I’ve noticed meat stands have started to find their way in between produce stands at farmer’s markets, and a quick search helped me find all sorts of local meat options in my area. Many of these ranchers raise organic, free range meat including beef, lamb, pigs and chickens. Some corn finish their animals to produce a less gamey tasting final product, and some grass-feed all the way to the end.
When you are buying local meat, you are supporting several local businesses: rancher, slaughter house and butcher. Many of the ranches are small scale, so the whole family is involved, even kids! They all seem to be having a great time, and I love to know that these sorts of home businesses are sustainable even today. Our latest local beef came from Alpine Ranch and is delicious, and we’re in line to get pork from them as soon as it’s ready.
Buying meat at the farmer’s market can be pretty pricey, but if you buy in bulk from the rancher, you can get a great deal. Since local meat is gaining in popularity, you are no longer obligated to buy half a cow at once. The first time we bought locally raised meat I cleared a whole shelf in our freezer, worrying that we wouldn’t have room for it all. Once I loaded it all in, it took up a little less than half a shelf. The whole lamb we picked up last week took up about the same amount of room. Most ranches have smaller packages; we buy 40 lbs at a time. You might be able to spend a little extra to get a “grill package”, which will provide you with more steaks and less roasts.
There’s also the option of raising your own. Many communities allow small chicken coups, and I know more than one family with sheep and a cow on a few acres. If you don’t want a whole cow in your freezer, I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to find friends willing to buy into your heifer. I know I would!