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The Meat We Eat

Mr. JudiAU and I have been trying to move towards purchasing more of our meat and poultry from humane, sustainable, and ecologically sound producers for some time. It isn't really all that easy. It is tastier surely and better for the environment but unless you are buying in bulk there is a substantial premium. And just when I think I have one animal nailed down the producer changes or has a bad year or just can't sell to us any longer. I've also enjoyed buying whole or half animals and working my way through them. It seems respectful somehow to go through the process.

At the moment I am reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and have resolved to renew our effort. That, and the arrival of the Chow Pup, have really caused us to think about what we eat.

So, how much meat, poultry, and seafood does your household consume and where does it come from? I am curious to see how our consumption compares to other households. Do you have a good local supplier or mail order supplier? What qualities matter to you?

We are a family of three although the little one doesn't eat much. We eat out a fair amount and also entertain a lot.

Estimated 2007-2008 Consumption, in lbs unless otherwise noted

LAMB, mostly grass fed domestic but some imported
1/2 Lamb
10 Ground
3 Racks
3 legs

CHICKEN, pastured vegetarian
20 Whole
4 Legs
40 Stock Parts,

BEEF, prime or choice, dry-aged if possible, some grass fed
10 Stew
5 Short Ribs
5 Ground
3 Cheeks
10 Brisket
6 Fancy Steak
10 Less Fancy Steak

VEAL, free range
4 Stew/Shoulder

PORK, pastured
5 Pork Chops
20 Shoulder
5 Ribs
5 Belly
5 Loin
1 Leg
5 Backfat
5 Rib Chops

BISON, grass fed
10 Stew
3 Ground

OTHER
4 Rabbits
2 Venison Racks
3 Ducks
2 Turkey Deli Meat

SEAFOOD
20 Fish, various
15 Salmon (curing)
6 Softshell Crab
16 Shrimp
2 Lobsters
12 oz. Fish Roe, various
5 jars Anchovies
5 cans Smoked Mackerel
8 cans Tuna, canned, low mercury

Fairly large quantities of purchase or house-cured guanciale, proscuitto, pancetta, cured sausage, and pate.

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  1. If you eat out a "fair amount" kind of defeats the purpose of trying to eat healthier meats (unless you are eating at a restaurant that serves it).

    Most of the meat we purchase comes from Whole Foods. There are various local ranchers that sell their meats in bulk at the local Farmers Market but we don't have the storage space to have halves of animals in the freezer.

    1. Good for you for making the effort. We eat considerably less meat since I decided to be more ethical in what we buy and eat. That's because of the high premium you mention. Where I live, in England, seafood is either difficult to find or extremely expensive, so I rarely cook it. There are also some decent options in a few of the supermarkets, like RSPCA-monitored chickens and meat from locally-raised animals.

      There's so much confusion about how local compares to imported, with both meat and fruit and veg, because of the resources necessary to raise certain items in Britain v. elsewhere. I'm still trying to sort it all out!

      5 Replies
      1. re: Kagey

        Kagey

        You need to explore online ethical shopping for meat and/or seafood. I buy most of my meat from an organic farm on the Cumbia/Lancashire border - price is generally less than supermarket non-organic "premium" quality.

        The seafood thing may be a local issue, We have a local fishmonger who sells from his van - actually I prefer to walk to his shop in the next village for a better choice. Certain supermarkets are far better than others for fish. Do you have a nearby Morrisons?

        As a general supply source, do you have a farmers market?

        The various ethical issues around fruit & veg buying in the UK are worth a thread of their own (organic/non organic; seasonal/non seasonal; home grown/imported). I could do the full 30 minute rant.

        1. re: Harters

          Thanks, Harters. We have a weekly market with a seafood van, but the van smells so awful when you walk by that I've never bought from him! A new fishmonger has just opened nearby, though, and I need to go over there and check out the situation.

          Part of the problem is that I'm in Surrey, where everything seems to be extortionate. No Morrison's nearby, but M&S in town occasionally has reasonable salmon. Just today I was at the farmer's market, where English asparagus cost 3 pounds for a tiny bunch. I know it's supposed to be the best, but I just can't abide it!

          Does your meat supplier ship all over the UK? If so, could you give details?

          And yes, I know the rant well. I work on climate change issues. Even so, it's hard to make sense of all the info out there.

