When we think of buying local food we may picture a bounty of vegetables at the farmers’ market or CSA, but many local farms also produce meat. The average American eats about 200 pounds of meat per year with the vast majority produced on large-scale industrial farms. These “factory farms,” called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), are coming under scrutiny for being inhumane, unhealthy and anti-environment. Most animals raised in CAFOs are routinely given antibiotics, hormones, genetically modified feed and grains treated with chemicals. Local farmers are happy to explain how they raise their animals. (see p. 13 of the CORV Guide “animals and their treatments”)
Healthier: How an animal is raised and what it eats can impact its nutritional value. Grass-fed beef, for example, has lower levels of saturated fat and (LDL) “bad” cholesterol, and higher levels of vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and conjugated linoleic acid, a compound shown to reduce cancer risks.
Better for the Environment: Local meat is less dependent on fossil fuels as it is not transported long distances. Small farms often practice sustainable production methods (including using composted manure) resulting in healthier soil and less water and air pollution. Buying local meat supports small farmers and they, in turn, support the environment.
More Humane: Small farmers care deeply about their animals, their land and the integrity of their products. This care and small-scale production allow farmers to more closely monitor the health and wellbeing of each animal. This is impossible in CAFOs, where up to 125,000 chickens or 10,000 pigs are housed under one roof and 1,000 cattle are crammed into a single feedlot.
“Feeds” Local Economy: People are becoming more aware of where their food comes from and seeking out local foods, even when less convenient than shopping at the supermarket. Local meat production is a small economy in itself that needs to be supported if it is to survive. It may cost a little more, but consider the hidden costs of the “cheap” meat at the supermarket: (see above).
How to Find it: Local farmers are raising delicious and healthy meats in our region. See the CORV list (p. 9). Next time you shop local, think of local meat too!
Nicole Gunderman is excited about finding ways to support sustainable agriculture. She is an educator at Gorman Heritage Farm and a graduate student pursuing an MA in Biology. A native Cincinnatian, she lives in Clifton with her husband and son.