The local food movement is still going strong here in the North Country.
During the winter months we tend to be focused less on the fresh fruits and vegetables and more on the products we can access out of season: honey, maple, dairy, eggs, storage crops, value-added items like jams and mustards, and especially locally raised meats.
We have many farmers raising beef, poultry, pork, bison, lamb, goat and rabbit, but buying meat from your farmer down the road can seem like a puzzling prospect. The cuts may not look exactly as you’re used to, the price may seem too high, and depending on the method by which they were raised (e.g. grass-fed vs. grain-fed), the cooking styles may need to be adjusted.
This is a great example of why it’s to your advantage to get to know your farmer. The farmers I know are chock-full of information about how their animals are raised, the various cuts of meat and great recipes to help you turn that brisket into a melt-in-your-mouth meal.
Depending on the farm, it may save you money to buy meat by the quarter, half or whole animal. This is known as the “freezer trade” because unless you are planning a large feast, you’ll want to freeze the bulk of the meat. Buying freezer trade meat can mean easier marketing for the farmer (moving larger quantities at one time) and often lower prices for the consumer. However, few of us have the freezer capacity for half a pig much less a whole beef.
This is why I was intrigued when Matt LeRoux, my colleague at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Tompkins County, introduced us to his new venture down in Ithaca: The Finger Lakes Meat Project. It’s a two-pronged approach, providing both a sales venue and storage capacity. There’s a website, www.meatsuite.com, which connects meat farmers with consumers. Currently, most of the farmers are in the Finger Lakes region, but the website is available to any meat producer and we hope to eventually include out all of New York state.