what the animals go through before they reach the plate. You are very lucky to have great options, but I thought maybe I could help on the milk and eggs front :) I am not a big fan of soy milk (taste-wise) and too much soy is not good for us anyways, so I rely on almond milk. It tastes great in lattes and tea, and is also good for baking. You can even buy chocolate versions!

    As for the eggs, I would recommend that when you are baking you replace them with ground flaxseed instead. You can find it at Trader Joe's and quickly whisking some with water works wonders as an egg substitute in baked goods. I recently used that in banana bread and the BF gobbled it down. Bonus is that flax is nutritionally great, it helps reduce the cholesterol in the baked goodies, and you can save the eggs for when they're an integral part of a dish.

    Hope that helps a bit! Thanks again for drawing attention to this issue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Caitlyn! I do like almond milk and coconut milk as long as they are completely unsweetened and I've been using those a bit. I had the milk issue on the back burner for a while because we drank so little of it that it seemed less pressing. But then someone gave us an espresso machine and now I'm onto daily (decaf) lattes, so I need to get it sorted out!

      I'm lucky because my sister was vegan for a few years while we lived together and I did all the cooking, so I got pretty used to it. The only problem is that now I'm trying to limit my soy, so I've lost that crutch!

      Delete
  30. glad you shared this. interesting that it seems to be harder for you to find options in the LA area than in NY where I can find what I need at the farmers market. I have been fairly successfully following my rule of eating vegetarian when I eat out unless I am happy about the source of the restaurant's meat, and occasionally eating meat at home that i buy at the farmers market. lately though i have been wondering if some of the exhaustion i feel after bike commuting comes from lack of iron/protein so i need to put a more concerted effort into eating legumes and meat at lunch and not just cheese sandwiches.

    ReplyDelete
  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Wow. You sure got a lot of comments. Well, here is mine... I've always heard the saying "you are what you eat". Basically that's true. That's why I choose to eat grass fed beef. After finding out how much healthier than grain fed beef is, it was a no-brainer for me. As you know, it is higher in Omega-3s content and has a lower fat content than grain or corn fed beef. And, of course, there are so many more benefits, too many to list in my reply. I found that La Cense Beef has the best prices. I just placed an order from their new catalog. You should check them out.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I never pay any attention to my weight and of course not very fat, so i just keep my diet balance, that's the most important!

    ReplyDelete
  34. Rachel, have you done research on chicken options? we live in Arkansas... home of Tyson and I just can't eat it! Would love to know about some mail order options

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, Mary-Lee! I don't have any good chicken recommendations yet. I'm basically just avoiding the whole issue right now and sticking with beef! I did check out the supplier for our Whole Foods (Mary's) and it seems like they are a decent option, so I know that I could grab some chicken in a pinch. That probably won't help you, though!

      I would recommend seeing what suppliers are available at your grocer (WF has a rating system, so they are more likely to have a decent option, I think) and then checking them out online to see what you can find out.

      I'm still hoping to find better chicken and pork sources locally - I just need more time!

      Delete
    2. Great article! What I have been trying to do is limit red meat (not entirely, because I do love burgers) and eat organic where possible. I don't want it to consume my life, but just make me feel better about what I eat on a day to day basis. It can be SO overwhelming. As for eggs - could you put a post on craigslist saying you want fresh eggs and maybe somebody will contact you? Try it in reverse? I live in Minneapolis so I have no suggestions on local stuff.

      Delete
    3. Hi, Chelsea -

      Limiting can be a really important step, I think!

      Craigslist is a good idea - I've tried searching for egg suppliers that way, but it seems that the eggs around here must go really quickly! I'd love to find a regular source.

      Delete

Trying captchas this time - better or worse than having to log in to comment? Let me know! Sorry for all the hoops but the spam has been terrible lately!