There are many reasons why you should seek out a trusted local butcher rather than shopping for your meats at the local big box store. This is especially true if the most popular local source for groceries is a Wal-Mart Super Center. (I don’t recommend buying your meat from Wal-Mart because it has almost certainly come from a factory farm.)
If you don’t have a Whole Foods nearby, I would absolutely look for a good old-fashioned local butcher. Think you’re okay buying your meat at a local meat shop? Don’t be so sure! The meat they’re selling might be presumed local, but it could be shipped in from factory farming operations.
So, why look for a good old-fashioned butcher?
Shopping at your trusted local butcher is beneficial for many reasons, including the following:
• In most cases, meat from a local butcher is sourced locally from farmers in your community rather than from factory farms.
• Fewer chemicals are generally used in locally sourced meat.
• Animals on small farms are generally treated more humanely than those on larger operations.
• Shopping here supports your local economy.
When you find a trusted butcher, your meals will taste better than ever before. This is not only because the quality of meat will be better than you’re used to with a chain grocery store, but also because your butcher knows which cuts work best for which cooking method, so you’ll get great results with every meal.
But, how do you go about finding a good butcher?
An old-fashioned butcher in your neighborhood might not be leveraging the Internet and social media to advertise services, so you might have to use old-fashioned methods to find a butcher shop.
The next time you’re at the farmers’ market, ask the vendors which butchers they’d recommend. Call the nearest fine dining restaurant and ask if you can find out where they source their meat (most good restaurants use local suppliers). Ask a reputable caterers or personal chefs about where they get their best cuts of meat. Your Yellow Pages might point you to clues about where to find a local butcher, too. So will asking a farmer in your community where his or her animals are prepared. Even the older ladies at your church probably have a good lead on a local butcher because they’re the smart ones who’ve been getting a soup bone every week for the last forty years!
When you find a butcher, there are some questions you’ll want to ask him or her.
• Where do your animals come from? If the butcher doesn’t name a number of local farms, keep digging until you find out if the meat is factory-farmed. Because if it is, you get no more benefit than you would shopping for meat at Wal-Mart.
• Are the animals grass fed and organic? Find out if the animals are fed corn. Ask if they are pasture-raised and organic. The best quality of meat you’ll find is organic, grass fed and local.
• Do you do all of the butchering yourself? Ask the butcher if all of the butchering is done onsite. If not, ask how butchered the meat is by the time it gets to him or her. Ideally, the butcher will say that all meat is butchered on site or that the meat comes in sides or primal cuts.
If all of those questions are answered to your satisfaction, place your order and you’re in business!
When you have a good relationship with your butcher, you’ll also probably be able to get your marrow bones for all that delicious bone broth you try to keep your crock pot busy with.
Leanne Ely, Your Dinner Diva
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