I just posted about knowing where your food comes from, how it’s produced.
And you’re saying, “But I don’t know where else to buy eggs! I don’t see local grass-fed beef at Costco! I can’t pay $6/lb for hamburger at the organic grocer’s!”
Sometimes it’s hard. We have to lose that Black Friday lemming mentality that expects to have everything available within reach. Start to realize that what’s within reach are not all the choices, just the choices you’re being offered by one party.
What then? Where do we look? There are blogs all over with answers to these questions. There are websites, but not everyone lists there. I’ll tell you what has worked for us, and what I would recommend.
I found raw milk by talking about it. At Hubby’s company party a few years ago, I spent most of the time nursing Organique and chatting with another wife (whom I’d met before, but didn’t know well). Before long, she called me with a name and number of someone who sold raw milk – who lived about a half mile from me!
Once I bought a beef after seeing a listing in the classified ads. Later, I called the local organic health food store and asked if they knew anyone that produced locally (you might want to be careful on this one. I’d developed a relationship of sorts with them, and they knew I was familiar with their organic beef producer, but wouldn’t even buy it on the hoof from him, due to price. I wanted someone less established, not necessarily certified organic, but feeding green stuff.). They had a # of a guy who had been wanting to market through them, and I ended up buying a beef from him. This time, that man is no longer producing, so I’d been buying black-market beef by the cut from a neighbor, but the taste wasn’t my preference and the inventory was waning. I was at a loss, and praying for some beef! One chilly October afternoon I was driving through our little town on “market day” – the little unofficial farmer’s market they have weekly – and decided to see what people had (there were only 2 vendors there, all bundled up). One vendor was selling fresh produce not entirely local or organic. The other was hawking mostly baked breads and jams and apple butter, but I bought a dozen eggs and got their business card. They were beginning the process of opening a store, they hoped. Later I thought to ask them if they had any grass-fed beef sources, so emailed them. Lo and behold, they were raising a lone steer and wanted a buyer for half, so I put in my order! Thank you, Lord!
I order monthly from Azure, and if they deliver to your area, the drop point alone is probably full of the kind of people who Know. Talk to people, get names or email addresses or find them on facebook, and ask them where they buy their _____.
I’ve bought eggs from self-serve coolers on back porches, after seeing a sign hanging by a country lane. If you see the chickens out pecking and scratching, it’s far-and-away better than anything in the store, whether they’re fed ‘organic’ feed or not.
I found eating chickens (before I made my own) by asking the guy at the feed store if anyone in the area produces chicken they might sell. They know who orders feed by the pallet or truck load. I bought from 2 producers this way; one on-the-way-to-organic, one conventional (but far better than what you see in factory farms).
So, what can YOU do? First, read. Holy Cows and Hog Heaven is the best book of its kind I’ve read. Omnivore’s Dilemma is reportedly good, though I haven’t read it. Learn about the differences between beef fed on grain/soy/chicken poop/chicken guts and beef fed on pasture, and the link to e. coli, the different nutritional profile. Learn about what rBST does to cows, and what it might do to people who drink the milk. Learn about how eggs are processed, whether your producer uses bleach, mineral oil, or other things, or not. Why milk is pasteurized, and why not, and the difference. Ditto homogenization.
Then, talk to people. If you find ONE person who locally buys or produces some of what you’re looking for, chances are they know of an entire network of people. Go to the farmer’s market in season, and talk. I mentioned the Azure delivery point. A health food store that doesn’t sell food might have knowledgable clerks. Check for a bulletin board at the same place. Look for one at the local feed/farm store. Most fliers/business cards there are geared towards conventional ag (at least in our area), but I have seen raw goat’s milk advertised, rabbit meat, and other ‘unconventional’ things. Inspect for yourself (as always!), know what you’re looking for, and you might find a treasure. Attend an organic gardening class or meeting.
Also realize we can’t always have year-round availability of everything. But realize this is the first time in the history of the world where anyone could expect to buy tomatoes in January in the northern hemisphere (but seriously, have you tasted them? They may look like tomatoes, but I don’t think they qualify.). I find there is a gratitude, and better understanding when we’re tied a little more closely to our food. The cow we get milk from is “dry” right now, until calving in January. I purchased a few more gallons toward the later weeks of availability, and put them in the freezer (I’m nearly through with gallon #2). It was a sad, sad day when I’d planned to buy 2 gallons a day before the ‘cutoff’ day – and then learned that she had stopped milking a day earlier due to super-cold temperatures we were having. Sadness! But I am so happy to have a little bit set by, and will be thrilled when January comes around. We haven’t had beef for over a month**, except for some stew I made from a lone soup bone hiding in my freezer. We have a couple weeks yet, and you can bet I’ll love that beef all the more for the wait!
Also expect some difference. Our taste buds are trained to what we give them often. When first we tried raw milk, it was definitely different. Within a couple days, the flavor changed, and it was even more unusual to me. Baking a batch of cookies to dunk in the milk helped, or using it primarily on cereal or anyway-but-straight helped get used to it. Fast forward a few years… Expecting our ‘milk-less time,’ I’ve lately purchased a gallon or two of organic whole milk for the freezer, when it’s on ‘clearance’ and much cheaper. I poured out a portion of milk, so the gallon could expand in the freezer, and drank it, remembering how much I enjoyed this milk (pasteurized though it may be), how ‘neutral’ it tasted, how it was nice that it tasted the same for several days running. 🙂 Well, let’s just say I was entirely shocked. The milk was not sour, or old, by any means, but it was not… good! It tasted, well, just awful. Very weird. It was cool, and refreshing in that fashion, but tasted so off. Maybe it tasted cooked, since it is. Where once I had to bake cookies to go back into the raw milk when the cow was freshened, perhaps now I’ll need to bake them to go back to the nasty pasteurized stuff when the cow dries up! (Nothing like an excuse for cookies, eh?) Of course, there’s the option to go without milk, too, which is probably the more natural, original option.
So, go forth and seek! Look for food outside of the box (store). You will be amazed at what you may find, and blessed.
**Actually, Hubby desired beef very much a while back, so I bought a 3 1/2 lb package of ground beef at a decent grocery store. I tossed the whole thing into a skillet to brown, and had to leave the kitchen for a time. Hubby finished the cooking of it. Later I went in, and shook my head, wondering why he had added so much water to it (he often adds oil to a pan to cook something that has plenty of oil, or water to steam something I wouldn’t 🙂 ). When I saw him, I asked him about it, and he told me he hadn’t added any water at all. But there was a good half-inch in the pan! I was perplexed, and after thinking about it some time, I realized that I have just ‘transitioned’ fully to another product (one that probably took some time to transition into, at first!), that hangs in a cooler for 1-2 weeks instead of the standard 30 hours or so. This greatly affects moisture content, so all other things being equal (which they’re NOT), a longer-chilled carcass will have less water, and what there is isn’t clear, as this was.