Warning: rant about sourcing good food from farmers


Guest Andria

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Guest Andria

So, I am having an issue with sourcing food directly from the farmers in my area. I am super lucky that, here in the Midwest (one of the few reasons I like where I live, sorry :-/), I can source food from Michigan, Illinois or Wisconsin farmers and many of them travel here to Chicago for the weekly farmers markets or I can find them, individually, on eat wild.com. My beef is their pricing. I kid you not, someone was selling chicken (granted, it was boneless skinless chicken breast) for $15/lb at one of the bigger farmers markets last year and eggs from these farms always go for $6/dozen. Even going directly to these farmers, they sell the eggs for $6/dozen!

One exception was when I was working a co worker was able to get eggs for me directly from a Wisconsin farm for 2.50-3.00/dozen.

My meat CSA still averages $7-10/lb (mix of pork, beef, chicken). And buying produce from farmers markets is a joke...the other day a market was selling strawberries for $6/ pint!! Wha? I pay $4 for organic strawberries @ Whole Foods and that chaps my a**. This just doesn't mesh with the comments on forums and in paleo blogs on how in expensively you can procure products from farmers. I feel like, in Chicago, we are being bilked because "going to the farmers markets" and "sourcing local foods" seems to be the *trendy* thing to do. I know these farmers need to, most likely, pay a butt load for their stand (yay Chicago!) and gas prices suck....but I am not going into debt to buy from them(as much as I would LOVE to support them). I can't believe that I am buying from Whole Foods over farmer (I still keep my small meat share that only provides 2 weeks worth of meat (12#) for 2 people and 1 dozen eggs for $103) for the most part.

It seems like these farmers go to Chicago farmers market or list on eat wild.com and jack their prices up because they can because foolish people, here in Chicago, pay the prices.

Oh, and I don't have room to store 1/2 a cow or to store a large quantity of meat, for that matter.....I live in Chicago! :-P

Grrr...end rant. Thank you

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Growing real, organic food is expensive. The margins in farming are thin and there are no bargains. When you find something for cheap, it was probably raised under conditions you don't want to know about. That is actually true of almost anything. For example, the cheap clothes at Walt-Mart were made in a factory in Bangladesh that fell down because the greedy owner added 6 stories on top of his existing building to crowd more workers in to increase production.

I made friends with an organic farmer several years ago and visit the farm every Saturday to pick up eggs, chicken, rabbit, and veggies. And to drink coffee and visit. He hardly makes a profit selling eggs at $5 per dozen and chicken and rabbits for $15 each. His profit in veggies is low too.

A lot of food that I prepare at home probably costs close to $10 per plate, at least some days, but I used to eat at restaurants all the time eating crappy quality food and paying $15 per plate, so I figure I am much better off than I used to be. And some plates that I prepare cost less than $5 each, so I figure it is really well worth it.

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Guest Andria

Thanks, Tom. Yes, I am all about spending for good quality food. I have told my fiancé this is non- negotiable and he is finally getting it. Even the dog and cat gets pasture organic raw diet!! It just seems egregious some of these prices. I know Whole Foods can get better pricing by buying as they do, but I wish I could regularly support farmers. I will continue to buy my CSA share from the farm or look for others. I just can't justify $6 for eggs when we go through 3 dozen a week especially when I was getting the for $3 from a WI farmer.

Well, a bonus is that we ARE eating out less (if only I could get SO to stop eating lunch out during work week!) so, as you said, this off sets cost but better yet is healthier!

It actually makes me feel better that you are not saying you go to your farmer and get chicken and eggs for $3/lb and beef for $5/lb! I just want to know where people, who say they get these prices, live!

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  • 3 months later...

Usually in the country.  I always envy my parents when I visit (MI), as they live in a very rural area.  Eggs are $2.00/doz, Beef varies by the cut of course, but its also not terribly expensive.

 

That being said, living in a metropolitan area has its advantages.

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One reason the farmers' market is so expensive is that the vendors have to pay booth rent (which can be substantial) in order to participate. When you add the costs to travel to the market along with all of the other expenses, it's no wonder that farmers' market prices seem high. Also, if your state charges sales tax on food it's usually included in the posted price at the farmers' market so that can easily add up to 8% to the price.

