“If God did not intend for us to eat animals, then why did he make them out of meat?” -John Cleese
After watching Food, Inc. (and others) and reading fantastic books and articles on nutrition and food — I’ve recently begun taking a more real interest in the food I put into my body by gradually incorporating that knowledge into my shopping choices. For example, caring not just about what YOU eat, but about what YOUR FOOD eats is a huge paradigm shift for most Americans. It matters with vegetables, of course, but it’s even more important the higher up you go in the food chain. The problem, however, if you don’t personally know any farmers, is that it can be a challenge to find reliable, high-quality meat and dairy. (As an aside: If you want to be approached by strangers at the supermarket, just shop in the tiny 100% grass-fed beef section of Kroger. They will have about 3 or 4 cuts to choose from and, if you stand there looking at them for more than a minute, someone will come up and ask you why you would pay 50-100% more for “the same” meat.)
Knowing that my diet is trending towards the organic, grass-fed/grass-finished variety of meats, my parents purchased me a Groupon for a meat assortment from a local shop called Pure Pastures in Dearborn Heights, Michigan (there is another location in Plymouth, MI). Not really knowing what to expect, I popped over there to pick up my gift.
Spoiler alert: it’s awesome.
You’d easily drive by it on a busy street like Telegraph. There’s no huge parking lot or giant sign like your commercial grocer; just some simple graphics saying “organic”, “non-GMO”, and “gluten-free” on the outside (plus a particularly charming sign that reads “March against Monsanto” that made me smile). The inside looks less like a grocery store and more like — and this is the best way I can think to describe it — a garage sale for food. It sounds funny, but it quickly becomes charming.
Upon entering, I’m greeted by a tiny terrier, who wiggle-walks his little 2 lb body up to me.
Looking up, I’m warmly welcomed by the store owner, Mary — with her pink highlights and ‘Friends of the Dearborn Animal Shelter’ t-shirt — who explains that the little guy is a rescue who was found in a 95-degree car outside of the local Benihana while the owners ate comfortably inside. Her next questions are about me and the type of diet I follow so that she can proceed to give me a tour of the store and point out things which may be of interest to me. Since I’m eating low-carb, moderate-protein, high-fat right now, she skips the gluten-free section and heads right to the meat.
And, let me tell you, Arby’s does not have the meats. Mary has the meats.
All along the perimeter of Pure Pastures are freezers and refrigerators, but not like what you’d find at Meijer or Whole Foods. These are the plain white models you might find in your garage and, to know what’s inside, you’ll have to read the printed price list posted on the front or open them to see the treasures within.
Almost every single item is from the state of Michigan and delivered by the farmers themselves. Some of the packaging looks professional and some is definitely not (vacuum sealed steaks with homemade stickers and chicken in gallon-sized Ziploc freezer bags with dates written with a Sharpie). The “brands” aren’t so much brands as the names of the farms on where they were raised.
Here’s what you can get (all organic):
• Free-range chicken
• Grass-fed/grass-finished beef (most American beef is corn-finished because cows get fat the same way humans do…)
• Pasture-raised pork
• Grass-fed/grass-finished lamb
• Free-range turkey
• Wild boar
• Wild-caught Alaskan salmon
• A few others I’m forgetting
For each of the categories, you can get just about any cut (or in some cases, “piece”) of the animal, plus as many types of sausage as you could ever want.
There is also a dairy case with raw milk cheese and free-range eggs.
What seals the deal is that, on top of the selection, the prices are very reasonable when considering all of the time and care that goes into raising and preparing these animals and the resulting quality and nutrient-rich food that will become your body.
After leaving with my Groupon haul, plus a 12 oz beef ribeye and a pound of uncured bacon with sea salt, I sit in my car for a moment, before running back in:
“Hey Mary – you don’t happen to carry raw milk, do you?”
Mary looks up from the customer she’s with at the counter and says (almost deviously), “Well, no… but I’ve got a connection I could give you to look up… and his truck might be parked behind the store every (insert day/time here) if you make the arrangements.”
So, now I have a new place to buy all of my farm-fresh, organic meat.
And a milk guy. I now have a milk guy.
Additional note: Raw milk should really just be called milk. Since Americans no longer buy their milk from a “milkman” or the farmer who milked the cow, the USDA has mandated that all milk be pasteurized and homogenized. Because it is pasteurized (boiled, killing all of the good bacteria that helps your flora) and homogenized (removing the milk fat that naturally separates, but contains the majority of the nutrients), that 2% or even whole milk that you buy from the drugstore is really just white sugar water with some calcium.
Trust me when I say that American “milk” does not even taste remotely like real or “raw” milk – which is WAY better tasting and WAY better for you. I’ve only had the pleasure of experiencing this as a child when I visited Indonesia and it was so good that I still remember the taste to this day.