Meat Frustrations
Thursday, November 20, 2008
So. I've been thinking about meat lately.

It is a thorn in my side. Specifically, grocery store meat. We've been here 5 months, and my meat suppliers are dropping like flies. I haven't bought meat at WalMart for years. Their prices on meat are not competitive at all, and now they've switched to prepackaged cuts that most likely are infused with carbon monoxide, so it will look fresh when it's long past prime. A carefully aged steak...yum! Sloppily aged pork chop...not so much.

I shop at a store called FoodTown, which seems to be the equivalent of Aldi's. Canned veggies, 3/$1; great cheap produce; strange off brands. I don't buy meat there - the meat department smells bad, and once I showed up eager to snap up 65 cent "fresh" chickens to find them partially thawed (half frozen solid, half mush). No thanks, I'm perfectly capable of giving my family food poisoning all by myself!

Kroger has struck out. I've had to return meat three times last month. The last time, the manager told my husband "Yeah, we've had a lot of that lately..." FiestaMart, another source for great, cheap, hard to find produce (bitter melon? daikon? They have it.) again has a stinky fish section. I chanced it the other day, and ended up returning 50% of my meat purchase which spoiled before the sell-by date. The pork chops appeared to be resting on a bed of algae. Now, that's just nasty!

Currently, my go-to spot for meat is HEB or Sam's Club. Sam's sells a higher grade of meat than WalMart and it's packaged in house. It's more expensive, too.

In Houston, despite having 4 million people and taking hours to cross the city, the health food stores are few and far between. Oh, how I pine for Denver, where there were FOUR major organic health store chains (at least when I lived there - Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Sunflower Markets, and Trader Joe's.) We could afford a free range chicken - if we ate meat once or twice a week.

Kichn linked to an article recently on the cost of meat that made me think, though. Eating meat from the huge slaughterhouses could possibly be a health risk; it also consumes a disproportionate amount of energy and becomes a social justice issue when poorer countries start shoring up our appetite for a juicy steak.

Grain, meat and even energy are roped together in a way that could have dire results. More meat means a corresponding increase in demand for feed, especially corn and soy, which some experts say will contribute to higher prices.

This will be inconvenient for citizens of wealthier nations, but it could have tragic consequences for those of poorer ones, especially if higher prices for feed divert production away from food crops. The demand for ethanol is already pushing up prices, and explains, in part, the 40 percent rise last year in the food price index calculated by the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization.

I've had a grudge against ethanol for a while now, because I think it is outrageous to use food crops to fuel our cars in a world where people starve. I have never considered the implications of buying cheap meat.

And that really is the difference. I do have the opportunity to order freshly killed meat raised on local farms by family farmers. I don't because it costs 3-4 times as much as a roasting hen provided by Tyson from the grocer's bin.

Now the dilemma is before us: Eat less meat, but higher quality from sustainable local farms; or eat cheaper meat that comes, ultimately, at a higher cost?

Back to lentil enchiladas, I think.

Where do you buy your meat?

Art: The Butcher's Shop by Annibale Carracci, from

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posted by Milehimama @ Mama Says at 11/20/2008 09:11:00 AM | Permalink | |