          1. re: Kagey

            Yes. Mansergh Hall ships all over the mainland. Comes via overnight courier, wrapped in "ice cubes" and then insulated outer cartons. Never had a problem. One of the benefits over some other internet suppliers is that its properly butchered (their shop manager - and family son in law - is a butcher by trade).

            http://www.manserghhall.co.uk/

            If you decide to use them, please let me know on the UK board how you got on with it. As you'll have gathered, I'm a big fan. Met Jim, the farm owner, at a food fair the other week - nice guy - passionate about his product - told me he'd seen my Chowhound post describing them as the "rock gods of internet meat" :-0

            John

            (PS: £3 a bunch asparagus is daylight robbery at this time of year)

            1. re: Harters

              Thanks for that. I'll have a look!
              K

              1. re: Harters

                As others have said, a stand alone or chest freezer is a great purchase and excellent value. We had a small one for a few years, sold it for half of what we paid on Craigslist, and upgraded to a 75% size this year. It holds a lot of meat, at least half a pig and half or even a whole lamb at a time.

        2. We used to raise virtually all of our own meat but it's hard work and I'm well into Senior Citizenhood. We have a friend who raises us a pig and a lamb each year now, and we buy our goat meat from a local dairy. As for beef, if you want to be environmentally thoughtful, I suggest you buy what we call European veal, which is 6 month old just-weaned calf. We get from local ranchers and share half with friends.. that's about 200 lbs apiece. The meat is milk and range fed and pink rather than red or white. It's delicious and very digestible. Of course, you must have a big chest freezer. Check with your local county farm advisor. He or she can turn you on to local ranchers, or on to 4H or FFA kids who might be willing to raise meat animals for you along with their county fair projects. We personally don't buy at the fair auctions because pork and lamb judging standards right now are a bit too lean for us.. we prefer a bit of fat.

          We eat fish VERY rarely. Right now fish is caught at too high an environmental price for our taste. We don't even take fish oil.. take flax oil instead. Tuna we might eat once a year.. that fishery is getting dangerously depleted too.

          Game we get from hunter friends.. rabbit from a local woman who raises a few extra for us.. the same with duck and chicken, although I have to help her butcher in order to get it. We are eating a lot more legumes these days!

          1. Meats have been a problem for me for some years now. I'm currently in the process of searching out organic, grass fed, dry aged beef with good flavor. Not all breeds of cattle taste the same. At the rate I eat beef, it will probably take a year or two to find what I'm looking for. The current crop is good but not dance-on-the-ceiling-my-god-I'm-glad-I-bought-this drop dead fantastic, and that's what I'm looking for.

            I just got tired of buying "regular" beef. It was always a lottery. As a result of blood transfusions a couple of decades ago (three units of what I fondly call "sangre de wino") I was left with a gazillion food allergies, nearly all systemic. They are greatly reduced now, but I am still very sensitive to the hormones and anitbiotics in animal feed. It kicks in my fibromyalgia with a vengeance. Yes. Yes. I know. There are FDA rules on when such food additives "must" be halted prior to slaughter. Let's just say I got tired of buying a roast, having one portion and having to either give the rest away or throw it away because it was "killer beef" for me. Have the same problem with eggs and milk, so I only buy organic. Works for me!

            For fish and sea food, nothing to do with the systemic allergies, but I am very distrustful of farm raised fish of any sort, so it must be wild caught. As a result of Hurricane Katrina, I avoid any kind of Gulf Coast sea food. All of those toxins and industrial/home chemicals that were washed into the Gulf that are still oozing their way through the silt and off shore mud are just not my cup of tea. I guess the big question here is whether pollution I don't know about will do me as much harm as pollution I do know about. <sigh>

            You know, the biggest problem with aging is having to deal with problems beyond your control. I miss the "unimproved" and "unengineered" food of my youth. I am now old enough that I can remember when any hamburger you got anywhere was made with dry aged beef, all tomatoes tasted like tomatoes, and Perrier was a little company in France that couldn't get enough water from their wells to distribute more than an occasional case or three beyond the French border. I wonder what sort of food my five year old grandson will wax nostalgic for when he's my age? Granola bars and Silk?

            1. poultry, pork, beef, shellfish, or fish with every meal, so we are talking pounds and pounds of tasty meat, fish and shellfish.

