Meat man, you say? Who has a meat man? Well, beside myself, hundreds of other folks in the Chicago and Des Moines, Iowa, area, and I’m sure many thousands of others across the United States. When I say “meat man,” I’m referring to a local farmer from whom I purchase grass-fed beef, poultry, lamb, turkey products and sustainably raised fish. Why do this?
After reading several books, notably Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and watching food documentaries like King Corn, I became acutely aware of the fact that most of America’s cows are now being stuffed full of corn and grain-based products to beef them up more quickly and inexpensively for America’s supermarkets.
What’s wrong with a corn diet for cattle? Originally, cattle were raised and finished on a grass-fed diet, a diet both natural and healthy for cattle. When American farmers began producing an excessive amount of corn, they found that they could feed it to cows and reduce the time it took for the cattle to go to market. However, this method is not particularly healthful for the cows or for humans, for that matter. Using the grass-fed method, cows can graze as they would in the wild—on grassy fields—and thus grow at a natural pace without need for the antibiotics or other drugs often used to negate the effects of feeding the cattle an unnatural grain-based diet.
What if you don’t really care about cow welfare? (I know there are some of you out there.) Besides being better for the animal, cows raised and finished on grass-fed beef taste better. A whole lot better. But until you try it out, you won’t know. And, according to Eat Wild.com, “Compared with feedlot meat, meat from grass-fed beef, bison, lamb and goats has less total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories. It also has more vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and a number of health-promoting fats, including omega-3 fatty acids and “conjugated linoleic acid,” or CLA.”
To find grass-fed beef and dairy near you, check out Eat Wild’s State by State Directory of Farms.
If you live in the Chicagoland area or in Iowa, I highly suggest Wallace Farms. Nick Wallace, one of the family owners, makes a trip to the Chicago area one Saturday a month so those in the know can pick up some of his fabulous meat products. And I promise you, you haven’t had a steak until you’ve had one of his grass-fed sirloins.
Nick sends out an email about a week before his delivery with a list of what’s for sale that month. You send him an email telling him what you want, and then come and pick it up at the set location, in my case it’s at a church between Damen and Western on Irving Park. To sign up for Wallace Farms’ Buying Club, click here. His next trip to Chicago will be May 15, 2010.
While I don’t purchase all of my meat from Wallace Farms (I’m on a budget, after all), I do buy a fair share of it from them. For instance, my bacon (the best I’ve ever had), ground meats (beef, turkey, and lamb—all ridiculously better than the supermarket stuff) and steaks always come from the farm. I’m proud to say I support a local, sustainable farm and eat that much better for it.