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Where Does Your Pasture-Raised Meat Come From?

Primal, Paleo, ancestral diets – whatever you want to call it – all have many things in common including the belief that your animal-based protein should come from sources that allow the animal to feed in the manner that is biologically appropriate. Cows (and other animals like sheep, bison, and goats) are ruminants that naturally prefer to graze on grass and short roughage.

Because most average supermarkets predominantly stock meat originating from CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) factories that raise animals on feed grain (including corn, oats, barley, soy, and no grass), consumers looking to purchase organic pasture-raised meat would have to turn to local ranchers and farmers that offered true grass-fed beef, lamb, and bison, as well as pastured chicken and pork.

This champions the return to local, sustainable organic foods, which is attractive to many conscientious consumers and one of the primary reasons I converted to an ancestral diet. Over the years, I became more focused on the quality of the food I was consuming from both a nutritional and environmental perspective. I wanted food sourced from purveyors that were closer to me; I wanted to put a face and name to the food I was consuming more mindfully now. I needed to know that I could trust these sources as I was trying to correct years of damage from making poor food & lifestyle choices. Like many others in Dallas, I know that places like Urban AcresGreen Grocer and White Rock Local Market carry meat from local ranchers like Windy Meadows Farm  and Burgundy Pasture Beef. However like many people in general (especially busy students), my packed schedule demands convenience which is why I often end up grocery shopping at one of many Dallas locations of Central Market or Whole Foods Market instead of the aforementioned local markets. Luckily for me, both chains stock grass-fed beef in a variety of cuts that help make it a bit more affordable (e.g. grass-fed ground beef is always cheaper and more versatile than a grass-fed ribeye, but that I will cover in a separate post).

However, I was surprised to learn that most Grass-Fed Beef Sold In U.S. Comes From Australia , thanks to story on NPR’s All Things Considered. It makes sense that with the growing popularity of grass-fed beef that more grocery stores would need to find a steady large supply. Small local farmers in the United States contend with seasonal shifts (including some extensive droughts over the past two years) that make raising and selling grass-fed beef all year round somewhat difficult. Australia does not experience the same weather patterns and they have an abundance of cheap grassland for grazing cattle. Despite the fact that they are shipping it halfway across the world, it is still cheaper for supermarkets to source this Australian grass-fed beef than buy from a multitude of U.S.-based purveyors.

It is important to me to have high-quality, organic, pastured-raised meats but I also want to support local farmers to reduce my overall ecological “footprint” through carefully considered food decisions. This means that I will sometimes have to forgo convenience shopping in favor of meat purchased through the aforementioned local markets & co-operatives or buying directly from the farmers & ranchers themselves. The pros, which also often includes a cost-savings benefit, far outweigh the cons. I get to know the stories of the local purveyors and I am building a mutually beneficial relationship, one that will sustain me nutritionally and them (albeit in a tiny way) financially. Even some Whole Foods Markets are making the effort to stock meats from regional US farmers & ranchers; the grass-fed beef found in the Southwest regional stores (which includes Dallas) is sourced from Nitschke Natural Beef in Waurika, Oklahoma.  I am happy that WFM actually has a commitment to upholding their core values, which includes serving and supporting local communities, caring about the environment, and creating ongoing win-win partnerships with their suppliers. While Whole Foods Market only carries select cuts of grass-fed beef, it is a welcome start for consumers looking to take control of their health by learning more about their food sources and having a convenient option for better beef.

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2 thoughts on “Where Does Your Pasture-Raised Meat Come From?

  1. Great info! I was lucky enough to find a local farm that sells grass-fed beef. I am happy to be getting a product I can trust while supporting a local business. But they only have certain cuts available unless you are buying a whole side, and of course I am always still looking for other types of meat. So its great to read info on where the “commercially” available grass fed products are coming from. Thanks!

    • I wish I could find a true grass-fed (and not just grass-finished) beef locally but most of the farmers I’ve reached out to use feed grain to supplement and they wouldn’t disclose if they were GMO-free. I know there’s a lot of back and forth on whether or not GMOs are safe but I prefer to err on the side of caution and avoid it where possible. I have to concede that grass-fed would be difficult here given Texas has suffered from so much drought over the last 2-3 years but I won’t give up on a finding a good local source. I keep hearing good things about US Wellness and Tender Grass Farms though so I’m not completely out of luck when it comes to the less-desired cuts.

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