It’s been amusing for me to go back through this blog and read my early posts. So much has changed since then! For example, back in 2008, I wrote a post called “Can You Do This If You Eat Meat?” for a friend who wanted some ideas on where/how to get meat outside of the supermarket system. Back then, I barely ate any meat, except seafood (I called myself a pescadarian), we almost never cooked meat at home, and were raising our the 2 year old child as a vegetarian. Even so, the suggestions I gave were pretty useful, I think.

To recap, here are some places to get meat without ever setting foot in a grocery store:

  • Take up hunting and fishing.
  • Get hooked up with neighbors or friends who hunt and buy excess animals from them.
  • Buy directly from local farmers and ranchers who raise organic beef, pork, lamb and poultry. Search Eat Wild to find a producer in your area.
  • Find a few other families interested in splitting a whole animal with you, and buy straight from a butcher who has connections to local ranchers. Buying a whole animal is much cheaper, and you can keep it in a chest freezes it for many months.
  • If you raise your own hens for eggs you can use them as stewing chickens when it’s time to retire them.
  • Raise your own rabbits for meat in your backyard.
  • Order from reputable online sources, such as US Wellness Meats.

The first thing you do is get a chest freezer!

Probably not surprisingly, since then I have taken my own advice, purchased a large chest freezer and started buying meat farm direct. Most recently our family bought a whole cow from KTF vendor Pat N Tam’s Beef together with 4 other friends and split it. (3 of us got a quarter each, and the last quarter was divided between 2 friends.) Dan has gone completely Paleo, and our kids are all big fans of meat now. Although I personally still struggle with meat aversions, I am slowly but steadily adding more meat to my diet and seeing improvements to my health.

Eating meat in an ethical way

One of the things I have thought about as I have moved away from vegetarianism is how to eat animals in an ethical way. Initially, I was most concerned about making sure the animals had had a happy, natural life and gotten to eat their natural diet and be outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine and not supporting any type of CAFO industry. Eating pastured animals raised by caring farmers is of course very important, but I think it can be taken a step further. The concept of nose to tail dining seems to me to be an additional way to consume meat in an ethical way. These are some of the benefits of eating this way in addition to respectfully honor the life of the animal by not wasting any of its parts:

  •  Stretch your grocery dollars by using up every part that has nutritional value. (I haven’t done my own calculations on how much money we saved by buying a whole cow yet, but you can get a pretty good idea from “Bulk Buying Savings: Beef” over at our friends’ site The Liberated Kitchen.)
  • Add nutrient dense foods to your diet by including liver and other organ meats as well as nourishing broths made from marrow and knuckle bones.
  • Get creative in the kitchen as you come up with new recipes for using things like trotters, heart or tongue
  • Feel good about doing your part to reduce the ecological impact of the animal processing

When we bought our cow from Pat N Tam’s Beef I requested that we get as many parts as possible, including the bones, fat, tail and other parts that aren’t always automatically included. Knuckle bones, for example, make amazing gelatinous bone broth. Beef fat (suet) can be rendered into tallow and used for cooking or to make pemmican. I am still learning about meat eating, and have since realized we could also have asked for the cheeks, tongue, organs, and even the feet. There are uses for all of these things! Next time we buy a whole animal, I will make sure we get more “nasty bits” and minimize waste even further.

If you want to learn more about the Nose to Tail concept, The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eatingis considered classic foodie reading. Author Fergus Henderson, a staunch proponent of using the entirety of any plant or animal, harks back to the days when very little went to waste and shows you how to use up all those nowadays less common parts. Along the same lines, I just learned about a brand new book by local author Lynne Curry titled Pure Beef: An Essential Guide to Artisan Meat with Recipes for Every Cut. Curry interviewed many local Oregon ranchers, including some of KTF’s vendors for this book that features 140 customized recipes for leaner, heat-sensitive grassfed beef. I am interested in reading this book and seeing if it truly gives suggestions for EVERY cut, including the unusual parts of the animal mentioned above.

What resources do you know about that can help with using up as much as possible of the animal you have on hand?
What parts, normally considered useless, do you know a way of serving up?
Are there other benefits to nose to tail eating that I didn’t think of?

This post is part of Monday Mania.