Let’s talk meat.
Some of the most interesting things I’ve investigated regarding CSAs, community supported agriculture groups, has to do with meat. Did you know that there are meat CSAs? I didn’t either.
A normal CSA works where you select your weekly veggies (or they select them for you, depending on how it works) and then they are either delivered to you or to a pick up location. Sometimes these CSAs add in other things, such as canned veggies and fruits, granola bars, jams, and other treats you’d find at a farmer’s market. They have just started to add in meat as well. For example, my CSA – Eating with the Seasons – has added in a meat option once a month for all of us. We select the meat we want and it’s added to our order. The companies that these CSAs choose goes in line with whatever their customers and their own philosophy state – organic, local – sometimes both.
Now there are solely MEAT CSAs. I found one in Marin called http://www.marinsunfarms.com/meatclub.html. There are a few scattered around the country and they are gaining momentum. This is different than purchasing a cow or a pig directly from farmers (more on that in a moment.) This is a “club” where you basically pay a certain amount and get a variety of different cuts during the month. Marin Sun Farms carries pig, cow, veal, lamb, goat, and poultry but you can work with them to get what you want. Depending on the type of cuts you want and the price to pay, you can select a lot of different options.
Why is this good? For many of the same reasons that land CSAs are good: the money goes directly to the farmer – no middle man – and you know where your meat comes from. It’s local. They are grass-fed, pasture raised animals that are not churned out of feed lots and raised as holistically as possible. For anyone who has read Omnivore’s dilemma, you’ll know that this is probably the best way we can get our meat.
Another option is to purchase a whole, half, or quarter animal (usually cows and pigs) from local farmers. This option allows you to know that all your meat came from a single animal, you know how it was raised and where, and you can share the responsibilities of purchase with your friends and family. This is, or was, a very common way for most people on farms to get their animals. In these cases, the animals are paid for by the person and then the consumer also pays for the additional cost of butchering (and wrapping and freezing) the meat. The cost for this is an average of $5.50 to $6.00 per pound, for a 1/2 cow. While this might seem to be a high price for ground beef (which you get a lot of, by the way), it’s not so high a price to pay for grass-fed, sustainably raised steaks, chops, and roasts. The meat is extremely good, tasty, leaner than feedlot cattle beef, and is really fresh. I have 20 lbs in my freezer right now and I have to say that it’s the best beef I’ve ever had.
There are places to purchase chickens in bulk (Gleason Farms is a popular one right now for the SF Bay Area) and know that they too are raised sustainably and humanely. It takes a little looking and a little hooking up, but they are out there. I’ll add the meat links to my sidebar this week.
I’m in the process of purchasing a chest freezer (Love Craig’s List!!) and splitting 1/4 a cow with some friends in Santa Cruz. It’s my own way of doing my part to make my eating more conscious, healthy, and let’s face it – tasty!!