If you read my posts on the health benefits and the environmental benefits of pastured meats, then – if you weren’t already – hopefully now you’re planning to source more of your proteins from pasture-raised animals. Fortunately, finding high-quality grass-fed meats is getting easier, with more and more options popping up all the time. What follows is a list of my top picks!
[Note that for this list, I’m only discussing pastured meats, ie. land animals (poultry, ruminants and swine), not seafood – that’s another topic for another day.]
My criteria for making it onto this list are:
- The animals are truly pasture-raised, throughout their entire lives.
- The pasturelands are sustainably managed, with minimal to no use of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, and synthetic fertilizers.
- The animals consume species-appropriate diets.
- ex. chickens and pigs are naturally foraging omnivores, not vegetarians, and cows are naturally herbivores that should eat mainly grass, some weeds, and a few seeds, not soy, corn and other grains (and definitely not other animals!)
- For more details on what poultry, swine and ruminants naturally eat vs what they are often fed, see my article Is Pastured Meat Really Better for Your Health?
- The animals are never given antibiotics or hormones.
- Note: the FDA prohibits the use of hormones in pigs and poultry, so they are ALL, by default, “raised without hormones”. The use of this phrase on packaging and in marketing of pork and poultry is therefore meaningless. But antibiotics are another story…
- Growth hormones are regularly used on CAFO cows, however, so the “raised without hormones” statement is meaningful for beef.
- The animals have freedom of movement, with free access to fresh air and sunshine. In other words, they live their lives the way they’re meant to, grazing, scratching, foraging, rooting, and the like.
- Note: the term “free-range” is meaningless – read here for more on this.
- The animals are humanely treated from birth to death, according to standards set by programs such as Certified Humane® and Animal Welfare Approved.
- The subscription delivery services have environmental sustainability practices in place, and make efforts to minimize their environmental impacts.
Buying local is almost always the best choice for minimizing the environmental impact and the carbon footprint of your food choices. So look to nearby sources first, and then choose among those according to the other criteria on the list – how are the animals treated, how is the land cared for, what are the values of the local farmer or rancher you are buying from, etc.
How do you find the best local farmers and ranchers to buy your food from?
One way is to go to your local farmers and community markets and talk to your local growers yourself. This is a wonderful way to connect with your local community, establish a direct connection to the food that you eat, and simultaneously support the hard-working people who grow that food (next best thing to growing/raising or hunting it yourself!)
Check out LocalHarvest.org for a directory of farmers markets in the U.S, and enter your location for a map of all the farmers markets near you.
Another way to find good quality local food is to join a local CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture). For over 25 years, CSAs have been a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from farmers. Historically, CSAs have been mostly about produce, but many have branched out in recent years into providing animal products as well.
Here’s how a CSA works: a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically a share consists of a box of food, such as vegetables, fruits, herbs, and/or animal products. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka “membership” or “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of foods at pre-determined intervals throughout the farming season. This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer.
Advantages for farmers:
- Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16+ hour days working out in the fields begin
- Receive payment early in the season, which helps with cash flow
- Get to know the people who eat the food they grow
Advantages for consumers:
- Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and nutrition intact
- Get introduced to new farm products
- Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
- Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown
For a comprehensive list of CSAs in the U.S., and a map showing those near you, visit LocalHarvest.org/CSA.
Another resource for locating local, high-quality foods is EatWild.com.
Eatwild’s Directory of Farms lists more than 1,400 pasture-based farms, with more farms being added each week. It is the most comprehensive list in the United States and Canada for pastured meat products, including: Beef, Pork, Lamb, Veal, Goat, Elk, Venison, Yak, Chickens, Ducks, Rabbits, Turkeys, Eggs, and more!
Farms listed on their website certify they meet Eatwild’s criteria. However, I recommend you review their websites, or call or visit them to make sure they satisfy your criteria. You can also look for listed farms that are certified by programs such as Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane or the American Grassfed Association.
If you don’t have any of the above options near you, or if you’d like the convenience of having your pastured meats delivered right to your door, there’s several good options available to you in that arena as well.
ButcherBox is a subscription service – meats are delivered to you at regular intervals (monthly or bi-monthly) – and they are dedicated to providing high quality meats while also maintaining high standards for animal welfare and environmental responsibility.
Based on my criteria above, ButcherBox is a great choice.
