Sunday, May 9, 2010

Meat Morass

One area in which I am really struggling to synthesize my desire to make good food choices and my time, energy and budget is meat. I know, it's the biggie. It's fairly easy to seek out local veggies, read labels, and the like. But meat is a totally different story, at least for me. I think I consciously avoided thinking too much about the issue, because once I did I knew I'd struggle. I like my $0.99/lb chicken legs as much as the next guy and we have a tendency to eat a lot of meat in our house. It's easy to grab the big family sized pack of thighs, all wrapped up in little packages of four, and toss in it the freezer. I don't have to think too hard about what to make for dinner if I have stuff like that around.

But the more I think about the costs of cheap and easy meat, the harder time I'm having. I've found some great local farms selling their meat at farmers markets and the co-op, and I feel good about buying their product. Not just because it avoids all the problems that come with thinking too hard about industrialized meat production, but also, because a nice, aged, grass-fed steak is just delicious. I haven't yet figured out how to address the cost issue, because it is a significant difference, and the convenience factor.

I think it just takes some reprogramming and research. I still don't entirely know or understand all that I should be looking out for when choosing meat. Today was a prime example - I drove out of my way to go to a local butcher that carries Bell and Evans chicken. A quick check on their website and I felt good about seeing "free range" and "antibiotic free." I shuddered at the images of dark, scary, overcrowded chicken houses and decided to go buy this chicken. Once I got it home, I did a little more reading and came across a few folks writing very critically about B&E and purporting to show that their labeling, precisely what made me feel better about buying it instead of some other large industrial brand, is misleading.

Now I know there are people out there that can find something bad to say about pretty much anything. I'm sure there is someone that thinks I'm morally bankrupt for typing away on my Mac while watching soccer and drinking milk. I'm not much for falling for every hyper-critical blog post about how awful company x is or how dangerous process z is, and I am not really all that concerned about the chicken I've now purchased, but it was a good illustration for me as to just how difficult it is to wade through all the information out there when seeking a credible guide to making better choices.

I am certain my meat struggle will continue... any guidance from my friendly readers is much appreciated!!


  1. Different strokes for different folks, but my husband and I have made a conscious decision to only eat meat once or twice a week. It's better for the environment (the environmental costs of raising meat are huge), better for our health, and better for our wallets. We're not rich, but buying such a limited amount allows us to spend $7lb (since we only buy 1 or 2lbs at a time).

    So we buy at the farmers market (Schenectady Greenmarket is ours). I enjoy seeing my farmer every week, like that I can go visit (which I have yet to do, but plan on it) and like that I can ask questions.

    It's not for everyone, but it allows me to feel better about eating meat, because I do enjoy it so!

  2. You can also look into joining a CSA or even buying parts of cows pigs etc from local farms - break out the mac and do some more research!! I agree, if you only eat meat 1-2 times a week, you can buy the good stuff! or maybe you have it 3 times a week, buy the good stuff 2 nights, ok stuff the 3rd and veggie stuff the rest (id look up some vegitarian recipies and browse through soem cookbooks at the bookstore - theres lots of yummy meat free dishes to make - especially with the fresh veggies/fruits about to be in season!)

  3. Thanks all! We have already started to limit our meat consumption, which I think I'm more comfortable with than my other half, but it's a step in the right direction and lets me feel better about budgeting for the kind of meat I want to buy. The meat CSA is an interesting idea... We'll get there.