Friday, March 3, 2023

Meat Me 2.0

“I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we've got to do it right. We've got to give those animals a decent life and we've got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect.” - Temple Grandin

Smoked Brisket
Brisket - freshly smoked all day long - ready to be devoured.  No barbeque sauce in sight, that's bark baby!!!

This original "What About the Meat?!" article written in 2021 is one of the very few articles that I have written where I naively assumed it would never ever need to be updated.  Up until that point in time the meat and ranching industry in Northern Colorado seemed to have been stuck in a grimy, oily, sludge and did not seem likely to change anytime soon, let alone change fast.

My how the times have changed, since then, the amount of ranchers in the area has seemingly exploded.  On top of that, the newer ranchers seem to be taking a crap ton of pride in their craft.  They want you to have the best possible meat and they have become a lot more transparent about their entire process all the way from the animals being born through the slaughtering and butchering up until the meat hits your deep freezer.

This has caused the older ranchers to also become a lot more transparent and to re-think how they operate.  For someone who has spent years being very frustrated with the meat industry, I could practically jump over the moon with joy.  I have most certainly been pondering over if the local meat industry actually exploded and became a lot more transparent or if I have just become more immersed in the local community and have met more people who just so happen to be ranchers.  Both are likely true.

The general premise of the original article remains the same.  I personally take a lot of care in trying to only eat meat that comes from local ranchers who are practicing regenerative ranching (which is really mimicking indigenous practices), raise the animals with the utmost care and respect, get them slaughtered and butchered in humane ways & facilities where the rancher knows the meat they are picking up is in fact the same meat from the same animals they took in.

Without further ado, here's where I'm currently getting my meat from:

Grama Grass & Livestock - This operation has become my main source of beef.  You would be hard pressed to find someone who care's more about animals than the owner, Andy, does.  Extremely transparent, they will tell you anything you want to know about their process or how what they do regenerates the earth.  I personally find the way their animals are slaughtered and butchered to be (oddly) very heartening and uplifting because it quite simply can't be done in a more humane way.  These are by far the happiest cows I have ever met, you can walk among them in the fields easily and they could not care less because they are HAPPY!!!  If you are going to eat beef, this is the operation to buy from!  They can also do custom cuts of meat for you because they use small butchering operations and have good relationships with them.

Lazy J Ranch - The place to go for pork.  The owner, Jon, also takes a lot of pride in raising the animals humanely while regenerating the soil and in a way that gets you the best end product.  This is currently the best tasting pork my tongue has met and been able to get my hands on.  Can't beat it!

Black Cat - The main part of their operation is they grow their own vegetables and meat for their restaurants.  Making their restaurants as close to farm to table as you can possibly get.  Chef Eric can be found out in the fields sowing radishes or wrangling animals all the way to preparing the fine dining experience for you that night in their five star restaurant.  The farm stand is a fairly new addition and if you stop by you can usually snag some of the meat that they raised themselves and use in their restaurants (or at the very least a most excellent loaf of Sourdough bread).  Their meat and products can be hard to obtain since their main products get directed to their restaurants but keep an eye on their social media and when they get meat in stock at the farm stand, go down there ASAP.

Locavore Delivery - Stumbled upon this new(ish) service recently and love the concept.  The owner is a former chef who just wants to hook you up with local meat.  Very transparent about the ranches the meat comes from as well as their story plus they deliver it straight to your door.  Not ideal since it puts a middle person in-between the farm and you but hey, if it gets you quality meat and you don't have to go anywhere then I'm all about it.  The bison they offer is what I've been particularly excited about.  Bison ranchers are few and far between and it's even harder to find one who is transparent about the entire process.  The ranch that locavore gets their bison from in Wyoming appears to be doing right by everyone.  They also offer chicken from a farm in Kansas.  Chicken is surprisingly hard to find in Northern Colorado since the closest USDA certified facility for farmers to get their chickens processed at is over 3 hours away in Kansas - thus why Locavore just gets their chicken from Kansas.

Gray Acres Farm - Small operation in the mountains of Colorado and because they are a small operation they process their own chickens themselves!  Yup, no driving out to Kansas for them, they just do the dirty work on their own on their own land - which they're allowed to do because they are a small farm.  Larger farmers have a different set of rules they have to abide by.  Met them over the winter at an event and the owner, Jacob, is also extremely transparent about their process.

Jodar Farms - Pigs & chickens!  The majority of their products go to their meat CSA so hard to obtain if you're not part of that.  They recently started an online ordering and pick-up service, where you can order online and pickup at a disclosed location, close (hopefully) to you.  Nothing like doing drug-like meat deals in random parking lots first thing on a Saturday morning!  Not the easiest operation to get meat from so I certainly prefer Lazy J over them but still an excellent option and they're a joy to talk with about their operation and ranching in general.

Buckner Family Farm - Used to be my main source for beef and pork but they're now more of a backup.  I very much prefer Grama Grass and Lazy J over Buckner.  Plus Buckner supplies the majority of the farm to table restaurants in town so they'll be just fine without the small amount of business that small families bring.

McCauley Family Farm - This one would be higher up on my list but they're unfortunately closing their operation this year so their products will no longer be available.  They've been a great source of meat, vegetables and other random products for Longmont residents for quite a while now.  Their meat was generally only available if you were part of their meat CSA but they switched that up over the past few years and slowly made their meat available to non-CSA members and their meat is dang good.  Having conversations with Marcus is always great and always interesting.  Unfortunately this farm will no longer be an option.

There you have it, that's where I currently get my meat from.  With the majority coming from Grama Grass and Lazy J then sprinklings from the other ranchers here and there.  This is in no way a complete list of ranchers in the area nor a complete list of ranchers that are doing things in a way that regenerates the soil, earth, environment while raising the happiest animals that grace the surface of the earth.  I'm sure there are more out there that I just haven't met or come across yet.

If you live on the front range in Colorado then I encourage you to explore these options as well as seeing what other ranches are around where you live and which ones offer products that agree with what you want to support.  If you live in a different town or country then I encourage you to do the same, engage your local ranchers to learn more about the meat they offer and if they don't raise animals in a way that you agree with let them know that you won't be purchasing meat from them, why that is, and how they can earn your business in the future.

Vote with your dollars and enjoy the meat!

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