 

If you have a full size freezer, this is the perfect time of year to buy a side of beef or half a hog from a 4-H or FFA kid at a county fair. Many of the kids raise a number of animals for market and the price can be really reasonable. Contact your local Cooperative Extension and ask them to put you in touch with 4-H clubs that raise the animals you're looking for if it's too late for county fairs in your area.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I know, I know they have to pay for travel expenses and rent booths etc(and knowing Chicago prices...) My issue was hearing how others speak of how cheap it is for them to shop at farmers markets and I just don't see that; in addition, we have gotten some not-so-stellar produce at times. Oh well, that's ok. I am still going to go to the farmers market this weekend :-) If I can afford it I would rather they get my $ than Whole Foods (not that I have anything against Whole Foods).

Unfortunately, no full size freezer (live in a Chicago duplex, it's big but no room for deep freeze unless it goes in spare bedroom!) believe me I have grumbled, to my SO, about the fact that I do not have room for my own garden, freezer (so I can store a half cow) and chickens(ok, that may be stretching it a bit!)

Thanks! :-)

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I used C&D Family Farms. They run a hog farm, but include chicken and beef from other farms. Her pork is awesome, but unfortunately she supplements their foraging/pasture with soy based grain :-/. With that said, I have yet to find a farmer that has 100% pastured pork. Also, the sausages and bacon contain sugar, so I stopped using her for a while since a lot of the share would not be Whole30 compliant. She is really flexible with the shares though, you could always leave that stuff out and just get uncured pork belly. Yum!

Links below for the farm I mentioned as well as two good websites for finding farmers in your area!

http://www.eatwild.com/products/illinois.html

http://www.familyfarmed.org/find-a-chicago-area-csa/

http://cdfamilyfarms.com/

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At my farmer's market, the meats are rather expensive. A whole pastured chicken is about $13-15, a dozen jumbo eggs is $6, and a pound of grass-fed ground beef is $6 (other cuts get more expensive from there, up to $20 a pound for things like NY strip). Produce is much more reasonable. $3 for a pint of berries, $4 for a GINORMOUS head of organic lettuce, $2 for a bundle of carrots, $1 for a bundle of scallions, $2 a pound for cucumbers and shallots, $1.50 a pound for summer squashes, $2.50 a pound for peaches and nectarines and around $2-3 a pound for apples, depending on variety. I've found fresh, locally grown, organic Honeycrisp apples (my favorite!) for $2 a pound at the farmer's market, while they are $3.50 for conventionally grown ones at the grocery store.

 

That is why I buy all my produce for the week (except for things I can't get) at the farmer's market. I also used to buy eggs there, despite the price, as they were visibly superior to the supermarket ones, however, sadly, the farmer that raised the chickens had a couple of dogs get into the chicken pasture and kill half his chickens, so he has not been at the farmer's market for a while. He will be back in the fall to sell pastured turkeys in time for thanksgiving, and I plan to buy 1 or 2 of those.

 

Otherwise, I buy foster farms chicken at costco. They are antibiotic and hormone free at least.

 

But I just got home lastnight from driving an hour north to pick up half of a grass-fed pastured cow I picked up from a nice local guy who just raises a small number of cattle on his property. I think he only had 1 or 2 slaughtered this year, and I got half of one. I bought a 12 cubic foot chest freezer off craigslist for $60 from a nice guy that only lives a few blocks from me and put it in my garage. I split the cow with my parents, so I got 1/4 and they got 1/4. It fills the chest freezer about half way. They have a 6 cubic foot upright freezer (the top of it is about countertop height, but it opens from the front) and it fills that with room to spare. Also, I met the farmer I got the beef from on craigslist, too. The beef was $3.19 a pound hanging weight, and the half cow weighed 280 pounds hanging (that means they remove the guts, hide, hooves, head, and spine, cut it in half, and weigh it in a whole chunk. Then you pay based on that weight. When they cut it up, you lose some of the weight from bones, the bits the saw chews up, and the gristle and fat that's trimmed off, so it ends up being a little more per pound overall. But conventionally raised ground beef around here is $5 a pound for the 93% lean. The 80% lean is about $3 a pound. I got ribeyes, roasts, 33 pounds of ground beef, sirloin steak, tenderloin steak, ny strip, spare ribs, plus oxtail, tallow, and stew bones for probably about $3.50-4 a pound. My portion of the cow came out to around $450 total, and it's probably about 120-130 pounds of meat.

 

If you can find room for a small freezer (5 or 6 cubic feet) then you can get 1/4 cow. 

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I used C&D Family Farms. They run a hog farm, but include chicken and beef from other farms. Her pork is awesome, but unfortunately she supplements their foraging/pasture with soy based grain :-/. With that said, I have yet to find a farmer that has 100% pastured pork. 

