From climate change to ethical farming practices, raising and eating meat is one of the thorniest questions we face. But, as families who care about their own health and the health of our shared environment, we know that eating less meat, and the highest quality meat, is essential. This doesn’t mean seeking out the most expensive cuts… what matters is the quality of how the animal is raised. Hamburger from a healthy animal is as beneficial as the filet mignon. No difference.
So, full disclosure: the reason I am writing about beef is that our prices are about to go up. We asked our two cattle farmers to ramp up production last year when demand for healthy meat skyrocketed—and they did everything they could to do that. We have been reluctant to raise our prices to compensate for the additional cost because we did not want to take advantage of the grave shortage of healthy meats, but now we really have to bump the prices modestly.
The ground beef that we get from our farms is not your average ground beef. Typically a hamburger is made of ground up trim (all the meat pieces that cannot make steaks or other higher value cuts). Our farmers take pride in the quality of their beef and have their butchers include the brisket, top and bottom round, and some of the select sirloin in addition to the trim. This kind of ground beef is referred to as ground steak.
The industrialization of meat production has allowed for horribly inhumane treatment of animals that were long considered essential and cherished members of a healthy farm. The top priorities have become increasing efficiency and scaling up to reduce time and costs—at the expense of these animals’ health and, consequently, our health. Most industrially-raised beef are very sick when they go to slaughter.
By contrast, traditionally raised and healthy animals provide us important proteins, fats, amino acids and nutrients. These are only produced by animals eating a diet of grass and forage. Pasture-raised, healthy animals are also crucial to regenerative farming, a major solution for carbon sequestration and the healing of the planet. For instance, grassfed animals are less energy intensive as they do not rely on corn and soy crops (which require fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, and other inputs) for feed. In essence, grass and forage grow and cows mow it down, bypassing the need for tilling and thus avoiding severe soil erosion. Farmers save on veterinary costs because their animals eat what their bodies were designed to eat.
So this week, before we have to raise the price, enjoy some ground steak the way we do here at Farmers To You. Each week I cook staff meals for our packing crew, a cherished part of our culture here at Farmers to You, and I make the following on regular basis:
Greek Meat Balls – Search online for a good recipe, and know that many make this much more complicated than it needs to be. Everything is in the spices! Add plenty of mint, with a touch of oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and coriander and some pine nuts. It does not matter if you fry or bake the meatballs, or if you use just beef or some lamb or pork too. They will be amazing! Both my grandmothers ALWAYS made their recipes sound extremely complicated. One of them reliably left out a key ingredient, so we could never make it quite as good as she could. You do not need a special sauce either. Try some good yogurt with some tartness to it – Butterworks Organic Whole Yogurt is perfect!
Lasagna – Use Valicenti’s Red Sauce or Alla Norma Sauce to save time!
Shepherd’s Pie – Use a bit of cumin and allspice when browning the beef to add even more savoriness. With frozen corn and Organic Mashed Potatoes you’re ready to put it together and slip it into the oven.
Meat loaf – Good for dinner, for lunch sandwiches, and even fried up for a breakfast treat!
Chili – There’s nothing better on a cold day. Cook it slow and low to get the best flavors and try our new organic Marfax Beans—they hold together so well and have a creamy, nutty flavor.
Sloppy Joes – Again, cheat with Valicenti’s Pizza Sauce after you brown the meat. I have never seen a fussy eater refuse sloppy joes on good bread.
Bolognese Sauce – So easy with Valicenti’s Red Sauce. Just brown the meat with salt and pepper, add the sauce, and simmer for an extra 15 minutes.
I make all of these almost exclusively with our farmers products. True Vermont meals!
All of these ideas are great for repeats during the week. Consolidate your cooking to a couple of days a week when you have the time, patience, and headspace to do it. Then enjoy the fruits of your labor all week long.
We hope you enjoy the beef, and please share some of your meal ideas with all of us here at Farmers To You! I’m always looking for culinary inspiration to feed our fantastic (and hungry) team here at the Hub in Vermont.