You don’t have to give up your favorite fleshy entrees in order to eat ethically — but it won’t be as easy as swinging by Walmart for a $6 pound of ground beef, either.
Cutting out the middlemen in the food supply chain takes some legwork on the part of farmers and consumers, but has numerous potential environmental, economic and health benefits. Step one is knowing who and where your local producers are and arranging a meat-cute.
Browse this list of tips, farms and CSAs (short for Community Supported Agriculture, a way of pre-ordering produce directly from producers), and meat shops as a starter pack to a guilt-free meat diet in eastern Iowa.
Hit the farmers market or take a drive. Meet your meat farmer where they’re at. Most welcome visitors to the farm, and are happy to explain their practices and prices. Build a relationship with the person who raised your Thanksgiving turkey.
Freeze! Buying in bulk or joining a meat CSA can save you money and shopping trips, but only if you eat what you buy. Label and store your meat properly, and consider investing in a deep freezer.
Ask restaurants where they get their meat, especially those that claim to be farm-to-table. You may feel like a Portlandia hipster, but it can encourage transparency on the part of local businesses and let them know customers care about their suppliers.
Don’t be afraid to try something new. If a seller you trust recommends a cut or product not on your list, consider expanding your palate. Ask questions, search out new recipes and offer feedback. Who knows? Venison, beef tongue or ground ostrich (all lean!) may become your new craving.
Avoid waste. Food waste represents around 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The single best way to reduce your carbon footprint — not to mention save money — is to eat the food you buy. Track your meat intake, save up for a bigger freezer, host an impromptu dinner party, donate food — whatever keeps it out of the landfill.
These farmers have easy-to-navigate websites for folks new to buying meat direct from the farm. For a much more exhaustive directory of Iowa farms, visit practicalfarmers.org
Crooked Gap Farm (Knoxville)
crookedgapfarm.wordpress.comFarmers: Ethan and Rebecca Book
The meat: Woodlot-pastured pork, grass-fed beef and lamb, rabbit, poultry
Offers a customizable “you choose” meat CSA. Delivers to Knoxville and Des Moines
Heartland Fresh Family Farm (South Donnellson)
Farmers: Leslie and Mark Hulsebus
The meat: Pastured beef, free-range poultry
Delivers across Iowa and the Midwest
Humble Hands Harvest (Decorah)
Farmers: Hannah Breckbill, Emily Fagan and Emily Spangler
The meat: Pastured pork, grass-fed certified organic lamb
Offers a vegetable CSA with meat add-on Available at the Decorah Farmers Market.
Jóia Food Farm (Charles City)
Farmers: Wendy Johnson and Johnny Rafkin
The meat: pastured chicken, organic-raised pork, grass-fed lamb
Offers a meat and eggs CSA, with monthly pick-up at the farm
Midwest Best Beef (Holy Cross)
Farmers: David and Annette Hill
The meat: Grass-fed and grain-finished Angus beef, pasture-raised Berkshire pork
Offers a monthly, customizable beef CSA for pick-up in Dubuque, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. Available at the Iowa City and Dubuque farmers markets
Over the Moon Farm & Flowers, Coggon
overthemoonfarmandflowers.comFarmers: Shae Pesek and Anna Hankins
The meat: Heritage breed Berkshire pork, Pesek Family Farm Angus beef, pasture-raised chicken and turkeys
Offers a monthly meat CSA (fall is full, but spots are still open for winter, as of Oct. 1). Delivers to Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Marion and Manchester
Rehberg’s Pork (Walker)
Farmers: Donny and Lea Rehberg
The meat: Berkshire pork, raised unconfined and on a vegetarian grain/soybean feed
Available at the Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Marion and Hiawatha farmers markets
Striegel Acres (Oskaloosa)
Farmers: Marion and Marj Striegel
The meat: Free-range ostrich (red meat, low-fat)
Available for online order
Twisted Oaks Meats (Tipton)
Farmers: The Bierman family
The meat: Grass-fed beef, pastured pork and lamb, free-range chicken and turkey
Available at the Iowa City Farmers Market, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Delivers to Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, West Branch, Davenport and Des Moines
Wallace Farms (Keystone)
Farmer: Nick Wallace
The meat: Grass-fed beef
Offers shipping and local pick-up
West Fork Farmstead (West Chester)
Farmers: Brian, Nancy and Natasha Wilson
The meat: Grass-fed beef, heritage pork, pastured chicken
Delivers to Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, Kalona and Wellman
Big Boy Meats
1100 3rd Street SE, Cedar Rapids
401 E Market St, Iowa City, johnsgrocery.com
Nelson’s Meat Market
1140 Old Marion Rd NE, Cedar Rapids
New Pioneer Food Co-op
22 S Van Buren St, Iowa City
1101 2nd St, Coralville
3338 Center Point Rd NE, Cedar Rapids
Don’t see your favorite farm or store? Let LV know!
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 299.