Compromising on SOLE food buying habits

The case of the $35 chicken: Pete Wells, who’s written memorably before the NY Times Sunday magazine about the bloody reality of eating animals, is feeling the recession’s pinch when he goes to the farmers market. We can sympathize. His wife has worked out “what she calls a schizophrenic compromise. One week, she’ll go cheap, filling the car with good-tasting products of inscrutable provenance at Trader Joe’s. The next week, she’ll load up on organic groceries from Fairway.” Ditto that. (New York Times Magazine) A few quibbles: We know some Northern California farmers charging $35 for a whole chicken, too, but they’re not driving BMWs. They’re trying to cover the cost of organic feed for a chicken that still takes six weeks to mature, and that (usually) gets slaughtered, plucked, and gutted by hand. And if you don’t feel like making stock right away — just throw the roast chicken carcass in the freezer. Slow-cookers are also great labor savers for making stock.

5 Responsesto “Compromising on SOLE food buying habits”

  1. Dee says:

    When I first started shopping for organic and locally grown food, I too suffered sticker shock. Then I learned a few tricks: Cook more efficiently. Where I live, on the rural fringe of North Carolina’s Triangle area, a whole chemical-and-anti-biotic-free chicken cost $12to $13. My husband and I can make that bird last for several days: roast one night, chicken risotto the next, sandwiches and quesadilla, all from the same bird. And I always make stock so that we can also have soup with veggies and beans, another meal, or have it in the freezer for later. So it’s not so expensive after all. Eat less meat. We still eat poultry and pork, as long as it’s chemical-free and local, but we usually don’t make it the centerpiece of the meal, instead serving with grains and salad  (see above). Join a CSA. We found one that offered a small share,  ample enough for two, for $12.50 a week. We still have stuff left at the end of the week, amazing. Shop the Farmer’s Market, buy surplus during peak season and put the extra in a freezer. Swiss chard is cheap right now, so I’ll stock up and use chopped chard in my quiches this winter when I’m longing for local veggies. Buy staples, cook from scratch. I rarely buy prepared foods any more, instead relying on veggies, eggs, cheese and meats from the CSA, Farmer’s Market or food co-op and dry goods that are in my pantry (including stone-ground flour from a local mill, brown rice, organic pasta,etc.). You can splurge on the organic staples if you’re not eating out all the time. Eat breakfast for supper. Quiche and omelets are great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and even the best free-range eggs are cheap,about$2.80 adozen in my local co-op. Organic sausage is expensive,but goes a long way in a supper stir-fry or a quiche. Grow your own. A couple of small raised beds in the backyard (or on the roof!) can supply plenty of vegetables and herbs. If you do all or even some of the above, you’ll greatly increase your share of locavore fare. Then we don’t have to feel guilty about shopping occasionally at Trader Joe’s for great deals on seafood, nuts, coffee, wine, chocolate and condiments that we can’t make ourselves. My household has less money for food this year, thanks to the recession, but we’re eating more local stuff and enjoying our meals more than ever.

  2. Something to keep in mind is that if you’re willing to be more creative in your cooking you can get less expensive cuts of Certified Naturally Grown / organic meats. Learning how to slow cook helps. Stews, soups, brines and marinades help. We sell Certified Naturally Grown pasture raised pork. The prime cuts like loin, sirloin, tenderloin, chops, Boston butt and such all sell for prime prices. The bacon and ham sell for prime prices as smoked. But there is a lot more to a pig, or a cow, than just the prime cuts. What we eat at home is not the prime cuts, unless there was a packaging mistake. The oddments, ground and other cuts such as hocks, jowl, soup bones, tail and head are all wonderful for making many nutritious dishes. Be adventurous and keep eating the good stuff!

  3. pat anderson says:

    Walter, I so agree with you about the less expensive cuts. I find that they are not only less expensive, but tend to have more flavour. Truly a reason to buy them! Restaurants are starting to capitalize on these cuts, and are slow cooking, braising, brining, and smoking.  A few months ago, I had shared with two friends a locally-raised pig snout stuffed with shredded pork. It was absolutely delicious!

  4. Ed Bruske says:

    A friend living in France reports seeing a free-range Bresse chicken for sale at 60 Euros, or about $90. We are perfectly happy with the free-range Shenandoah Valley chicken we purchased recently at Whole Foods for $17. Nearly four pounds, it was sinfully good cooked over coals on the spit rotisserie.

  5. Jennifer says:

    I was so saddened to read Pete Wells’ article today. I normally enjoy reading his stuff but he really missed the boat to show people how it’s still possible to eat sustainably even in this economy. I pay $6/pound for chicken from Grazin Angus Acres in NYC and it’s juicy, flavorful meat, raised in an ethical manner, roaming on pasture as chicken were meant to do. We manage to flesh it out with lots of veggies & a starch, while still having enough  leftovers to make chicken tacos.

    Sure you can buy organic or all-natural meat, but chances are it hasn’t had access to pasture and has traveled countless miles. I know what my farmer looks like. I know he just became a grandfather. I know his son just came back from Iraq. What does Pete know about the farmer who produced that meat sitting in the grocery store? Adding seasoning doesn’t erase the bad taste of that choice. It just makes it easier to swallow.