I started up the paleo meatshare because I wanted to have a meat buying program that was about health. Your health, the animal's health, the health of the land, and health of local communities. I wanted something beyond just jargon and labels.
Because unfortunately those labels and jargon have become meaningless. Buying good meat is hard and sometimes it's nice to think that regulations or labels could make it easier. But instead it just crowds the good food market with suspect products.
Take "grass-fed." The movement for grassfed livestock didn't start in the paleo communities, but among defenders of traditional farming practices. These people didn't know that grass-fed meat was healthier, but they wanted to preserve the traditions of their communities and a form of agriculture elevating for both humans and animals.
Paleo has embraced grass-fed because the fatty-acid balance is closer to that of the wild animals our ancestors ate.
But I'm afraid some of them didn't get the rest of the memo. Like it or not , when you buy food you are voting with your dollars. And farms are not all the same, even "grass-fed" farms. I've worked on farms that were "grass fed" where they treated the animals terribly and the meat had markers of stress on it.
Guess what is easy to make with that meat so that consumers won't notice? "Value-added" products: jerky, TV dinners, ground beef, etc.
What if you went to the farmer's market and there was a booth that just said "Grass fed meat." You walk up and ask:
"So, where's your farm?"
The farmer gives you a skeptical look and says "Sorry, we can't tell you. You might buy a farm near us and raise your own animals. It's a competitive secret."
"Um, what breed are the cows?"
"Sorry, we can't tell you, because you might buy some and raise them yourself."
"Err, what sort of slaughterhouse do you go to?"
"Sorry, we can't tell you because you might buy some animals and slaughter them there. Trade secrets sonny."
"Can I visit and see how the cows live?"
"Yes, but only blindfolded."
How many of you would buy from that booth?
I looked into a local "paleo" jerky company because I heard they were tasty and they had a grass-fed option. I was going to make a bulk buy for the meatshare program.
Unfortunately when I made an inquiry they said "I'm sorry but we do not disclose our suppliers for obvious competitive reasons."
Sorry, but that doesn't add up to me. Making jerky for wholesale is no trivial matter. What would really be competitive is to be the only company currently riding the paleo/Crossfit trend that actually has a supplier it can brag about.
And more importantly, it doesn't jive with my ethos of knowing where my food comes from. If you don't really care where your food comes from and you trust the USDA to make decisions about good food, go ahead and order from them. But otherwise, I recommend going elsewhere for your jerky needs.
Yes, they comply with USDA regulations, but if you read this blog you'll knnow that you shouldn't trust the government to decide if food is fit to eat. There are some loopholes in USDA grassfed that allow for sub-optimal feed, antibiotics, hormones, and confinement.(more info and here and here).
Chipotle, US Wellness Meats, and Niman Ranch and just a few companies that are successful, produce great value-added products, and also TOUT THEIR FARMS. Unfortunately, none of them make a jerky product I've been satisfied with. I'm a busy person, so I don't have much time for my own jerky making, but I like to have stuff at work to snack on.
How about posting some pictures of the animals that make your jerky? How are they doing? What are their pastures like? How were they treated? Are the farmers paid a fair price? Are they small family farms? Are they in the United States? Where?
If a company won't answer your questions about farm to table, their accountability is shot as far as I'm concerned. I'm not going to name names, but my recommendation is don't buy grassfed meat if you don't know where it came from.
I know my farmers. Do you?
If anyone knows of a more transparent company that sells grass-fed jerky, let me know. Or maybe we'll have a jerky making party ourselves.