Thursday, October 13, 2005

Grass-fed meats, or how I learned to love my co-op

We joined the Oklahoma Food Co-op a year ago last spring and have enjoyed the access to farm-fresh local and regional vegetables and other things (stone-ground whole wheat flour and cornmeal, handmade soaps for gifts, etc.). It's been kind of like an organic, local-foods store that takes online orders once a month, actually. We like it a lot.

The biggest effect on us, at least I think so, is likely to be what happens as we buy and eat more of the meats from co-op producers. We're gradually moving toward buying only organic, grass-fed beef and buffalo through the co-op instead of factory-farm, feedlot-fed, drug-laden meats. The cost is higher than supermarket prices but not too bad, especially as we don't eat a lot of meat. The free-range chicken is much more costly, but at some point we may try it, too. I can see that we'll eat more beef and a lot less chicken, which is really funny after years of thinking of beef as bad. I'll get some pork, too, at some point. If we can plan ahead enough, I'd like to buy a side of beef with several other people.

As we sample various grass-fed meats at their higher costs, we are moving firmly to stretching-the-meat cooking and the very occasional savor-the-hunk-o-meat meal! My thoughts as I try to rework the budget: When we have meat in a meal, it's going to be a highlight. And when it doesn't matter what the meat is, maybe it doesn't have to be meat. For instance, tacos or burritos with various beans and rice. Highly seasoned chili with TVP (a soy-based substitute for ground meat). On the other hand, steaks on the grill...

I think it's worth any changes to our eating habits. Among other things, I'm learning that grass-fed beef is not the threat to our health that fatty, 'well'-marbled beef is. It's a lot closer to venison in many ways. I love buying from people I could drive to visit if I really wanted to. The meat is also soooo delicious. Ask my husband about the beef stew I made last winter with the stew meat from a co-op producer (and homemade stock from co-op-bought beef bones). Wowwwww!

If you're interested, here is some fascinating reading: Eat Wild and Power Steer.

The October co-op order closes tonight, and I'm buying:

A "Soup for Supper" special from Cattle Tracks. A 1-pound package of stew meat, a 1-pound package of beef bones, two 1-pound packages of ground beef, and recipes for Cattle Tracks Stew and Cattle Tracks Chili. Yowza!

A 1-pound package of buffalo stew meat from Wichita Buffalo Company. To try.

A 20-pound bag of dry peanuts to clean and store for roasting, eating, cooking with, and making peanut butter.

A couple of bulbs of garlic. I might try planting some as a winter garden experiment for the kids and me.

Three 2-pound pie pumpkins from McLemore Pumpkin Farm.

Five pounds of pears from PD&H Farms.

A 5-pound package of stone-ground whole wheat flour from Springhill Farms for my freezer, 'cause I'm nearly out. If I could reasonably store the 25-pound bag, I'd buy it, but no.

I'll pick up my order at our pickup site in my town next Thursday evening. Maybe we'll have stew for supper that weekend! And make some truly from-scratch pumpkin pie.


Jess said...

We're in Oklahoma too and recently discovered we could buy direct from some of the farms that have grass-fed beef. But the problem is coming up for the money for even 1/4 of a cow - it is expensive! I wish eating healthy wasn't so expensive!

Barbara said...

Yep! I haven't even started putting money aside toward part of a side of beef, sigh.

The Queen said...

But it's SO much less expensive than buying from the store. At least here in central PA it is. I paid $1.95/lb for my front quarter. It's quite tasty, too.

The only thing I wanted to contribute was that for free-range chicken you're better off finding a local farmer that has fascilities you can personally inspect or raising your own. The actual guidelines for calling a chicken free range *only* involve that the door to their cage be open for a certain amount of time, at certain times of the day. In general most free-range chickens didn't range any more more than non free-range chickens. The only way you can be SURE that the chickens were what you are PICTURING when you think free range is to buy certified organic. And THAT costs money. It's enough to make you start thinking seriously about a hen house.

Barbara said...

Thanks for the encouragement on buying beef from the producer! Through our co-op we get a lot of info on the chicken producers. A couple are certified organic, and several others do use an open-bottom cage ("chicken tractor"!) to move the chickens around on actual pasture. One says his chickens could walk to Other Big City if they wanted, LOL!

I have a lot more understanding now of why people might keep chickens or ducks, actually.