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The Slow Meat Guide to the Grocery Store

Jan. 29, 2015

by Caroline Abels, Humaneitarian.org

[Note: This is a guest blog, not an endorsement of any product or organization by Slow Food USA]

Finding game-day meat that’s been sustainably and humanely raised can be challenging, depending on where you live. Usually you can find ground beef, sausages, and pastured eggs at your local farmers’ market— search for your local market here.

But typical game-day foods like hot dogs and wings? Chances are you’ll rely on national food companies for the dogs, and you might be hard pressed to locate even a single responsibly raised chicken wing. Here’s your guide to sorting through the confusion.

Hot Dog

Hot dogs might be the easiest game-day food to cook – but being highly processed, you rarely find them at farmers’ markets. Fortunately, Applegate and Organic Prairie sell hot dogs in many supermarkets (go to their websites to find stores). Just keep in mind that Applegate has both an organic line and a natural line; the organic products are preferable, the certification requires that cattle have access to pasture.

Applegate also sells deli meat for sandwiches: organic ham, turkey, and roast beef.

Chicken wings are the ultimate American splurge, but most factory-farmed chickens can barely even spread those wings when they’re confined. Finding wings from pasture-raised or free-range chickens, however, is nearly impossible. A few regional food companies sell parted chicken, but for small-scale farmers the cost of processing chicken in parts is too high.

Why not buy a whole chicken from your local farmer, then cut it up and serve the parts with Buffalo Sauce?

For sausages – perfect for Italian sausage sandwiches smothered in peppers and onions – there are more choices. Many farmers get their pork and beef processed into sausages for sale at farmers’ markets. When shopping for non-factory farmed sausages at the grocery store, look for one of these labels: grass-fed, pasture-raised, free-range, organic, or humane certified. Just remember, these labels indicate different farming practices: find out more here.

Buff Wings

Ground beef for game-day chili or burgers is the easiest alternative meat to find. Most food co-ops sell packaged ground beef from small-scale farms, while many supermarket chains are now offering grass-fed beef, either from Australia or smaller regional brands. Again, look at the label.

If you want 100% ground beef, make sure the package says exactly that, or look for the American Grassfed certification label. Otherwise, the “grass-fed” cows may have been fed some grain – though many people don’t mind a bit of grain, which yields fattier meat.

For ribs (beef or pork) your best bet is the farmers’ market. Or, if you’re lucky, your local Whole Foods sells ribs that are GAP-rated (Global Animal Partnership), Step 1 through 5.

You can also serve up some egg dishes for your ovo-vegetarian friends. How about deviled eggs? “Cage-free” eggs are better than regular eggs, but the animals’ treatment still varies a lot. Consider buying Certified Humane or Animal Welfare Approved eggs.

Finally, a nod to Tendergrass Farms in Virginia, which sells organic lard (your local farmers market might, too). You can order it by mail. If you want to gild the lily and win serious carnivorous props, cook up some game-day French fries in lard made from organic pork!

For more on how to buy meat with animal welfare in mind, visit the website Humaneitarian, where you can pledge to be a “humaneitarian” – not just on Super Bowl Sunday, but every day.

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