I’ve always loved caring for people and animals, and grew with with cats, dogs, birds, gigantic fish tanks, lizards, hermit crabs, and a variety of rodents and small mammals. I remember being in 3rd grade and catching worms in my lunch container and hiding caterpillars in my desk. I even caught a squirrel once in a live trap (I immediately let it go, the poor thing was terrified and I’m lucky I wasn’t bitten).

Predictably when I got closer to being a preteen I decided to become a vegetarian. I stuck with this for many years but abandoned it when I had my first child. Over the years I evaluated why I was drawn to become vegetarian, and for me personally, it had to do with how the animals were farmed.  As an adult my husband and I moved from far, far, away to the Northwest Pacific, and found that there is a large “Farm to Table” movement here. There are fantastic farmer’s markets for fruits and veggies, but also farmers who raise free range/grass feed beef, pasture pork, and free range chickens.

The Price of Beef
After buying a large freezer off Craigslist I ordered our first side of beef and I’ve never looked back. The great thing about buying right from the farmer (in addition to knowing where it came from and that it was humanely raised)  is the price. Right now our chain grocery store sells extra-lean ground factory farmed beef for $6.39 a lb (free range beef is very lean so it’s as close to a comparison as I can get if we’re talking about money). NY steaks are over $15 a lb, and ribeye is closer to $13.  At the end of the day we pay about $7.50-ish a pound for from the farm & butcher, but that price is the same no matter what cut it is. It’s that price for ground beef which might be a little more than the grocery store, but it’s also that price for the rest of the side which includes prime rib roasts, all cuts of steaks, ribs, jerky meat (I’ll make a whole other post about making jerky soon), and pot roasts. In the end it works out to be cheaper for us to buy free range meat than it does to buy it from the store. Win-win!

Eat Wild has a great article about the health benefits of grass fed beef. The animals have been eating different food and it affects the nutrients in the meat. If you’re interested, it’s well worth the read.  http://www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm

Pasture Pork
Pasture pork is something that financially isn’t much of a money saver, but man it tastes differently- it has flavor. One major differce t is the amount of fat on the animal; factory farming has bred leaner and leaner pigs, making for lean pork. Where people typically assume less fat = better, you can imagine this as been widely accepted. The problem though, is that so much flavor is lost when you take all the fat out of the meat and you’re left with a dry, tasteless, pork chop. Pasture pigs are often “heritage breeds” that are natural fattier and taste so much better. Aside from the benefits to the animal being raised outside a holding pen, the taste of the meat has no comparison to anything you will buy at the grocery store.

Free Range Hens
So you guys already know I raise hens for eggs, but what about meat birds? Well, that’s actually a project for next spring. We just moved to a space where we can raise meat birds but I need to built a better set up for raising them. In the meantime I buy free range hens from the grocery store. They are of course more expensive than factory farmed, but again- aside from the ethics of free range vs. caged-  you can’t beat the taste. Now there are local farms I would much rather buy from but can’t afford. There are limits to our finances, and the cost buying from the farmer isn’t one we can do when it comes to hens. Eventually I will raise our own meat birds, but in the mean time our compromise is to buy free range from the store.

Fish
I did, once, go on a boat and catch a salmon. It was a cute touristy thing to do, but it’s not a sustainable way for me to get fish into the freezers. I buy wild fish from the store, and that’s what we eat. I know there’s a big debate about wild vs. farmed, and I haven’t taken a side really one way or the other: I truly haven’t done enough research. I do know that I much prefer the taste of wild fish, so that’s what I buy.

This is the one and only salmon I’ve ever caught. Did I mention I have awful, gut-wrenching car/sea sickness? I literally will feel sick in a rocking chair. I caught that fish having had four Dramamine, and I barely remember it, but I know it felt amazing to catch dinner.

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