This is the second part of a two-part series. Catch up with Industrial Organic.
As I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I quickly became enthralled with the idea of buying my meat directly from a farmer. I wanted to buy meat from a farm like PolyFace that let the animals live naturally. Cows roaming and grazing, chickens following the cows around pecking, etc. I used eatwild.com to find farms near me and it seemed like they all only sold beef—except Running Water Farms in Evanston, Wyoming (90 minutes from my house).
Running Water Farms sells beef, chicken, turkey, pork, and eggs. What kind of meat they have is dependant upon the time of year it is (just like it used to be before the days of industrial farming) and you buy portions of the animal rather than cuts. I decided to try it out last spring and since it was spring, they had pigs ready to go.
I ordered half a pig along with three dozen eggs (eggs are available year round) and Lyle helped me by explaining how it works. I decided to have the ham and bacon curred which took longer, but without it they wouldn’t have tasted like ham and bacon. Other than that, I told him to just get whatever the regular cuts are.
When my half pig was ready, I headed up to Evanston with my mom and Peanut in tow. I had told Lyle through email that I wanted to poke around the farm to see where my meat comes from and he was perfectly fine with that. I was nervous and had no idea what to expect. How much is 70 lbs of pork really? Will I be happy enough with the conditions of the farm to eat this pork guilt free? What if Peanut screams the whole three-hour round trip (she was a year old at this point and absolutely hated the car seat)?
After driving past the farm a few times on accident, we finally arrived. We went up to the house and two adorable little girls answered the door. They took us back into the kitchen where their mom, Jana, was baking.
Jana greeted us warmly and immediately took us back to see the pigs (Lyle wasn’t there because he still works outside of the farm because the farm doesn’t make enough yet to sustain them). The pigs were huge and happy in the barn with the doors wide open. There were little piglets that were just a few months old and they were nursing from their mom when we came in. Actually, she informed us, that wasn’t their mom. This pig had just given birth hours ago to three piglets that were all stillborn and they figured it would be good for her to have the other piglets nurse from her. Cross-nursing on the farm? Sounds perfect for Lactating Girl!
My husband later made the point that I was visiting with pigs that were to be slaughtered and eaten. What a far cry from the vegan I used to be! Yes, it made me sad that those pigs would be eaten one day, but less sad than for the pigs I had been buying from the grocery store. These pigs were living great lives. They were on a farm doing what pigs do! They were happy and had their tales intact—much more animal friendly than industrially farmed pigs.
I also got to see the chickens (who were actually fenced off because a skunk they were having problems with currently) and the cows that were off grazing on the grass that the Willams had literally grown from the ground up (when they bought the farm two years ago, the grass had been severely overgrazed). Peanut got to pet a horse and she chased the cats around the house while Jana chatted with my mother and me. When Peanut needed to nurse, Jana didn’t give me a second glance. Actually she told me a story of when one of her older daughters called her up saying she was ready to wean and didn’t know how. Jana’s response? “Stop breastfeeding.” So simple!
This farm turned out to be exactly what I wanted. I walked away feeling like The Willams are people I could be friends with and I will be, because they are my farmers.
So how is the food? Is it really worth all the effort? OMFG yes it is! The eggs had the most orange yolks I’ve ever seen! I didn’t even realize yolks are supposed to be orange! Normally I have to put salsa or ketchup on scrambled eggs, but I feel absolutely no need to do so with these. Also, Peanut—who at the time wasn’t too huge on eggs—shovled them in her mouth as fast as I would let her. She shoved so many eggs in her mouth at once that some fell out when she smiled and she was still grabbing at my plate.
As for the meat, the bacon—though a little on the salty side from the curing—was delicious. Jana actually called me a couple weeks later saying the person who bought our other half of the pig complained about the bacon and she told me she’d buy it back, but we decided to keep it. They don’t pre-cut it for you so it will stay good in the freezer for longer, so when I clumsily cut huge slices my husband called it “bacon steak” (which he loved). We ended up getting a lot more chops and not very much ribs (which come from the same place), so next time I think I’ll specify more ribs. I’ve loved the roasts, chops, and oh my goodness the sausage is the best I’ve ever tasted!!
What about the price? First off, is your health really worth you getting such cheap food? Well, that’s another post for another day. Pure numbers, this is how it adds up.
We recieved: (approximate number because we used an old scale made for people and ended up weighting a total of 62 pounds when there was really 70)
6 lbs bacon
11 lbs ham
2 lbs shank
7 lbs sausage
13 lbs roast
3 lbs ribs
14 lbs pork chops
6 lbs steak
We also got 6 dozen eggs for free and 2 soup bones from a cow that she had because I wanted to make beef broth (6 lbs). If you add in $12 for gas, we ended up spending a total of $245. I went to the store and added up the amount that we would spend on non-organic (because my grocery store doesn’t have organic pork) pork of the same cuts (and the ones that were vague like roast, I took an average of all of the different types of pork roasts at the store). At the store, I would have spent $277.50 for 62 lbs of non-organic pork in those cuts. It was actually cheaper to get it from the farm and that’s not even counting in the eggs and soup bones or other 8 lbs!!!
Over this summer, we got a total of 25 chickens. I didn’t keep track of the exact amounts we spent, but I was consistently amazed at how much chicken I was getting for my money! Some of the chickens I froze whole and cut some before freezing (because I don’t always want to cook a whole chicken). When I was cutting the chicken while watching a tutorial on YouTube, I was amazed! The chicken I was cutting looked pink and the one in the video looked white! The one in the video’s fat was everywhere and white, while my chicken’s fat was limited and yellow like fat is supposed to be! I also got two turkeys before Thanksgiving and I’m about to get two more when I go back up. The turkeys were a bit expensive, but huge! I’m going to get half a cow when I go up too.
Every time we go up, Peanut loves it. She gets to pet the animals. She gets to play with the little girls. I love talking with Jana. I even got my mother hooked on their meat and eggs too, so she goes up with us. She’s getting half a pig and half a cow when we go up next. Overall, this place is soooo worth it. My family’s health is worth it.
As part of your “New Year’s Resolution” or whatever you want to call it, read up on how what you eat can affect your health. When you’re ready to make the change, find a farmer near you that shares your ideals. Get to know that farmer. Get to know your food. Become involved in the process of preparing your food. Don’t be fooled by convenience, because it will cost you in the end.