Where to find Organic Meats for Homemade Sausage ?
I recently learned how to make sausage. I practiced using meat purchased at my local Mexican market. I have my technique down, but want to start using nicer meats. If my niece is going to be eating this I would like to use organic cruelty free meat. With the quantity of meat I am purchasing, going to whole foods is simply not an option due to price.
I live in Oakland CA. Does anyone have any thoughts on the matter? Maybe somwhere I can buy large cuts of meat that are not pumped full of hormones but also will not cost me a pay check....
What exactly are you looking for? It's not necessary for meat to be certified organic for it to be raised humanely and without hormones (Niman would fall into this category, for example).
I would go into a good butcher like Baron's (two locations in Alameda and Berkeley) and talk to them about exactly what qualities you're looking for in your meat, not just a specific label or certification. They can explain the animal husbandry methods of various suppliers and you can decide for yourself which is best suited to your needs. Once you know what to look for, you can shop around a little (although Baron's has good prices on high quality pork).
I'm not a fan of Prather Ranch. It's really expensive, and in my experience, their meat is better on paper than it is on the plate. For some people who put a very high premium on the philosophy behind the meat I guess it's worth it, but I haven't found it to be so.
Baron's Meat & Poultry
1650 Park St, Alameda, CA 94501
3068 Claremont Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
I don't know that I have anything new to add, but I too am a home sausage maker who tries to stick with humanely produced meats.
Based on your post, the system that makes meat available at prices you see at supermarkets, warehouse stores, or "ethnic" markets is likely not the one you are interested in being a part of.
As others have pointed out, the least expensive (though still not inexpensive) option is to buy a whole, half, or quarter animal (depending on what meats you are using) directly from the grower and then keeping it in the freezer until you're ready to grind it.
Just to give you an idea of the prices I pay for select cuts of meat (as opposed to a share of a whole animal)...
I buy beef, lamb, and chicken directly from a local (southern AZ) grower, and the lowest priced boneless beef cuts (beef stew meat, beef chuck) run me about $5/lb. Boneless lamb shoulder and boneless leg of lamb are $6.85/lb and $8.13/lb, respectively. Pasture-raised chickens are $3.90/lb. Unfortunately for me, locally produced pork is very hard to come by here, so my most cost effective options consist of buying Niman Ranch pork when I visit the BA and bringing it back in my suitcase or schlepping over to Whole Foods and paying $6/lb ($5/lb on sale) for organic pork shoulder.
To offset the higher cost of meat from pasture-raised animals, I work on ways to stretch all the meat we do buy across as many meals as possible mainly by eating smaller portions and supplementing with substantial servings of beans, grains, and vegetables.
I look forward to hearing about what you are able to work out for yourself there in the Bay Area.
Thanks everyone for the helpful advice, and altough it maybe its not what I wanted to hear, I understand that I just need to pay a little more to get what I want. I will check out the leads I got here and post back on what I find. I think I will start with Scott so maybe he can hook me up with some casings and fat as well. Thanks!
If I were you I'd send an email to Chris Cosentino (he also has a blog).
He's probably one of the most knowledgable people not only in the Bay Area but also in the U.S. I'm sure that he'd be more than happy to assist you in such an interesting project. http://www.offalgood.com/site/
Prather Ranch sells delicious pork - pasture raised, no hormones or antibiotics, only meat in N Cal that is humane certified. Since you're in Oakland, your best option is the Saturday Lake Merrit Farmers' Market where they have a stand.
You may need to change your perception of what is a fair price for meat. Factory farming drives the cost down substantially, and independent, ethical ranches can't compete on a pure cost level. However, if you're making sausage you'll be using some of the less expensive cuts of the pig. It might make you feel better to know that the flavor of good meat is substantially superior, particularly with pork. Comparing Prather pork prices to factory pork prices is kind of like comparing apples to rotten oranges.
If Prather Ranch's prices are prohibitive, your best option would be to find a local ranch where you can buy a whole or half pig, though that means spending more money upfront and freezing a lot of meat.
re: Chris VR
If shaden finds Whole Foods meat too expensive, the prices at Prather's are not going to be any better. Any organic/sustainable/grass-fed/cruelty-free/any such adjective meat is going to be very expensive. If you want very large quantities, I suggest going in with other people and buying a whole hog or part of a cow . . .
Is Prather still selling their meat frozen at the Temescal stand? They told me they just need to get enough money together to buy a new truck trailer before they can start selling it fresh. I haven't been to Temescal in a while, because I don't want to pay their prices for frozen meat.