Mystery meat is dead. Long live sustainable, locally sourced protein.
As much as we’d like to say that there’s a label that will give you the green light — “Organic,” “Grass-Fed,” “Farm-Fresh,” — the reality is, we trust people, not packaging to tell us how good our meat really is. So the better someone can answer questions about how the animals were raised, fed and butchered, the more confident we feel. You want to be as close to the action as possible, without doing the butchering yourself (unless that's how you roll).
Here’s where to start buying meat the right way, from good to best:
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Some supermarket chains do a better job at sourcing responsible product. Whole Foods isn’t perfect, but the company rates its meat on a five-step animal-welfare scale (5+ being best).
Its stores also feature meat from local(ish) farms, and the butchers are usually more knowledgeable than those at other chains.
If you buy your meat from local producers at a farmers’ market, you know exactly where it’s coming from. And cutting out the middleman helps small farmers who show up to sell their meat in a big way.
The only drawback is that since producers can’t butcher the meat themselves and most of it comes frozen, you have less flexibility around cuts.
A whole-animal butcher shop is probably your best bet — and there are an increasing number all over the country.
You want a place that buys whole pasture-raised animals from local farms, breaks them down in-house, and is staffed by butchers who can tell you where a cut comes from, plus give advice on how to cook it. We like spots like Fleishers Craft Butchery in New York City.