For details on ButcherBox’s sourcing criteria, see their article “We Believe In Doing What’s Right“. And while most of ButcherBox’s meats are shipped long distances (from Alaska and Australia, predominantly), which does increase their carbon footprint, they are very cognizant of that and are continually making efforts to reduce and offset their carbon impact, setting a high bar for environmental responsibility that it would be great to see all other businesses emulate. 🌏
ButcherBox offers curated (they select the contents) or custom (you select the contents) boxes of meat, and you can choose from your desired mix of 100% pasture-raised beef, chicken and heritage breed pork.
They also aim to keep their meats affordable, with an average cost of less than $6/meal, and provide free shipping on all orders.
To try out ButcherBox and get 2 pounds of ground beef free with every delivery for as long as you continue to subscribe, visit Get Started. (Offer expires 7/24/22).
Another great choice for meat delivery options, Wild Pastures is devoted to making high-quality, ethically-sourced meat more accessible and affordable. One of their stated aims is “to create a beneficial model for American farmers, customers, and the planet.”
Their meats are all ethically and sustainably pasture-raised, and sourced exclusively from family farms in the U.S. using regenerative farming practices such as rotational grazing to improve the soil, and they do not use pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, synthetic fertilizers, hormones, or antibiotics on their land or their animals, ever. This makes for high quality meats that are good for us and good for the environment.
They offer a wide selection of meats, and their monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly boxes are highly customizable. Depending on your needs you can choose from:
- 10-11 lbs for $89
- 20-21 lbs for $178
- 30-31 lbs for $267
and fill them with your preference of the many different cuts of beef, chicken, and pork. And much of their packaging is either recyclable and/or compostable.
For more info, visit WildPastures.com.
White Oak Pastures
Another top-notch choice for pastured meats that meet all of my above criteria, White Oak Pastures is a 150-year-old multigenerational family farm in Bluffton, Georgia, that works hard to ensure that all of their practices are fair, sustainable, and humane. They are passionate about regenerative farming and environmental responsibility, operating their farm as a living organic ecosystem and a zero-waste facility.
And they are “fiercely committed to the well-being” of their animals; their animals are certified as Animal Welfare Approved and are hand-butchered on site in their zero-waste abattoir, minimizing distress to the animals while also reducing environmental impacts.
For links to more details on their many responsibility practices, visit About Us.
White Oak Pastures has a wide range of meats including 100% grass-fed beef, lamb, and goat, pastured poultry (chicken, turkey, guinea, duck and goose), pastured heritage and Iberico pork, and pastured rabbit. They also sell a growing selection of artisan goods, including sausages, jerky sticks, rubs & seasonings, bone broths & soups, charcuterie board essentials, and more.
White Oak Pastures’ products are available for purchase from their online store and in person at the farm, and at a variety of retail stores, including Publix and select Kroger and Whole Foods stores.
U.S. Wellness Meats
U.S. Wellness Meats sells grass-fed beef, lamb and bison, and pastured poultry, plus 300+ specialty items – including broth, gelatins, animal fats, butter, and organic produce – all from small, humane and sustainable family farms. And they also offer a variety of sugar-free meats like bacon, sausage, jerky, meatballs, and so much more. Hello #cleanketo! 🙂
They do tend to be more expensive than many other sources, with higher minimum purchases and a $9.50 handling fee on all orders, but for variety and convenience coupled with quality, U.S. Wellness Meats gets top marks. For more info, visit https://grasslandbeef.com.
Thrive Market is a handy place to shop online for big savings on a huge selection of healthy foods, and they offer a Build Your Own Frozen Box for buying frozen meats. When choosing which frozen meats to buy, there are several criteria you can select from to whittle down your list to only those that meet your standards, including:
- ethically raised
- pasture raised
- sourced directly from farmers
- no antibiotics / synthetic hormones
- animal welfare certified
- grain free
- pesticide free
- herbicide free
- preservative free
When you select all of those criteria at once, that still leaves a variety of meats that make the cut. (haha – pun intended 😜)
They have a minimum frozen food order of $65 (including all meats), and a $20 shipping fee on frozen orders under $120. To learn more, visit ThriveMarket.com.
It’s Time To Shop!
Choosing local, pasture-raised meats is a crucial way for each of us to support practices that are good for the environment, while providing ourselves and our loved ones with health-enhancing foods.
And now that you are equipped with the criteria and the knowledge about why and how to choose meats that are good for your health and the environment, it’s time to choose which sources you’ll use, and start stocking up!
Are you ready to take more steps toward achieving and maintaining outstanding health? Then check out my Roadmap to Optimal Health.
Disclosure: I receive a small commission for qualifying purchases made using some of the links in this article.