3 Important Elements of Farm Raised Meat

farm raised meatWe had no idea that farm raised chicken was so absolutely delicious. Over the years, we have shared the amazing qualities of fresh eggs, but with farm raised meet, we became instant believers. Never again will we buy a water-pumped, genetically-modified, hormone-infested monster broiler from the super market. Not only do we have no need for it as we now raise our own, but the difference is like night and day. 

I suppose we held off on raising meat birds for so long because of our old urban homestead's space restrictions. Sure, we could free range a small flock of six egg hens with no problem, but bringing in an additional 20 to add to our freezer was a whole different matter. It was a quarter-acre city lot. We would have unbalanced our little homesteading eco-system and probably given up on the whole idea.

When a pasture raised chicken goes into the rotisserie or crock-pot, you can bet that's a mouth-watering moment to experience with the family. There's pride and satisfaction in providing for your family, and we can feel that way everyday. 

We now have the space and the ability to bring our own farm raised meat to the table. Planning ahead, we get a flock of 40 or so of a NH Red and Cornish mix at the end of the gardening season, feed them for two months and send them off for butchering. We're not at a place where we find doing it ourself is economical, so we're OK paying a couple dollars a head for harvesting, cleaning and shrink-wrapping.

Farm Raised Meat

farm raised meat
Not everyone has the ability, the time or the desire to start their own farm raised meat operation. That's OK, it's not for everyone. But, everyone can benefit from the healthy and fresh aspects of going with locally raised meats by discovering their co-op. These are hyper-local production farms, usually on the small scale, that sell farm raised meat and produce directly to the consumer.

Regardless of being raised organically or not, buying local farm raised meat accomplishes a few positive things. The carbon footprint of the meat is greatly reduced in transportation and marketing costs. You are strengthening your connection to your food, helping make better choices for your family's wellbeing. You are directly putting your money back into your community, helping a small farmer buy ballet shoes for their daughter as well as putting food on their table. 

Pasture Raised Chicken

pasture raised chickensThere are also the ethical implications to raising your own or buying farm raised meat locally. Small-scale farms have recognized that healthy animals require less in the realm of antibiotics and parasite inoculations. A free-range, pasture raised chicken requires less commercial feed thanks to it's natural urge to scavenge yumminess on it's own. Chickens are happiest pecking through the grass looking for insects.

This symbiosis between farmer and farm raised meat doesn't mean a long life for the animal, but it does mean it is happy and content while maturing to slaughter weight. How much better is a philosophy of pasture raised chicken versus being locked into a stifling chicken row house with three thousands other birds with no natural grazing opportunities? 

Pasture Raised Pork

pasture raised pork
My brother keeps a few head of pork on his spread in Maine, so our need for raising our own pasture raised pork is a moot point. However, the kids love visiting their uncle and cousin to check out the latest guests in the wallow. Our first county fair of the year has a pig scramble and when the girls enter, their plan is to raise their own piglet. Thankfully, they haven't caught one yet.

Our off grid homestead is just over an acre. We could conceivably bring in 2-3 pigs for pork, but that would mean displacing something else, like the planned fruit orchard or the she-shed. Right now, pasture raised pork isn't in our future. We could, but decided we won't. We'll continue get it from Uncle B.

Pasture Raised Beef

pasture raised beefThen of course, there's cows. Either for milk or meat, our realization is first, We don't want to keep pasture raised beef. Second, we don't want to raise milking cows. Third, a acre filled with other resources just isn't going to cut it for taking on such a project. Pasture raised beef needs space, something we just don't have spare.

That doesn't mean we don't enjoy it in our menu, though. Local co-ops can either sell direct or let us invest in a portion of pasture raised beef for future harvesting. This means we can pay a much lower price per pound ($499 for a 1/8 of a cow with free shipping when bought here) if we place our order when the animal is 'still on the hoof.' When the time comes for butchering, we will get our percentage already packed and ready for the freezer. 

We really enjoy sharing our experiences and lessons learned from our little off grid homestead, and would love to hear from you! What are your experiences with farm raised meat? Do you use a co-op or raise the livestock yourself? Have you tried pasture raised pork, beef or chicken? Let us know in the comments below!