The title of this post could be seen as an oxymoron by many. There are many good reasons to cut down on meat consumption, and many have decided to cut it out of their diets completely. For the rest of us who still enjoy eating meat, it can be tricky to do it in an ethical and sustainable way. Large scale agriculture and the economies of scale they are able to achieve has allowed us to get used to inexpensive meat in our supermarkets, and these low prices have helped to push many meat producers out of the province. It’s almost impossible to discern where your supermarket gets its beef and pork, and what kind of living conditions are provided for the animals.
Luckily for us in Nova Scotia, we have a lot of farmers dedicated to raising animals in pastures and fields rather than locking them into overcrowded barns. Our markets are full of farmers that are proud to tell you about the way they raise their animals and who believe that their humane methods contribute to the best tasting meat you can find anywhere. Many of them encourage making the trip down to their farm to see first hand how their animals get to live. Nova Scotia Agriculture also holds a Farm Day each September where many farmers across the province open up their farms to the public in order to increase our connection to the food we eat and the people who produce it.
Last September on Open Farm Day, I was impressed by all the beautiful heritage breeds of livestock and poultry at Bob and Matt Ottenbrite’s Grass Roots Farm in South Rawdon, and when I was planning my yearly bulk pork purchase this winter, they were some of the first farmers on my contact list. I’ve been interested in charcuterie and fresh sausage making for the past few years (hey, every girl needs a hobby, right?) and was looking for someone willing to sell me unusually large cuts of pork so I could try some more complicated curing projects like prosciutto and capicolla. My visit last fall assured me the meat I was going to buy would have come from animals that had a great life.
This particular farm focuses on raising heritage breed animals, and had extraordinarily good looking poultry and cattle as well! The Tamworth pig pictured above is an old English breed which is adapted to living outside in our climate, likes forest foraging, and generally tends to be better at mothering than breeds designed to grow very quickly. And just as importantly for the connoisseur, this pork tends to be a little more marbled than supermarket stuff, so it’s MUCH more flavourful, and easier to cook without drying out.
There are too many restaurants and producers that produce or sell ethical meat to list here by name, but don’t be afraid to ask about where your meat comes from, and how the animals were raised. You will be rewarded with some tasty meat if you try to seek it out!