 

Pigs are almost impossible to raise 100% pastured. They have to have their diet supplemented with grains. The best you can hope for is pigs that are allowed to roam free in a grassy pasture and eat whatever they find/dig up, and are supplemented with organic, locally-grown grains and soybeans. Pigs don't have the issues with eating grains that humans and ruminants do though. They are omnivores and scavengers, so they can and will eat just about anything without as many issues. Of course, it is much better if they are allowed to forage and eat mice, bugs, plants, and root for tubers. It's a more natural life, and I think it makes for happier pigs, which are automatically healthier.

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Vian, right on the pigs. I just noticed people on this forum and others discussing that they purchased 100% pastured pork. My concern with the grains is the quantity in their diet, because that will change their O6 content (which is already high) and whether they are GMO.

Yes, the freezer is something we are working on it is the SO who is against have freezer in an extra bedroom). I know of a local farmer I can get grassfed beef at a hanging weight close to what you mentioned. The farmer's market meat prices here are same as what you mentioned but the produce is not that cheap...

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I guess I am lucky. I have access to the DeKalb Farmers Market (unfortunately it's 35 miles away, but I try to do it on a trip back from the airport when I sometimes drive my husband there). Today I bought 2 lbs of ground Berkshire pork at $3.99 a lb, that is very reasonable. They usually have great grass fed beef, but today they did not have some for some reason. Their produce is very reasonable. I think because it's a permanent Market, not individual stands, they have less overhead.

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Yet another awesome thread!

 

I recently came to slightly better terms on the whole cost piece. I live in Vermont and there are quite a few sources of fresh, organic produce in the forms of CSA's, farmers markets galore, and farm stands. I have also easily discovered excellent sources for poultry, pork, beef, eggs, and lamb. But accepting the cost of this new lifestyle hasn't come as easily! I just purchased 6 local, pasteured chickens (3.5-5lbs each) and 20lbs of grassfed ground beef for $250, at least 2 or 3 times more than I was paying at the grocery store.

 

The issue is that I've armed myself with too much knowledge to not eat foods from good sources (thanks a lot "It Starts With Food" and "Food Inc" for starters) so I decided that I needed to just accept it and, instead of focusing on costs, focus on figuring out what other life choices I am making that have benefited by my previous life of searching for the cheapest sources. First and foremost, eating out...

 

It came to a head for me last week at a local diner where I went with a co-worker for lunch thinking I could figure something out on the menu. I ended piecing together an egg-based meal for $13 plus a tip! I have no idea where the eggs came from but I know for a fact they weren't anywhere near as tasty as the ones I have at home. I also don't know what the food may have been cooked in but my guess is that it most certainly wasn't a decent olive oil, grassfed ghee, or organic cocnut oil. So, really, I paid $15 for subpar food that may have actually not even been 100% compliant with my Whole30. Furthermore, that same $15 could have paid for enough chicken or beef for several meals that would include the rest of my family.

 

I'm also finding that I waste a lot less food than when I was shopping at conventional groceries. For example, over the last year I can't count the number of times I bought strawberries for $2.50-$4.00/pound that made it home on a Saturday morning and into the compost bucket covered with mold by Monday morning. To the contrary, I bought a quart of local, organic strawberries at a local co-op for $8.99 (I had to talk myself into spending that much) and four days later every, single bit of strawberry in that quart was fully enjoyed by my family rather than wasted. Not only did they taste a hundred times better, but they were better for us and, furthermore, I am developing a more conscious relationship with the money I'm spending on food thus I'm buying only what I need and not wasting anything at all if I can help it (forget about the environmental factors addressed by eating local, organic produce).

 

I always have the power to choose to grow my own food and tend to my own livestock but I prefer to pay people who enjoy that lifestyle more than I do! :P

 

By the way, cooked one of my chickens last night and served it with prosciutto-wrapped aspargaus, carrots lathered in ghee, sweet potato fries, cauliflower "mashed potatos", and the most delicious pan gravy I've ever had (thickened only with the fat from the chicken and a tiny bit of arrow root). Total cost was around $30 but I'll be getting no less than 4-5 meals out of that not only for myself but also for my wife and kids. I don't mind skipping a meal at the diner twice for that kind of result!! ;)

 

Xii

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I completely understand. I live in NYC and Organic pastured steaks go for like $22/lb! I spend $7/lb for grassfed organic ground beef (85/15) at trader joes, and so far buy everything else conventional because I have yet to find an AFFORDABLE source of quality meat. I can't fit 1/2 or even 1/4 cow into my tiny apartment. For some produce items it pays to go to the farmers market, but basically nothing is organic there. I feel like I was robbed every time I leave whole foods too. Sigh. No room for a garden either. 

 

I just do the best I can, and right now that's going to have to be good enough.

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