In the personal-is-political department, I've taken a big step towards a change I've been planning.
In the warmer months, Allan and I eat dinner outside almost every night. After 20+ years of apartment life, we are mad for sitting in our backyard. I can't even express what joy and inner contentment this simple act brings me, and Allan seems to feel the same way.
We grill dinner, and that usually means chicken, salmon or steak. From reading about factory farming, and especially from reading Michael Pollan, I decided I wanted to buy and eat pasture-raised, more naturally fed, meat. Some history of my thoughts is here, and here. I also asked readers about local vs organic vs industrial food.
I spent some time online looking for where pasture-raised animal products are available in our area. The excellent website Eat Wild can direct you to local, organic, grass-powered farms all over the US and Canada.
I was very pleased to learn that there are plenty of these farms in Ontario. But it quickly became apparent that the missing link is distribution. These farms, by definition, must operate on a small scale. They can't produce the massive quantities that would attract large supermarket distribution. Most of these brands aren't even sold in farmers' markets (although, for me, the farmers' market isn't an option anyway).
With most of the organic farms, you can place a large order, then pick it up at the farm itself. I know at least one friend of wmtc does this. It sounds like a great idea to try once, but being realistic, Allan and I are not going to shop that way on a regular basis. So, whittling the list down to what is available in our area, there are a few choices.
The "big" brands (big for the smalls, but still tiny compared to the industrials) are Beretta Organic Farms, Rowe Farms and Cumbrae Farms. All three are available at two or three places not far from where we live. (If we still lived in Port Credit, they would be literally down the street.) But to my knowledge, none are available at Loblaws, where we do our grocery shopping.
Beretta will also deliver a large order. They tell you when they are in your area, and you place the order two days ahead. They've recently added a $5.00 fuel charge, which I think you would more than return by buying direct with no retail mark-up. This seems like a nice option.
I haven't yet figured out how I'll do this. Do we want to make a separate trip to one of these better stores - in our area, Cousins or Elmwood Meats - to buy for the week? Do we want to place a large order with Beretta directly? It will be trial and error at first as we figure out a system. And I do want to visit the farm at least once. It seems like something fun and interesting we should do.
This meat will be much more expensive than we are accustomed to, as well. Our money is pretty tight right now, and that's not likely to change soon. (We have never gotten back to where we were before my unemployment, and we're about to take a vacation we can't afford.) I'm not sure how price will figure in. But this is something I really want to do, so I think I can figure out a way to do it.
During my research, I also made another compromise. Animals that are raised for meat are, towards the end of their lives, fattened up with a different diet than they normally eat. This is called "finishing," I already knew about this from my earlier reading. In this round of research, I learned that even on organic farms, with pasture-raised cattle, the cattle eats grass for most of its life, then is finished on other grain.
One-hundred percent grass-fed beef is very difficult to find. (I started writing "...is rare". My usual unconscious punning.) Beretta Organics does produce and sell completely grass-fed beef. But, I learned, grass-only beef is not good for grilling, and in general requires different cooking that probably wouldn't work for us. What's more, I could only order this directly; the few retail outlets I found that sell Beretta products don't carry the grass-only beef.
But I realized that Beretta Farms' standard, certified organic beef very much accomplishes what I set out to do. It comes from cattle that is pasture-raised and eats grass for most of its life. Even during finishing, the cow still eats organic grain, not industrial corn. It doesn't live in a filthy feedlot, it isn't being injected with antibiotics. In general, it still lives a cow life, not a factory life. In light of my objectives, this works for me.
As I've mentioned in earlier posts, this won't be a perfect system. It won't account for anything we eat in restaurants, and I'm not sure we will sustain it in winter. But working on the assumption that any positive change is good, and one needn't do something 100% in order to do it at all (relatively new insights for me!), it seems like a very good step.