Tips For Sourcing the Meat in Your Diet w/ Jen Knoetgen from Mountain Meat Shares

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My connection to food and farming started in my childhood when I lived just down the road from my Slovenian immigrant grandparents. We grew most of our own food, and I helped care for livestock from an early age. I loved being outside, and I learned to appreciate the humane, ethical care of the animals we ate. As I became an adult, and moved thousands of miles away, I slowly built a similar farm life here in Western Montana. I had a desire to know where all of our food came from through quality animal husbandry.

Mountain Meat SharesNourished by my food and inspired by a life of cooking at home, I wanted to encourage others to share this path of wellness.

Since not everyone can spend three months of their spring tending pastured meat chickens, or raising pigs for the freezer, I created my meat business, Mountain Meat Shares.

Each month, my customers receive a variety of cuts of locally sourced frozen meat from farmers right here in our valley. From here, my customers can be sure their meat is locally sourced and humanely raised on pasture. Their food dollars go to local farmers and their families in our community.

I believe that eating locally and cooking your own food contributes to larger social justice, to an awareness of how growing food affects our environment and to the health and wellness of the animals we eat.

We all eat, every day. So with every meal, we are casting a vote. When we choose local, we can influence the growers, support their mission and flow our food dollars back in to our communities.

Launching my own small business was exhilarating, and a little scary. But my desire to bring quality local foods and home cooking encouragement to others drove me on. I wanted my customers to be able to source local, ethically raised meat in a once-a-month stop, rather than having to puzzle over choices at the grocery.

I wanted them to cook for their families directly from their freezer, knowing the quality and the taste would be excellent every time. I wanted to share the lives and stories of the farmers that grew the meat they served their family. These farmers are right here in our community and I believe that this connection removes the anonymity we currently face in so many of our food purchases. This business has inspired me to be more connected to my community through my love of farming and food. I can have this connection through the relationships with the farmers and my customers and by sharing my thoughts and resources on food.

So, how can you better source the meat in your diet?

Try to know where it comes from.
The words natural, organic, free-range—they don’t mean as much as knowing the farmer. Rather than trust the trendy words our society throws about, try to learn about where the food comes from.

Keep it simple.
You will always know more about the meat on your plate if you buy it and cook it yourself. Packaged foods or restaurant prepared meals include more ingredients than we think, and it is harder to know the history of the animal.

Buy in season, freeze it for later.
In Montana for example, chickens aren’t raised on pasture in January. It just doesn’t work that way. So if the grocery has unfrozen chicken, even if it says natural or local, question how this could be in your area.

If you have the freezer space and ability to do so, consider sourcing a whole or half animal from a local farmer, and sharing it with friends or family members. This is the most economical way to ensure consistent quality from a known source. You build a relationship with the producer, and can hopefully even visit their farm.

Our next Mountain Meat Shares subscription begins in May and sign up ends April 10th, 2018. If you are interested becoming a subscriber, you can learn more at the Mountain Meat Shares website. You can also follow this journey by subscribing to the newsletter and sharing this article with friends. Feel free to write me directly with questions! —Jen

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