Eating Local Meats

Reader Contribution by Gavin Dinnel
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One of the goals I’ve had ever since we started here at Dinner Time Farm was for 95% of our meat consumption to be raised here on our farm, caught by us, or traded for from other local producers.  

That seems like quite a lot, doesn’t it? It certainly was a little daunting at first, but now that we are into our second full year of raising animals I feel much more confident about us being able to reach this mark. But what does 95% of our meat consumption look like? What do I need to shoot for?

For us, we enjoy eating a variety of protein and we want to have a freezer full of different types of meats to meal plan with. This year I really think we can get very close to meeting this goal and this is how I plan on doing it.

The main way we will meet this goal is raising pork. Pork is the mainstay of our meals and the mainstay of our farm. It is the one thing we’ve done here that pays for itself and we are able to use extra pigs that we don’t sell to trade for other local food and meats to meet our goal.

This year we set aside two full pigs just for trades! So far, we have trades set up for canned salsa, canned spaghetti sauce, green beans, juice and jam. Forty pounds of rabbit and monthly loaves of bread and milk! We of course also have one pig set aside for ourselves, and that should be around 120 pounds of meat in our freezer.

Let’s take stock so far of what we should have this year of just meat.

120 pounds of pork

40 pounds of rabbit

Definitely a great start, but we like variety and we’re missing a couple other options. One of those is of course, chicken. My wife and I do a great job of cooking whole chickens and using that for several meals but we don’t get the opportunity to do it often because we haven’t raised them ourselves and haven’t found a trade partner. This year I hope to be able to raise 20-25 chickens for our freezer. That would provide us a couple chickens per month for our meals. At about 4 lbs per chicken, this would be an additional 80 pounds of meat in the freezer.

I also will be raising some weaner lambs this year with the goal of keeping one for our own freezer. I can probably expect about 30 pounds of lamb to be able to put in there as well.

So that would put our total at 120 pounds of pork, 40 pounds of rabbit, 80 pounds of chicken and 30 pounds of lamb.

There is still one very important piece of protein that many Americans enjoy eating, and that would be beef. I don’t yet have a plan for providing our local beef, other than the ground beef we buy from the people that harvest our animals and take them to the butcher. We bought 30 pounds of ground beef from them last year, and I’m hopeful that I can find a trade partner in the future to trade pork for beef. For now, I’ll calculate the 30 pounds of ground beef that we buy.

I also wrote at the top of the page about eating food that we catch. One of the great things about living in Washington State is that there is a great salmon fishery here. We love having fish on the menu and we definitely want to catch it ourselves. This year we were able to have about 20 pounds of locally caught salmon on our menu.

If we add up all of those different types of meat we end up with 320 pounds of meat! I did a little research online and discovered that according to the USDA, the average American eats 132 total pounds of meat per year. That would be 264 pounds of meat for two adults. That number is probably higher as the USDA does not take into account vegetarians.

I think we can do it! The majority of the meat we eat can be locally raised or caught! We love to provide hams for our holiday dinners, and to have friends and family over so I know that even if we did have this much meat for the year, there would be no issue with it being eaten.

What are some things that you can try to source locally? Perhaps getting your honey from a local beekeeper? Finding a local farm for your annual supply of root vegetables in September? It may seem impossible at first, but I hope I’ve shown that it can be done!

Please visit us and join the conversation on our Facebook page at Dinner Time Farm. We would love to hear what you would like to get from local producers this year!

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