Edible Michiana Spring 2014 : Page 34

BEFORE YOU EAT, KNOW YOUR MEAT 34 edible Michiana early spring 2014

Before You Eat, Know Your Meat

Eating better meat can be as easy as buying directly from the folks who raised it or shopping at your local butcher shop or food co-op. Knowing exactly what you're getting, however, is another matter. Here's our cheat sheet for understanding the labels. And remember: When in doubt, ask your farmer!

For a list of local farms that sell meat through community-supported agriculture (CSA) harvest subscriptions, see our website: EdibleMichiana.com


Indicates cattle relying on pasture or rangeland to supply protein and energy requirements. Generally considered to be the most environmentally friendly manner of livestock production. Grass-fed livestock grow to market weight slower and develop less inter-muscular fat (or marbling). Most livestock are not 100% grass-fed.

Grass-fed meat in Michiana: Middlebrook Farm in Three Oaks, Michigan (MiddlebrookFarm.net) raises exclusively grassfed animals. (See our story on Middlebrook in our Fall 2011 edition, archived at EdibleMichiana.com.)


Like the term "cage-free," "free range" is sometimes used by egg producers to indicate the humane treatment of chickens. USDA regulations, however, specify only that the animal has been allowed access to an area outside of its containment location. The USDA does not specify the area or quality of the outside range, nor does it specify the amount of time poultry must have in the outside range. The USDA has no specific definition for free-range eggs, beef, pork or animal products (such as milk).


Meat raised with concern for the welfare of the animal. There are no nationwide standards, but there are "humane certifiers" (for more information, see Humaneitarian.org) who guarantee certain standards from participating farms. Farmers who call their meat "humane" typically give animals the space to act and move naturally and avoid causing the animals unnecessarily discomfort throughout the life cycle.


A term sometimes used interchangeably with grass-fed, pastureraised describes animals raised on pasture for their entire lives, with the exception of the initial birthing/brooding period. Popularized by sustainable farming icon Joel Salatin, the pasture-raised label means animals that are raised without containment, other than appropriate fencing. The animals are free to roam and forage in farm fields or woods.

Pasture-raised meat in Michiana: Located in LaGrange, Indiana, Gunthorp Farms is one of the largest pastured poultry producers in the country and was recently recognized by ConsumerReports.org for its healthy and sustainable chicken processing. Owned by the Gunthorp family for four generations, the farm raises chickens, ducks, turkeys and pigs on 46 acres of grazing pasture. The animals enjoy foraging on grass and clover pastures and are supplemented with GMO-free corn, soybeans and "Hubbard's Homestead Mineral Mix." All animals are hormone- and antibiotic-free. Gunthorp products, including whole animals, portioned cuts, ground meats, smoked sausages, lard and bacon, are processed on site. The farm does not use bleach to process its chickens. info@gunthorpfarms.com


Certified organic meat must be raised on feed and grass that is free of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Animals must also be antibiotic- and artificial-hormone-free. Few farms in Michiana are certified organic, but many use organic methods.

Organic meat in Michiana: Located in Dowagiac, Michigan, Roseland Organic Farms produces and sells certified organic and grass-fed beef, pork, chicken and turkey. Since 1985, the family has carefully cultivated their 1,000-acre farm into a haven for all things organic. Roseland Organic Farms was one of the first fully organic farms in Michiana, started by John and Merrill Clark, parents of current owner Lincoln Clark. John Clark, a biochemist, turned to organic agriculture after observing the negative effects of conventional chemicals and pesticides on the soil. His wife, Merrill Clark, was the chairperson of the Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance. Today, the Clark family continues to prioritize the health of the soil as key to producing healthy and nutritious meats. roselandorganicfarms@gmail.com


A term used for animal breeds that have unique genetic characteristics or traits that allow them to be well adapted to local environmental conditions or for a particular use or flavor. For example, the Tamworth hog reflects centuries of selection for an outdoor life where they are expected to find their own food. The result is an animal that produces finely grained lean meat, especially bacon.

Heritage breeds in Michiana: From Red Wattle hogs to Bourbon Red turkeys, Grass is Greener Meats and Produce in Bremen, Indiana (page 38 in this issue) is our top pick for heritage breeds.


Though not a claim regulated by the USDA, the phrase implies that the animals have not been administered with antibiotics or hormones throughout their entire lifetimes. It is important to note that federal law bans any hormone use in hogs and poultry (though not cattle) and therefore any label on those products is redundant.


Meat products prepared with respect to traditional ingredients, methods and in small batches. Unlike typical commercial food products, artisan cured, aged and fresh meat products are normally produced from seasonally available ingredients using small-batch or by-hand techniques. As such, quantities of true artisan foods are normally very limited.

Artisan meats in Michiana: The charcuterie and fresh sausages at Local in New Buffalo, Michigan (page 20, this issue) make us feel like kids in a candy shop. Bacon jam, anyone? LocalNewBuffalo.com


Sustainable agriculture is an integrated system of plant and animal production that will, among other things, provide for human food needs, enhance environmental quality, make efficient use of natural resources and enhance the life of farmers and society as a whole.

Sustainable farming in Michiana: Prairie Winds Nature Farm Lakeville, Indiana), featured in our Spring 2013 issue of Edible Michiana archived online at EdibleMichiana.com).

– Maya Parson and Liz Core, with excerpts from "It's All In the Words" by Kjeld Petersen (originally published in Edible Memphis). Photo by Jenny Frech Illustrations by Kathleen Petitjean

Read the full article at http://onlinedigeditions.com/article/Before+You+Eat%2C+Know+Your+Meat/1636756/197468/article.html.

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