In recent years, there has been a local meat renaissance going on in Wisconsin. At the center of the movement was a business called Black Earth Meats. The operation, owned by Bartlett Durand, or the Zen Butcher, included a retail space, a buyers club and a community-supported agriculture (CSA) subscription service, as well as a U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected slaughterhouse.

Black Earth Meats served as an important support for nearly 200 farmers, most of whom raised animals in small numbers on pasture, free of antibiotics and hormones. After moving into a local slaughterhouse in the 1,500-person town of Black Earth seven years ago, the company grew considerably, allowing the “good meat” economy in the area to scale up alongside it. “We took the plant from 70 beef a week to 140-150 a week, supplying the local food scene,” says Durand.

Read more.

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AuthorTwilight Greenaway
Photo by James Collier. 

Photo by James Collier

What do you get when you cross a U-pick and a CSA (community supported agriculture) membership? The Masumoto Family Farm adopt-a-tree program. For the last nine years, peach and nectarine lovers in California have filled out “adoption forms,” paid $600, and made the trip to this Fresno-based organic farm for two consecutive summer weekends to harvest between 350 to 450 pounds of fruit from their adopted tree.

The adopt-a-tree concept arose because the family had several acres of old-growth Elberta peaches, which were just too fragile to sell into the wholesale market. Rather than start selling the fruit at farmers’ markets, they decided to invite eaters out to the farm. Read more on Civil Eats.

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AuthorTwilight Greenaway
Photo: lioneggfarms.co.uk

Photo: lioneggfarms.co.uk

How would our food choices be different if labels had to provide a more transparent view of the production systems behind the products? If, for example, food labels were used to disclose the kinds or amount of pesticides and synthetic fertilizer that were used to grow the food, whether the workers had been exploited, or how animals were treated? And instead of being seen as some special, elite option, organic, fair trade, and antibiotic-free food came to be seen as the less complicated options?

It might sound unrealistic, but get this: In the case of eggs, this type of labeling has been going on in the European Union since 2004. In the E.U., all eggs that appear in stores must be labeled with one of three choices: “eggs from caged hens”; “barn eggs,” which come from hens we call “cage-free” here in the U.S. (i.e. they’re still raised in big indoor facilities); and “free-range.” They also stamp a number, in ascending order from more desired to least, on the eggs themselves (0 is code for organic eggs and 3 is code for eggs from caged hens). Read more on TakePart.

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AuthorTwilight Greenaway
Photo by Cowgirl Jules/Creative Commons

Photo by Cowgirl Jules/Creative Commons

Why buy 1 pound of hamburger meat from a local farmer when you can buy 5 pounds — plus another 20 pounds of stew meat, steaks and roast — for as little as half the price of what it all goes for at the market?

That's part of the logic behind meat shares — plans for buying meat in bulk that are cropping up around the country. Farmers are keen on these schemes, similar to , because it gives them the chance to sell whole, half and quarter animals (broken down into individual cuts). Selling this way allows them to move a lot of meat quickly, at a desirable price.

But if you're suddenly the proud owner of 20 pounds of frozen beef, pork or chicken, your freezer may be feeling the hurt. Read more at NPR.org.

 

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AuthorTwilight Greenaway

On a Saturday morning in late June – not a busy time on most university campuses – Stanford's Institute of Design, in Palo Alto California was buzzing with energy. Nearly 300 people had gathered there for Hack//Meat Silicon Valley. The two-day event used the intensive codefest, or "hackathon", model made popular by the software industry to bring together a range of stakeholders looking to improve the meat we eat.

Participants were given a series of real-world challenges to choose from, then broke into teams to hear from mentors in the field, and worked together over the course of 48 hours to devise and present their own entrepreneurial solutions. A panel of judges chose winners, who were given support to take their ideas to the next stage of development.

This was the second in a series of Hack//Meat events, started by Danielle Gould, whose organisation Food + Tech Connect is examining ways that technology can impact the environment, the economy and public health through food.

Gould and her collaborators chose to start with meat, because, "it's at the centre of the plate. And it's controversial and polarising." Read more at the Guardian Sustainable Business.

Photo credit: Mona T. Brooks for Food+Tech Connect (See more pics of the event here.)

Photo credit: Mona T. Brooks for Food+Tech Connect (See more pics of the event here.)

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AuthorTwilight Greenaway

Peanuts, flax, sprouts and avocados: It's not the menu at a health food deli, but the menu inside some barns. What's more, many farmers experimenting with these gourmet feeds are growing the ingredients themselves.

Take Russ Kremer, the Missouri pig farmer whose operation served as the inspiration for the 2011 Chipotle ad featuring Willy Nelson. Kremer hasn't bought commercial animal feed in 30 years. Instead, he grazes his hogs in a pasture, and grows (or buys from neighbors) grains and legumes to supplement their nutrition.

Kremer and some of the other farmers developing specialty feed say they are willing to shoulder the extra cost and time to produce it because they're turned off by conventional feed mixes. The conventional mixes are what most of the hogs in the U.S. consume, and can include commodity corn and soybeans, blood protein, animal waste and rendered fats, according to Kremer.

Kremer also runs a co-op where farmers can pool resources to mill their own feed. "We opt for grains like barley and oats as often as possible, because most corn and soy is now [genetically modified]," he says. Read more on the NPR food blog.

Note: Kremer was also the recipient of this year's NRDC Growing Green award (see video below).

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AuthorTwilight Greenaway