              If I have to guess for our family of 3:

              100 lbs of crablegs/claws(king, snow, dungeness, stone)
              over 100 of lbs. of pork(spare ribs, babyback ribs, pork butt, pork loin, bacon)
              over 100 of lbs. of poultry(chicken wings, whole chickens, whole turkey, turkey breast)
              Maybe 50 lbs of fresh fish(orange roughy, mahi, shark, grouper, walleye)

              Where we purchase the product:

              Crab, fish, and other shellfish from a restaurant supplier in the Chicago suburbs

              Poultry, pork, and beef from the local butcher. Beef is prime, and the poultry many times is free range(turkeys,chickens).

              I support my local butcher, and am not a believer in the whole green/organic movement. Wherever my butcher sources his product, and as long as the quality continues to be top notch, and the beef graded prime, I will buy from him.

              10 Replies
              1. re: swsidejim

                Check into the Slow Food Movement in your area...

                  1. re: swsidejim

                    you really eat meat with every meal, including breakfast? what's your average portion size of protein per meal? just curious.

                    1. re: laguera

                      Every meal has meat, fish, or shellfish. I do not eat breakfast, the 5 or 10 times I do eat breakfast in a year, I need bacon, ham, or sausage as part of it.

                      Portion size?, Yesterday for example:

                      4 oz of turkey breast in my sandwich for lunch

                      3 oz of turkey breast and 6 slices of bacon for my dinner a club sandwich

                      Sunday:

                      lunch 5 oz of n.y. strip steak for a steak sandwich w/mushrooms, onion, cheese, sweet peppers, and jalapenos

                      dinner 5 oz chicken breast of chicken parmigana, pasta, salad, and broccoli

                      I do splurge occasionally and eat a couple of pounds of crab legs(most of the weight is in the shells),a slab of ribs, or a nice 16-30 oz. steak(depending on the cut, most of the time bone weight is part of the total).

                      btw I jog, as well as maintain our acre of land so I get plenty of exercise. I am 6'1, 170 lbs.

                      1. re: swsidejim

                        I wasn't trying to imply you were overweight, just wanted to know how you calculated your annual consumption. Does everyone in your family eat approx. 8-10 oz. of meat/seafood per day?

                        1. re: laguera

                          I was just stating my height, and weight for reference, since alot of people consider carnivores, and Americans in general overweight, no offense taken.

                          My figures were just a rough guestimate(I forgot beef in my totals) I figure I eat the 8-10 per day easily, and my wife maybe 5-6 oz's, and our daughter 1-3 oz's. I throw alot of cook outs as well so that inflates the figures a little. . My 1-1/2 year old daughter obviously eats alot less meat/seafood than my wife and I do, but she is quickly learning to love crab, beef, bbq, and fish(as well as pasta. rice, and veggies).

                          1. re: laguera

                            Doesn't everyone?
                            In my family the guys do at least that on an almost daily basis. Only exception is on pizza/pasta days.
                            My wife doesn't do much meat though, maybe 4 ounces or so every few days. Seafood is another story with her though.

                            1. re: hannaone

                              No, not everyone does, that's why I was asking. (No snark intended, BTW.) I grew up in a midwestern family that ate meat every single day. And my dad was in the meat business.

                              I am still an omnivore and am lucky to have a few farmer friends to provide me with top-quality meat, but I try to limit my portions of protein to 4-5 oz. per day. I never eat meat/fish for breakfast and almost never for lunch. Since I am married to an Argentine, it is VERY difficult to go for days with no meat or seafood, but I try to get a day or two per week with a veg dinner (might include eggs though). But then there are splurge days when we throw a barbecue or even roast a whole pig or lamb and the consumption goes up a little b/c of the leftovers.

                              My bother and his wife, OTOH, probably eat a pound of meat or fish between the two of them per week. They are super-abstemious not for moral or health reasons, but my bro just cooks w/ a lot of grains and veg. I think it is also a reaction to our super meat-crazy upbringing.

                              1. re: laguera

                                LoL!
                                Tone really doesn't come through very well on posts -
                                My question was tongue (or beef) in cheek.

                                1. re: hannaone

                                  That's what I thought, but couldn't be sure! But seriously, all the Argentine in-laws are totally protein crazy really do eat 8-10 oz per day, more for younger guys. The rule of thumb at an Argentine asado, if you should ever host one, is a half-kilo of assorted meats per person!!