I was thrilled to discover last week that one of the vendors at our farmer’s market this year has opened a retail store and cafe right here in my town. The business is Pasture to Plate and they raise beef, lamb, pork, chicken, ducks, geese, and turkey. All their animals are kept on pasture; the fowl are rotated around pastures (reminds me of Joel Salatin‘s approach). The pigs and chickens get supplemented with organic split peas, and I think the chickens get some organic feed as well. Otherwise no meds or hormones and a pure grass fed diet. What matters to me (aside from the lack of added chemicals) is that these animals are living a Good life. They are free to roam and do what their species do, enjoy the fresh air*, and get a variety of foods in their diet. Not only do I think this meat is far healthier than any I can buy in the store, but I feel good knowing the animals led a good life. So I headed down there today for the first time to pick up some meat. It was a wonderful place, with lots of organic and wholesome home-style cooking: and they sell their soups etc in Glass Jars!! Returnable even! Isnt’ that great??
But…I have to tell you, this meat ain’t cheap!
I bought 3 packs of pork sausages, 1.4 kg (about 2.5 lbs) and it cost $30. If I just grilled them up it would take the whole lot to feed our family of four. However, I like to make my ethical meat stretch farther and pork sausage makes a fabulous addition to rice and beans. Unfortunately the kids won’t eat that so they get a whole grilled sausage each. Thus, with this amount of sausage I will be able to get: 1 kids meal of grilled sausage (feeds 2 kids) and 2 meals of rice and beans which will feed the adults for two meals each. So, for $30 I got 5 meals. Not bad!
The pork chops were more expensive. Each kid will eat at least one chop, sometimes 1.5. I can eat one or two chops and Husband can easily eat 2. I bought six chops totalling about 1 kg in weight. That will make 1 complete family meal with maybe a small amount leftover, and the cost was $22.
My meal plan for the month of October calls for two batches of rice and beans (with pork sausage), and two days of leftover rice and beans with sausage (the kids will have their one night of grilled whole sausages. One day of pork chops, ditto with the ethical chicken I bought from another farmer’s market vendor a couple of months ago (that will be our thanksgiving meal with my mother). We are having (another!) thanksgiving dinner with friends (we’re getting our families together to do an “all local” thanksgiving dinner, this time with turkey). We are having one other meat meal this month using up some chicken thighs I had (not ethical, but it’s the last pack and I might as well use it up). And that’s it for meat consumption this month (oh, we will also have 2 or 3 tuna-based meals this month).
So, I spent $52 today on a month’s worth of pork. The chicken was $25 (and of course there will be leftovers and bones for soup stock), our share of the local mega-turkey will work out to around $30. So that’s basically around $100 for meat this month which, really, for a family of four is not that bad!
And so while I confess I did suffer a moment of sticker shock at the store today, my shock was based on years of experience buying cheap, crappy food and adopting our cultural expectation that food should be as cheap as possible. Instead, I now feel like I have spent my money wisely, obtained a good quality product that I can stand behind in terms of production, and I have consequently lowered my meat consumption to adjust to the higher price.
It feels good!
* I was reading a blurb on a “free range chicken” producer’s website that actually claimed putting chickens outdoors was cruel because they would just run around and be frightened. Does one really have to stop and consider that sentence for very long before concluding that our attitudes about food animals are seriously f*cked up?