Sunday, November 15, 2009

Meat and Poultry Matrix

When did meat become so complicated?

Trying to figure out what to buy and why has become a full time occupation for me.  I spend hours at the supermarkets and online reading labels, researching ingredients, and making the best decisions I can.  Some of them are pricey and some are dicey, but they are the choices that my family lives and eats by, so I try to get it right.  

That being said, I am most stumped by meat and poultry.  So much misleading and conflicting information, coupled by the fact that all research leads me to conclude we should be eating less and less of both.  What I have learned can be summed up as follows:
  • Most supermarket meat is not from a farm, it is from a factory.  The animals are treated badly; they live horrible lives in confinement and are killed in a cruel manner.  And most importantly, the factory lifestyle generates unhealthy meat and poultry.  The animals are chocked full of antibiotics and other medications, they are mixed and matched Frankenstein style, so it is impossible to trace where they came from, and they tend to be filthy.  
  • Unless grass fed and pasture raised, organic and/or free range meat does not provide much relief from the above.  They are fed a slightly better diet (although organic cows still are fed corn and not grass, which is really unnatural), but generally live in the same crappy conditions and have very similar problems to non organic factory meat and poultry.  
  • Grass fed and pasture raised meat and poultry is the best way to go, but it is very expensive and difficult to come by.  Often it needs to be shipped and therefore has some environmental limitations.  But this is outweighed by the other environmental, humane, and gastronomic benefits it provides.  
To manage this, I only cook meat twice a week.  I try to only use grass fed, pasture raised, and organic products.  And I try not to purchase any of this at the supermarkets.  I have decided to try and track the products that I have tried, in an effort to keep my research straight. Here is my high level meat and poultry  matrix that documents what I have found.  

Do you have any additional information for me on this topic?  Comment below and let me know - I will be updating this post and the matrix on a regular basis.  


  1. Hi Julie, I really admire your efforts here! We get all our meat from two sources now: 8 O'Clock Ranch (travels practically from the Canadian border, but as you said, it's pretty well outweighed by other factors) and Hendricks Farm in PA, because we're lucky enough to have friends who travel out there twice a month to buy for us. I couldn't be happier with this way of doing things. Because we have so many other considerations, I don't pay too much attention to cost, but I don't think we end up paying a crazy amount for our meats. Part of the reason is that 8 O'Clock Ranch is a CSA that gives you a wide variety of cuts, not just the prime ones. (Some of the fattier cuts are my favorites, actually, and since the fats are so much healthier in pastured meats, I don't think twice about eating them.) In addition they send fairly small portions, so if you have a family of four you end up being a little more creative with other ingredients and eating less meat per person. I braised some beef stew meat with lentils the other day, for example, which turned out great. I probably wouldn't have thought to do that otherwise.

    Anyway, just spending as much time and energy thinking about this as you clearly have is the first step that most people never take, so as far as I can tell you're well on your way to meat bliss. :)

  2. I enjoyed your post. If I may, I would like to suggest my farm web site.

    Sumas Mountain Farms is the only producer of 100% certified-organic, lifetime grass-fed & finished beef in the Lower Mainland of BC (Canada). We also offer chicken, eggs, pepperoni, jerky, salami, sausage, farmer sausage, and more.

    Because our beef is 100% grass-fed & finished, the quality of the meat is exceptional, and the flavor is unsurpassed. Plus, it is more nutrient-dense and packed with healthful Omega-3's than conventional beef, which is healthier for you, your family, and the planet.

    Please visit for more information! We have plenty of recipes for you to try.