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Home » Explore NH

What does it mean to “Buy Local Meat?”

By Helen Brody (January 5, 2013)

by Carole Soule, Miles Smith Farm, Loudon, NH

Miles Smith farmSo you want to “Buy Local” and support a New Hampshire farmer?   You already search out locally raised meat and buy vegetables at the farmers’ market.  You are a hero in the war on “away” food.  But did you know that the battle is just starting?

Two weeks ago I got a request to provide 8,000 lbs of flank steak a year to a local food distributor.  Wow, you might say, that is a great order and will help Miles Smith Farm finally make a profit in 2013.   But the fact is, if I filled that order my farm would go out of business.  Each beef critter yields, at most, 4 lbs of flank steak.  I would need to process 2,000 animals to provide flank steak to fill this order.  Factory farms that process 10,000 or more animals a day could easily fill this order.  Miles Smith Farm processes about 130 animals a YEAR.  So even, if I could process 2,000 animals I would be stuck with thousands of pounds of the “other cuts”, the ground beef, roasts, steaks and suet after the flank steaks are gone.   Do you now see how an order for 8,000 pounds of flank steak would be the death of my farm?

Then a few days before New Years I received a request to provide 30 pounds of tenderloin steak for a renowned chef.  To fill this order I would have to process 8 animals but would still be left with over a 1,000 pounds of other cuts.  I maintain that any chef, who is skilled and talented, can turn any cut of meat into a masterpiece.  A top chef does not need to start with neutral tasting tenderloin to create a masterpiece meal.  For instance, brisket can be prepared to rival any tenderloin steak dish.  Miles Smith Farm has lots of brisket and can get 30 lbs from one or maybe two critters.  I personally prefer the brisket and chuck cuts because they have more flavor than the tenderloin.  I think the chuck cuts create more of a connection to the animal and they are more flavorful and juicy then neutral tasting tenderloin.

So what is wrong, you ask?  Why don’t chefs ask for those lesser cuts and work magic on them to create a masterpiece meal?  I think it starts with you, the consumer.  When you eat at a restaurant, often for a special event, you have become conditioned by the abundance of factory farm cuts where tenderloin is as available as brisket.  To learn to appreciate local meat it is also necessary to un-learn decades of buying factory farm meat.  Factory farms have trained us to think that any cut is available at any time.  Folks, this is just not the way it is.   We need to un-learn these evil thoughts and abandon the factory farm conditioning we have been exposed to most of our lives.

To buy local we have to learn that every cut is not available all the time and convince our chefs of the same thing.  We have to let our chefs know that it is okay to not have tenderloin available on every menu.  And if tenderloin is on the menu the steaks might not be the same uniform size that a factory farm provides.  To buy local beef we need to be aware of the whole animal.  We used to know this and, if we work hard, we can remember it.

The task is not easy.  It is hard to change, to see local as local that is not colored by the lights of factory farms.  You have come far.  You are buying local meats and vegetables,  You are making a difference.  Now it’s time to keep pushing the bounds to let your chef and your friends know what local meat really means. You can make even more of a difference in the quest for local food.



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