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Buying local meat: Step 2 – Find your farmer

10 Jan


My favourite farm family: The Irelands.


Next up in this buying local meat series: How to find your farmer.

Depending on the type of area you live in, finding a farmer can range from a simple phone call to a countryside adventure.

I recommend word-of-mouth as the preferred method. However, if you’re the first of your peers to make this foray, you will need to do your own investigating.   It’s important to connect directly with the farmer if you want to maximize the economies of scale.


Besides The Google, here are some ways to find a local farmer:

  • Check the labels on the meat at your local grocery/market to see where their product is coming from.
  • Snoop around your favourite butcher shop.
  • Browse local food publications.
  • Ask your favourite chef or restauranteur.
  • Stroll through farmer’s markets.
  • Look up the local farmer’s association.

Questions to ask before signing up:

  • Product: How is the livestock raised?  Is it free-range? How and what are they fed?  Are they organic? What types of meat are available?
  • Processing: How is the meat butchered? Is it aged? Can I customize cuts/portions?  How is it packaged?
  • Regulations: Is the farmer licensed by the local authority?  Is the processor?
  • Cost: What is the price per pound?  Is that gross (hanging/carcass) or net (actual product) weight? Are there additional processing charges?
  • Contract: How often do they accept orders?  Is there a cut-off date? Is there a deposit?  What kind of payment do they accept?  Pick up or delivery?

Take your time deciding; this is a big investment.  As you find answers to your questions, you’ll also glean extra information about the product and the people.  You’ll probably start to have questions of your own as you determine what’s important to you as a consumer.  Depending on the time of year, you might be able to get in a smaller order of poultry to trial before making a larger order.

BC Farm Fresh directory



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Local eating: start with your proteins

9 Jan

Beef au Jus: Entirely made from things harvested and grown within 20km

There are innumerable reasons to eat local – depending upon your appetite and tolerance for the facts.

If you’re an optimist, you might do it because you believe in supporting local farmers and businesses.   If you’re a pessimist, it might be due to the reoccurring nightmares caused by watching Food, Inc.  Or perhaps it’s just because it’s trendy. (I’m fairly confident that anyone who’s bought a pair of wellingtons in the last decade has a food foraging fantasy.  Mine’s collecting mushrooms and wild greens to make pizza over a campfire).

Whatever the reason, the impact of buying local is significant and the rewards are delicious.

aL’s top 5 reasons for buying local meat:

  • It’s good for the environment.  Eating local meat is an effective way to reduce your carbon footprint (besides doing something crazy, like becoming a vegan…)
  • It builds community.  Farmers are hard working, dedicated and generally pretty awesome people to know.
  • It’s high quality.  Small-scale producers can take the time to manage their operations organically.  This means every morning they open the paddocks to let their cattle feed on grass.
  • It’s good for your imagination.  Eating nose-to-tail forces creativity (there’s only so many porterhouse steaks cut from a cow…so you’re going to have to learn to do something with the rest of it).
  • It feels right.  I drove through Texas once and was deeply disturbed by the cattle feed lots nestled right beside the eight-lane interstate. That, coupled with a few food security fiasco’s like the 2012 XL Foods beef recall, made me consider my options.  I wholeheartedly believe that happy chickens are tastier.

I am fortunate to live in an area where dozens of dedicated farmers coax amazing food from the land.   One of my favourite farms is owned by the Ireland Family.  They raise the sirloin that sizzles on my barbecue, the pork chops in my smoker, the lamb braising in my oven and the chicken in my soup; and all just 15 km away from my kitchen.  There are several wonderful shops that sell their meat around town. However, I prefer to deal farmer-direct.  Over the last few years, it’s become a tradition I share with a few friends.  We get together to butcher and vacuum seal our chicken, make our own stocks, swap recipes, and save some cash. (On average, we save 25-40% off the market prices).

Now, many people will get hung up on the idea of only getting beef, pork and lamb once a year, but fear not!  Over the next month I’m going to dish out some tips to make this easy.  And hey, if you really need more rack of lamb, there’s always more at the store.

Top 10 food documentaries to watch on Netflix (via The Kitchn)
Article about Ireland Farms (via Red Barn Market)
XL Foods scandal; one year later (via McLeans)


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App review: Bread Baking Basics by Michael Ruhlman

6 Aug

Four years ago Steve Jobs introduced the world to the iPad.  Initially I was skeptical of the practicality (and the name) of this device.  I had an iPhone and a MacBook…why did I need more technology?   Despite my reluctance, I did see a good application for them at work.  The office bought two first generations and I used one from time to time for surveys, presentations and note taking.  It was useful, but it was also a $699 novelty I didn’t think was worth my personal investment.  Lucky for me, in 2012 I randomly entered a contest from ING Direct and won a 2nd generation iPad.  Now that the Kool-Aid was free, I decided it was mighty tasty!

One of the first apps I bought was Bread Baking Basics from Michael Ruhlman.  It provides a great step-by-step method on making a variety of home made breads.  The best feature of this app is that the ingredients can be scaled.  Need to make three baguettes?  Or only have 600grams of bread flour?   Simply dial in your figures and the app calculates the ingredients.  It can be adjusted to a variety of measurements, and is based upon Ruhlamn’s overall ratio methodology.


This is just one example of the usefulness I’ve found for the iPad in the kitchen.  What’re your favorite kitchen apps?


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