Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Eat Wild

We are meat eaters. We don't eat a lot of meat, but we do have either chicken, pork or beef once a week each, leaving the other days for either leftovers or vegetarian meals. For those of you that are sensitive to the topic of someone shopping for meats, you might want to skip this entry.

Lately, all the news on the effects of the antibiotics and growth hormones used on animals to make them bigger for butchering has me worried and looking for alternatives. Organic meat at the stores around here is crazy expensive and totally out of our reach, so I went on a search to buy whole sale from a local farmer or butcher who uses locally raised animals. As always, following my motto, better to buy local if I can't buy locally organic.

While on a search to find where I could buy wholesale meats from a local farmer I found this great website www.eatwild.com. Eat Wild has a directory of farmers that raise their animals the old fashioned way, pasture fed. These farmers do not treat their animals with hormones or put growth additives in their food. The animals are much healthier and rarely need to be treated with antibiotics or other drugs to cure ailments. Over all, very healthy animals, that taste better and are leaner then their "feedlot" companions. I couldn't have been happier! I found farmers in my province that sell wholesale and keep pasture fed, hormone free animals.

Growing up, my parents bought all our beef and pork from a butcher out in Kitchener/Waterloo. This butcher used meat from his local farmers, most, if not all, practiced traditional farming techniques. We would go early one Saturday morning in the fall and package our meat while it was being cut. My mom loved the fact that she could very easily get her meat cut to her liking, and package it in ways the were convienent for cooking. After all our meat was packaged we'd head over to the farmers market to get two huge bags of yukon gold potatoes to last us the year and some fresh buns and cold cuts for lunch. I can still smell the fresh salami and bread when I think about it.

My husband and I have recently started buying some of our meats in large quantities, not wholesale but still cheaper, and from a butcher that gets his meats from a local farmer. Our next step is to find a farm off this website that meets our needs.

You can do the same for cold cuts and sandwich meats as well. Find a local butcher (not the one in your grocery store, unless you shop at a store that sells organic home grown sandwich meats. If you aren't sure ask) and ask them where they get their meats from. Most are very willing to give up the information because most do buy from local farmers.

So where do you start? I just did a google search "buy meat locally" and came up with a bunch of great websites. Here are a few of them, for both Canada and the US.

Food TV - great article on the movement toward local and organic meats, with links on the bottom of the page for specific provinces. Canadian information only.

Sustainable Table Great site that explains a lot about sustainable eating and local buying. Links to US only markets and farmers, but has a ton of information that is good for everyone.

Eat Well Guide Good for Canada and the US, this allows you to search for restaurants, farms, markets and more that provide local, sustainable and or organic foods. The search consists of province/state, distance, postal code/zip code and or key word.

Just a reminder, buying locally pasture fed meat is going to cost you a bit more because the farmers put more time and energy in to their farming in order to give you a healthier option of food, but the quality and taste will make up for the difference. Ways to get around the cost is to find a farmer that does orders custom to your needs, or share a side of meat with friends who are also conscious of what they are eating. Either way it is still cheaper then buying the organic meat in a grocery store because you cut out the middle man.

I really hope this information helps some of you to find a farmer that is near you and can cater to your needs. When we support our farmers we support the local economy and the environment at the same time. And after all, while the world isn't as small as it used to be, isn't it worth helping the people in our immediate area to help keep life sustainable? I think it is.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Going Plastic Free for Seven Days

A few weeks ago I read in article in The Toronto Star about one writers challenge to go plastic free for seven days. It was a very well written article about her life as a working mom and wife attempting to go without plastic for seven days, including plastic wrap on food items, attempting to convince her son to give up his plastic toys, and realizing her toothbrush and car had plastic components as well. She even found that organic food was often wrapped in plastic.

During her week she did find some great alternatives, such as lunch boxes and cloth produce bags at KaiKids.com, a GREAT store that offers eco-friendly clothing and accessories for the family. Check it out for some great products to help you live more eco-friendly. She mentions a toy store that sells safe, educational and environmentally conscious toys. You can check out the store website at The Toy Space.

While over all it was a great article, I did have some issues with how it presented the "cause" so to speak.

To totally go off plastic is a very very hard thing to do, as the writer points out. Plastic is such a part of our day to day lives that it is pretty much impossible to not run in to it eventually. Attempting to convince a four year old that his plastic toys are bad for the environment and that he should give them away is something that is way beyond the scope of a four year olds understanding. Choosing to use a styrofoam cup over a plastic water bottle while at a cafe has its own consequences. Going to specialty stores for organic foods and toys that are very expensive is not in the realm of the typical person's budget (nor that of the writers, as she bluntly points out while looking at the nice organic milk in the glass bottle).

This type of article and all its frenzied veiws of attempting to live without plastic paints a picture that would totally discourage most people from even trying to make a difference, and that is where my issues land. There are so many other things, better things, that the writer could do to help the environment and in turn avoid excess use of plastic.

The first very inexpensive thing you can do is to stop putting produce in plastic bags. If you have the extra money, Grassroots has great weightless mesh bags that are reusable and cost only $1.50 for 10 bags. Much less than cotton bags, they don't need to be washed and are extreamly strong and durable (although I do want to point out that the great bags at KaiKids.com are made from organic cotton and are sweatshop free. If you have the extra cash they are a great investment. Grassroots doesn't comment on where their bags are made).

Another way to help reduce plastic, bring your own waterbottle. And any reusable water bottle will do. While the stainless steel ones are best, a good old fashioned rubbermaid one works really well too, and they have some with sippy spouts for the younger kids. While it is still a plastic item, you are continually reusing it instead of buying a new bottle each time, cutting down on the use of plastic and emissions caused by bottled water.

Where food type is concerned, I say buy local instead of organic.

My friend recently bought an organic sweet pepper, not realizing until she got home that the pepper came all the way from Iran! Really isn't much point to that, now is there.

Buy buying locally, you are not only contributing to the local economy, you are cutting emisions and helping local farmers to keep afloat. Buying locally has its own challenges though, especially for those of us living in a province/state with four seasons. The winter months can get a little tricky because of the lack of produce being grown.

One thing I always look at is the price sign at the grocery store, or the stickers on the fruits and veggies. They'll tell you where it is from and give you the option of picking the fruit or veggie that has travelled the shortest distance. For instance, if there are two types of tomatoes out, and one is grown in Ontario, I'll get those, even if there is a price difference. First off, they taste better. Much better. And secondly, the cost at the check out is usually only a few cents difference because you don't need as many to get the good taste in your food. Some foods that are grown in a "Hot House" or greenhouse, which helps us get them fresh all year round. Tomatoes and cucumbers fall under that catagory. You can check out more produce availability on your provincial produce farmers website. For Ontario it is Foodland Ontario.

Another great way to buy locally is through farmers or farmers markets. There are so many different alternatives to buying from farmers that it deserves its own page. You can read more about that on my next blog entry (link will be placed here once it is written).

What is really great about the article is the writer does point out that she has become much more mindful of her shopping and eating habits:

"Having to think so much about plastic has made me more mindful of what I buy and eat. Milk is a precious resource when it's $3.69 a litre.

I realize that I shop like a robot in big grocery stores, mindlessly pushing a giant cart down giant aisles. I buy too much and schlep it all home in a dozen plastic bags."

She later points out that her son asks if certain things are plastic, and obvioulsy she has made an impact on his thinking as well.

I think that is the best thing we can do.

Do things in our lives mindfully and with purpose instead of running a muck not stopping to think about the long term consequences on our health and the earth.

Teach each other that there are better alternatives and attempt to work those alternatives in to our lives.

And maybe grow a tomato or two :)