Community Agriculture Alliance: A case for local meat
June 8, 2017
A trip to the grocery store can lead to an overwhelming number of choices and even more questions: What cuts of meat to buy, prime vs choice, pasture-raised or grass-fed, natural or organic?
We won't try to explain all of this, but ask another question. Have you considered local meat? First, let's define what is local? Many people and most retailers use a 400-mile radius. We are using a much smaller geographic area, saying local meat is raised or grown within the Yampa Valley, fewer than 75 miles. Why does local meat matter? The short answer is, it matters for many reasons. Following are a few to consider.
• Community support. Buying local meat is supporting your neighbors, people who live and work right here in the Yampa Valley. Most of the local ranchers have jobs off the farm or ranch. They are working people who come home to care for animals and the land, working to provide local food. It's supporting fellow community members who volunteer, donate, pay taxes and help make our community a better place. It's making the choice to support our community first vs typical national or international food producers.
• Agricultural heritage and legacy. Since the Yampa Valley was first settled in 1800s, ranchers and farmers have been working the land to provide food for their families and to sell. As the community has changed and our food system has become global, we can stay connected to the land and our ag heritage. Our ranching and farming families have chosen to remain in here, continue in agriculture and live their core values. It might be easier to sell their property and move away, but they have made the decision to stay and continue the hard work of ranching and farming. Family farms also play a vital role in rural areas, stimulating local economies, strengthening community ties and protecting natural resources for future generations. You can make your food dollars count by supporting these farms when you purchase meat.
• Stewardship of land. Our local producers live here, on the same land where their animals are raised. They care about the land and use responsible and sustainable agricultural practices. They recognize the importance of environmental stewardship and use responsible agricultural practices to protect the environment for future generations. When you buy meat from a sustainable farm, you help support these efforts. Additionally, much of the land is under conservation easement, ensuring that the beautiful views, meadows and grazing animals will remain that way in perpetuity.
• Economic impact. Buying local meat makes a direct economic impact for local producers. Every dollar spent, stays here and generates income for the local economy.
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• Ethical reasons. Local producers stand by their products and treat their animals humanely and in the best way possible. Being small-scale allows them to care for individual animals, often bottle-feeding calves or lambs, as needed. On smaller, sustainable farms, animals graze on pasture, carry out natural behaviors and live without undue stress or cruel treatment.
Price. There is an ongoing misperception that local meat is expensive. The reality is that most products are market-priced and similar to retail grocery store prices. Think quality over quantity.
There is no mention nutritional or health claims here. There as many claims or studyies showing positive health benefits of certain types of meat vs others. Our intention is to encourage you to try local meat and then decide. Know for a fact that you will be positively impacting local producers and our community.
Last question: Where and how do I find local meat? If you know a local rancher, ask them if you can buy some meat directly from them. The 4-H Junior Livestock Auction in August is great way to support local kids and eat local meat. And you can shop online at caamarket.org and choose from 16 local producers offering a wide variety of beef, lamb and pork (and soon bison) meat for sale online.
Orders are picked up at CAA offices, downtown Steamboat, on Fridays. Or, stop in at 141 Ninth Street to shop and learn more about why local food matters.
Michele Meyer is local food coordinator for Community Agriculture Alliance.