In my previous article, I talked about thinking outside of the supermarket for fruits and vegetables. In this installment I am going to talk about ways of obtaining quality meats at a good price.
What About Quality Meats?
Purchasing quality meats can be tricky, but I have some tips on how to get great meat at a great price.
A local supermarket that I shop at always has chicken breasts on sale, but they look freakishly large and I just can’t bring myself to purchase them. I mean, how did they get that big? Steroids, hormones? I’ll pass.
Plus with all of the recent talk of GMO corns and soybeans, it is worth considering how healthy that cheaper beef, pork, or chicken at the supermarket really is for your health as opposed to quality meats. When I say quality, I mean something that may be organic, grass-fed or sustainably-raised.
Where Do I Look for Quality Meat?
The most obvious place to start looking for quality meat, is well…at the supermarket.
You might be saying, “Mike, you are supposed to be giving options outside of the supermarket!” and this is true, but every once in a while you can land a really good deal on quality meat at a supermarket. If you’re a first-time grass-fed meat buyer, don’t let the taste catch you off guard. Because of a diverse diet, grass-fed cuts tend to have a stronger flavor than grain fed beef; even more so than those pasture raised and finished on grain.
Last week, I picked up some grass-fed lamb shoulder chops at $3.99 per pound. This week, my local Safeway had locally raised organic whole chickens (chickens raised with non-GMO grains) at $1.49 a pound, which I later got on clearance at an even better price. There are deals to be had on quality meat, so be alert.
The next step up from your local supermarket in your quest for quality meat would be a local big box store like Costco or Sam’s Club. Often times you can find healthy, grass-fed meat selections sometimes frozen and in bulk, which can save you some money.
Next place to check? Your local farmer’s market. Some local producers and artisans raise and harvest local meat. They often bring vacuum sealed samples that are refrigerated or frozen to purchase on the spot. Others, like artisan smokers, have slabs of bacon they can cut to any thickness or lean hams they made themselves. Remember the tip for haggling from my previous article, as you may be able to knock a couple dollars off per pound on some cuts.
If there is a local butcher close to you, you can get to know them as well for some great deals on fresh and locally-raised quality meats.
Another way you can purchase quality meat at a great price is to buy a local animal or at least a stake in one. You know that guy at the farmers market who raises grass fed steers? He is a good place to start. You can ask how much one costs cut and wrapped.
Don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on your quality meat intake? Buy the animal with a few other people or even a large group of like-minded individuals. Check with your church friends, your CrossFit buddies and family members to recruit people to go in on the meat purchase. Then, divide the steaks, roasts and ground meat evenly and there you go!
Don’t worry if you suddenly have 150 pounds of quality beef on your hands. You could have a steak night, freeze a bunch, and even have some of the lean beef (usually reserved for roasts) to be sliced thin at the butcher. You can then take your food dehydrator or oven on a low setting and make beef jerky!
If you are looking at another option for quality beef (or hogs, sheep, chickens and goats) one source to consider would be your local 4H or FFA chapter.
If you have or know a child that is in one of these programs, they often have projects that sometimes include raising and selling animals. The students individually purchase an animal that they are solely responsible for. The animals then go to auction or are sold privately.
Near auction time, students start soliciting family and friends to show up and place bids on the animal. If you know before they process begins you can negotiate to purchase the organic animal ahead of time. Better yet, you could let them show the animal at the auction or fair and place a healthy bid on it there, which gives them the opportunity to show off their hard work. If you don’t know a child who is involved, you still have the option to find an auction of this sort and buy a quality animal for your liking. The processing of the animals is added to the final cost per pound.
Fishing and hunting is another source of meat that I will touch on briefly.
I went on a fishing trip a few years back in Alaska and it was the best fish I’ve ever eaten. However, farmed fish, fed with grain and blood meal, aren’t much different than the factory-farmed meat. Like everyone else, I bought it because it was cheap, but after seeing the the vivid red color of fresh caught wild sockeye salmon in Alaska, I have a hard time going back to farm-raised fish.
That, along with recent findings of mercury in larger fish and a study that shows nearly 25 percent of wild fish caught contain trace amounts of plastic, has found me buying and eating less fish from the store.
Catching your own fish and killing your own game and processing it yourself is an option for obtaining quality meat. You know exactly what goes into the meat and you know it’s fresh.
However, hunting, fishing and field dressing can be a timely and expensive process, especially if it isn’t a hobby you’re passionate about. Consider making a deal with local hunters or your neighbor who’s an avid fisherman — offer to let them use your land to hunt or offer to pay them for their services if you’re interested in wild game or fresh-caught fish but simply don’t have the time to pursue it.
Get to Know People
Lastly, get out in the community and get to know people. When you create bonds with people and within your community, you can take a vested interest in what goes on around you. You can meet some good folks and potentially make some friends the good ole fashioned way — by talking to them.
When I was a kid, my dad would prune this older lady’s fruit trees each year. My dad loves pruning trees and takes pride in doing it properly, but he also loves helping someone who needed it. In the summer, we would go to her house, climb the ladders and pick fruit. Often times, as a thank you she would give us a couple of grocery bags filled with plums, peaches and cherries.
I could tell you many stories about a parent volunteer who used to bring her extra eggs to school or a coworker who was passionate about growing the hottest peppers, but I’ll sum it all up by saying get to know the people around you. Chances are you will find someone with similar interests or who’s hobbies work in tandem with yours.