It Pays To Know Your Farmer

If you’ve been reading here for any amount of time at all, you know that I’m a huge advocate of knowing where your food comes from.  From time to time I think about all the years I shopped at the grocery store, not knowing where what I was buying came from or how it got there (and, in some instances, what was in it), and I’m simply appalled.

We’ve gone to great lengths over the last couple of years to right what I feel was an egregious error, at least on my part – I am, after all, the person who feeds my family.  We’ve visited the farms where our cows, hogs, chickens and (more recently) goats are raised, and have gotten as up-close and personal with the animals as is practical.  We recently joined a CSA co-op that requires we work on the farm for a certain amount of hours.  We talk to the farmers at the markets we attend about how they raise their fruits and vegetables and where their farms are located.  The legitimate small farmers will not only tell you exactly where their farm is, but give you map coordinates to the very field a particular vegetable was grown in, then invite you to stop by and visit.

We’re also concerned about how the animals that provide our food are treated and have been to each and every farm where they are raised – multiple times.  We ask questions about the pasture they roam on and any supplemental feed they receive.  We’ve been to the hen house where the chicken who lay our eggs live, and have watched them run about the farm, and have even seen our Thanksgiving turkey out in the field, getting fattened for our celebratory meal.  In fact, we’ve become reasonably good friends with the farmers that raise our beef, pork, chicken and eggs.  They are marvelous people.

(Interestingly, while I was composing this post, we received this email from our beef farmer, Jon Berger of Green Vista Farm in Wooster, Ohio:

“When you get a chance let me know how the last beef is. You guys know how to cook it and will be objective but I want to always be aware if we have given them adequate finish. The modern beef industry considers fat as the primary quality indicator, which under a grass fed program is not a bad thing even though it will kill you with commodity beef. With corn being their main energy source, fat is not as relatively expensive to produce on a carcass as it is with a grass fed animal. Nevertheless I want to know the parameters under which I need to work with our type of beef and still have a high quality product. Thanks a bunch.”

Indeed, it pays to know your farmer.)

We also care, very much so, how the animals we eat spend the last moments of their lives – how they’re treated at the abattoir, and how they’re killed.  How they’re processed, too, of course.  And if we’ve become reasonably good friends with our farmers, we’ve become even better friends with our butchers.

The Perkins family, who own and operate Whitefeather Meats in Creston, Ohio are some of the friendliest – and most knowledgeable – people we’ve ever met.  They know their business inside and out (and are very generous in sharing their knowledge), so when they invited us to come watch, and allow me to document, the butchering of our most recent side of beef, we jumped at the opportunity.  Not only did we get the opportunity to watch, and give our feedback on, the cutting of the cow we’ve affectionately named “Patty” but were given a tour of their entire facility, from the hanging rooms to the kill floor.  And when we expressed an interest in watching the actual slaughter process, they didn’t hesitate to extend us an invitation – so we’ll be going back soon for that.

It’s taken me three weeks to process half the photos I took that day – I simply have not had the time – and there are quite a few.  Since I’d like feedback from the Perkins as well (and want to send them the photos for their own use), this will be a series of posts, most likely over the next couple of weeks, in which I’ll show and explain how this

Sides of Beef

becomes this

Ground Beef

And everything in between.

Have a lovely weekend, y’all.

Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday

9 thoughts on “It Pays To Know Your Farmer”

  1. It’s my own squeamish nature that won’t let me get near a live animal knowing it will become my dinner, but I am taking Sprite to her very first Farmer’s Market tomorrow to help me pick some fresh organic fruits from a farm about fifty minutes away. (They’re doing a test on our area to see if bringing their haul is profitable. I’m hoping so!)

  2. Oh, that brings back memories of butcher class in school. I went to a CAFO lot to see the slaughter first hand. A life changing experience!
    The sides remind me of butcher class where that’s what we started with. Give me my hacksaw and scimitar, and let’s go to town! (Mind you – it’s been almost 14 years since I last broke down a carcass into primals!)

    Sadly, they don’t really teach that in schools anymore…

  3. I really should get friendly with a local farmer, especially since I have an upright freezer in the basement. My parents went in on a cow with some friends of theirs years ago (I think they still do that now, too) I remember the hamburgers and steaks from that cow were the best we’d ever eaten. 🙂

    Looking forward to seeing the whole pictorial process from beginning to end! 🙂

  4. I found you over at Irish Gumbo where I was shouting “amen” to your comment leaving my husband slightly puzzled. lol I was raised on a ranch where we went grocery shopping twice a year….mostly for flour and sugar. We made everything else–even our soap. (dear lord, do I not miss that part) I have three boys now and am flabbergasted at the thought of them finding wives who can even understand how important this issue is, much less be willing to put forth the effort that living WELL, requires. That effort is such a joy to me. 🙂

  5. This is, as always, inspiring. I have recently started getting locally grown, organic produce delivered to our house. I’m LOVING it, and I LOVE the delivery, but the problem is that they come at the crack of dawn, and I never meet the farmers. I think I’d really like chatting with them. I guess I could switch to picking up from the local CSA place, but I know myself, and I’d forget to get over there about half the time. Hmmm.

    1. Wake up and meet them at the door with a breakfast treat or a cup of coffee! They will love it and take a few minutes to sit and talk with you. We gave a jar of homemade lard to our poultry farmer just this morning – we rarely get out of there in under a half hour and enjoy the time.

  6. I am really looking forward to this series. We have a first generation grass fed beef farm, we have beef cows (obviously), free range chickens, last summer got meat goats, this summer we are trying pastured meat chickens and selling vegetables. We love growing food. We love how satisfying it is to eat it ourselves and share it with others. Not saying it isn’t hard (especially being first generation) but this is what we are passionate about. Reading your blog always makes me feel good about what we are doing especially when we are having a bad day on the farm. I can’t wait until we have a goat to butcher. I have a quick question… when you bought your goat, did your farmer advertise it as goat meat or another name like chevon, mutton or cabrito? We are just thinking of how we want to market because calling it “goat meat” can turn some people off. BUT we do have to sell it as a live animal for butcher if we don’t take it to a butcher with a USDA inspector on staff.

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