First of all – Happy Fourth of July!
It’s a rainy day here in Atlanta, which means no grilling, but we’re still having a great day sitting out on our screened-in porch. We have a plan for a 5 course dinner tonight to celebrate one year of being in our great little house:
We hope to post some of the highlights from that meal later, but for now, we thought we would talk about a few bigger issues that have been on our minds recently. We’ll keep it short here on the blog, because there’s plenty of reading material to follow.
In law school, I took a class on animal law. As one of the few meat eaters in the room, I often had unique opinions. Many of my fellow students were drawn to the class looking for a legal and moral argument against meat or animal products in any form. A quick glimpse of this blog will show that we didn’t all see eye to eye. That said, I do believe that animal welfare should be a priority, and like most, prefer the idea of locally raised, humane meat over industrial agriculture producers any day.
Outside of the confines of that class, I’ve continued to mull over that idea. It’s hard to really state the nuances beyond the basics listed above. So, instead of forcing you to sit through my ramblings, I offer the best piece on animal welfare and meat that I’ve read: Michael Pollan’s An Animal’s Place. It was published in the NY Times Magazine back in 2002, but is every bit as relavent today. We definitely encourage you to take the time to read it.
Even after thinking about all of these issues on a regular basis, it’s hard to actually act on it. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve jumped on a cheap pork tenderloin or Tyson chicken thighs just because the sale sticker was too good to pass up. As much as we love Whole Foods and Fresh Market and the ideas of responsibly sourced meat, the reality is that it’s expensive and hard to get. This is especially true when you’re just shopping for mid-week meals.
This past week, I read another article that really got me thinking about all of these issues again, except this one provided a concrete action plan. The article appeared in Atlanta’s Creative Loafing. Written by Wyatt Williams, it talks about ‘The Future of Big Chicken‘ in Georgia. (Not this big chicken, but the poultry business in general). Georgia, by the way, is home to 240,000,000 chickens. Williams contrasts two companies – one big ag company pretending to be an all-natural, green & sustainable source (mainly through packaging) and another that’s an honest-to-goodness farm.
The latter of the two, White Oak Pastures, represents most of our new action plan. Which, simply, is to buy meat from them. They’re located in South Georgia, have quite reasonable prices, and are a fourth (going on fifth) generation farm. The Global Animal Partnership rates their animal welfare in the 4-5 range, which is just about as good as you can get. More importantly, here’s what Will Harris (the head farmer) has to say about animal welfare:
“As a fourth generation stockman, I offer folks some ‘Southern Cowboy Common Sense’ on how to recognize good animal welfare: If you would like to open up a lawn chair and drink a couple of glasses of wine while you watch the animal, then you have good animal welfare. No normal person enjoys watching a hen in a battery cage or a sow in a farrowing crate, or a steer wading in its own excrement.”
The farm looks to be an amazing place. We hope to visit it soon, but will also surely be buying our meat from there as much as possible.
The second part of our action plan focuses on another farm in South Georgia: Thompson Farms Smokehouse. It’s also a family-run farm, and was the first in world to receive a 5+ rating from the Global Animal Partnership listed above. Again, our plan is to buy from them.
Raising animals for meat in a responsible, sustainable way is not cheap. Farmers who choose this route are taking on big risks, and the only way to really support them is to buy their amazing products. Even if you couldn’t care less about how the animals themselves are treated, don’t you want better tasting, cleaner, healthier meat? We do!
Once you go to these farms’ websites and place an order, may we suggest a simple dry rub for a grilled pork chop? Just assemble the following in a small bowl:
- 1 T coriander
- 1/2 T salt
- 1/2 T pepper
- 1 t cinnamon
- 1/2 t ancho chili powder
- 1/2 t mustard powder
Apply a healthy portion of the rub to each pork chop and get the pork chops to room temperature while you heat up the grill. After applying the dry rub, give each slide a light spray of cooking oil to ensure adhesion. Depending on the width of the chop, grill 4-6 minutes on each side to get to medium. Serve with fingerling potatoes, wilted greens, apples, or anything else you can think of.
Have a great fourth of July!