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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

So,...Where does this meat come from?

Last week, a long time friend posted a question on Facebook "Do you know where your food comes from?"  The answer for my veggies was very simply ... "Yes!" The problem came when I looked at where I buy the protein portion of my meals. For three generations, my family has been buying from a small town, local butcher, Zimmerman's Meats, but the last few years, I have not been so consistent in buying my cuts of meat from there.

My father actually went to school with a Zimmerman, remembered going to the shop with his mother, and insisted that I drive the 45 miles from my house to pick up his favorite cuts when he lived with me. After his death, we still picked up cuts from the store, but I also picked up meat at the supermarket. After the big outcry against "pink slime," I started thinking, what am I actually giving to my family. Then I heard about the "meat glue," and this made me think that running the 45 miles was not such a bad trade for better meat.

I would like to say that I feed my family nothing but organic everything all the time, but I really can't afford to pay $8.99 a pound for Chicken, or $14.00 for enough ground beef to make a decent meatloaf. I try to buy the healthiest foods, without losing my home, and that is why I make a 45 mile drive to a good, honest butcher that my family has trusted for 74 years.

Unlike supermarkets, or those discount "Meat Markets," Zimmerman's cuts their own meat every morning, they will even cut special for you. I call and order a few months supply, and they package it properly for the freezer. The cost is no more than the supermarket, but I know that they are adding nothing to the meat, they are not "gluing" sections together or anything else you might find elsewhere. The butcher may not know exactly which farm or farmer the meat came from, but he can assure me that they are the best cuts, from a quality distributor, and nothing from outside of the U.S.

You may not live by Zimmerman's, or even close enough to drive, but you can certainly look around for a decent butcher in your location. I asked questions on what to look for in a good butcher, and here are the tips from a butcher:

  1. Don't trust a seller that is underpricing the meat. If something is being advertised as several dollars a pound less than everywhere else, this meat is probably imported from Mexico or another country, and is not quality. 
  2. Find out how long a business has been around, and then ask locals what they think. If it is a new butcher, where did they learn the craft. 
  3. Ask to have a special cut made for you. If the butcher is unwilling to do it, this is not a good butcher. If they are willing to make a special cut, then they take pride in their business and service.

Cleanliness! (This is my rule) Tiptoe and peek at the floor behind the counter, look if you can through the door into the back, look at the hands and nails of the butcher. At Zimmerman's, the floors are spotless, the counters are always clean, the butchers are immaculate, and the whole shop has a nice smell of faint rub spices. I have a pretty keen nose, and I only smell fresh when walking into the shop. Make sure that any shop you buy from is clean with no off-putting smells.

If you can afford the organic, local grown beef and pork, your best bet is to look for a farmer that will sell 1/2 or 1/4 sides of meat. There are butcher shops that will cut the meat for you, (the same as if you bring in a deer...hunters will know where to go!) or you can make the cuts yourself. This way you know exactly where your meat comes from, and buying in bulk will be less expensive that buying individual cuts, but you will not get to choose your cuts, you will get what comes from that side of beef or pork.

In the end, ask questions! The best way to take care of your family is to be informed.