In most places in America it isn’t difficult to procure ethical meat. My family lives in the Denver metro area… which lucky for us is full of choices. Some of the meat we’ve purchased over the last few years include a ¼ cow, ½ hogs, full chickens, lamb meat by the pound and large orders of grass fed ground beef. All the animals we source come from small farms implementing sustainable practices. Our animals are treated well and live good lives.
There are numerous ways to access sustainable meat but it varies by where you live:
1. Purchase by the animal from local farms
This is the best option, however it requires a large investment up front and freezer space, so this option isn’t for everyone.
Local farms often sell animals whole or by the ¼ or ½. This is the most economic option because you will get the best price per pound. Price is often by hanging weight, which is the animal weight before being butchered. Make sure to understand how the individual farmer prices their meat, as it does vary.
My recommendation for finding farms:
This site lists farms in the United States and their various products. You can search by location and by the specific item you are looking for. Not only can they help source meat but eggs, dairy, honey, fruit and vegetable products! In addition, their site covers grass fed basics, reasons to choose healthier animals, environmental benefits, benefits for farmers and more.
Not everyone has 3 freezers and can store large quantities of meat. So that’s the major downfall of this method.
2. Farmer’s markets
This isn’t available to everyone but some cities have great farmers markets where you can purchase ethical meat. The main caveat is that this option is usually more expensive. When you buy by the pound it tends to be that way. I would visit all your local markets and see what you can find. I often buy chicken meat from farmer’s markets because chicken is cheaper in general so I find it more affordable. I’ve also splurged on some goat meat and wild caught salmon! Don’t be afraid to ask questions, just because it’s at a farmers market doesn’t necessarily mean it’s sustainable. I wouldn’t fret over the “organic” label, small farms often can’t afford to get certified but they still might be following organic practices. Again, just ask questions.
3) Delivery Services
This is typically the most expensive option but the most convenient. Various farms sell their meat online and ship regionally or nationally. I’ve never found an economical option that compares to the prices we get from local farms, which is why we have never used this option.
Eat Wild has a list of farms that ship sustainable meat.
Some other options include:
And many many more!
4) Grocery Store
This is my least favorite option as it’s tough to know the source. Usually if they sell to a grocery store they are mass producing which means it’s less likely to be as sustainable as a local farm. This isn’t a guarantee as some grocery stores will sell from local farms, it’s just more likely. That being said, you can almost always find grass fed ground beef, wild caught fish and organic chicken. Some of the other meats may be more difficult.
Sometimes I buy mussels from the standard grocery store. After doing some research, I think it’s OK to buy oysters and mussels that come from farms instead of being wild caught. For more on why I came to that conclusion, read Mark Sisson’s article, Farmed Seafood: What’s Safe and Nutritious. Basically the gist for these particular animals that are farmed live similar lives to the wild caught animals and don’t need to be fed soy or corn as these animals fend for themselves.