Saturday, July 17, 2010

Buffalo Bull

One of the post topics I've had in my head for a while has to do with bison meat.

Living in the central plains, bison meat is so ubiquitous you can buy it at the farmer's market or even in your neighborhood grocery store. Bison meat is leaner than beef and is typically pasture-raised (as opposed to corn-fed cattle). Most bison raised for meat have not been subjected to the antibiotic cycle that is a mainstay of CAFO beef lots.

Better yet, bison meat was not rationed. I have a copy of this great May 1943 grocery ad that lists "buffalo meat," but since the scanner crapped out last week I, unfortunately, do not have an image of it for you. At the least, bison meat was readily available at grocery stores in these parts during WWII rationing.

For all these reasons we have been buying more buffalo meat during the rationing year and that is why I was originally going to post here about this local type of meat. Ideally, I like to buy it from the lady in the ball cap with the white tent at the farmer's market. But when I can't get myself organized I buy it in shrink-wrapped little squares at the grocery store. I figured this was a good alternative if I didn't make it to the farmer's market that week.

Until I got a call a few weeks ago.

The number on the caller ID was a toll-free number that I didn't recognize. I answered the phone and was immediately greeted by an automated message, asking me to stay on the line because grocery store records (thank you, Big Brother) indicated that I had bought ground buffalo recently that, according to the message, was being recalled due to contamination.


The phone call advised that said packages of meat be discarded. "The meat should not be consumed!" the voice in the message warned.

Even worse - the packaged buffalo meat in question had a "sell by" date that preceded the phone call by a good two weeks. Which meant that, if you were lucky, the package of meat was still in your freezer or, most likely, you had already eaten it.

Friends, we had already eaten it.

Luckily, none of us had presented with any food-borne illness symptoms. But man oh man did it once again get me ever so pissed off about how livestock animals are raised, slaughtered and processed in this country.

TMOTH and I had a lengthy discussion following the phone message and came to the family decision that we should have come to long time ago: no more CAFO meat, period.

We're going to phase it out slowly so as to not totally shock our household all at once. First up - no CAFO beef, effective July 2010. In another month we'll no longer allow CAFO chicken. Before the end of the rationing year CAFO pork will be out.

Where does that leave us? Well, fortunately local supplies of non-CAFO beef and chicken are pretty easy to come by. Local non-CAFO pork seems to be in short supply, so we'll have to do our homework on that one. Of course, the price of non-CAFO meat is usually twice the conventional price, so the rationing year pattern of meat for dinner only two to three times per week won't be changing any time soon.

In the meantime, Sissy's request for a taco dinner will have to wait until I can get to the farmer's market to make a purchase from a local supplier that processes their bison meat in small, controlled batches.

Either that or it's bean tacos...and you know how she feels about beans.

--Rational Mama


  1. I wish you luck in your search for non-CAFO meats!

    Our family phased it out a while ago and we were very fortunate to find local producers of beef, pork, chicken, and turkey. We actually found that our local small-scale farmers sold the meat at prices LOWER than traditional CAFO meat.

    If you're able to - buy in bulk! I don't know if you have a freezer or would be able to locate a good quality used freezer, but we found it to be a great savings for our family.

    In fact, in late August we'll be getting 1/2 a pastured steer. We liked last year's pastured beef so much we doubled our order.

  2. We've purchased a quarter range-fed cow before, but we're not a big beef family so the price was hard to justify (especially since we get red meat via deer hunting). Finding sustainably-raised pork will be an important goal, since it is harder to find around here and it is the house favorite. :)