The Eat with Care blog
Writing about humane farming issues by Caroline Abels, founder of Humaneitarian. Your comments and feedback welcome. (All replies are screened and posted, if thoughtful and respectful.)
Holiday gifts for humane meat eaters
Think of the people on your holiday gift list: Are any of them humaneitarians? Friends or family who like cooking delicious meats from ethical farms that raise animals with dignity? If so, consider giving one of these gifts to the humaneitarian in your life. These are nice things to get, too, if you’re a humaneitarian yourself… (I can vouch for that…)
The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook, by Shannon Hayes (Eating Fresh Publications, 2004)– A meat cookbook that focuses on pasture-raised animals, because pastured animals often require different preparation methods. Cook everything from teriyaki short ribs to orange pork shoulder roast to curried goat. Shannon Hayes peppers her book with farmer interviews and personal reflections.
All About Braising and All About Roasting, by Molly Stevens (Norton, 2004 and 2011) — And she means all… These comprehensive books get down to the grit of cooking meat via braising (using moist heat) and roasting (using dry heat), with numerous sidebars on topics like trimming, carving, and shopping.
Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon (NewTrends Publishing, 2005) — A friend recently saw this book in my kitchen and said, “Oh, you cook that way… so do I!” This is because Sally Fallon has a philosophy: the kind of animal fats, dairy products, and fermented foods that our ancestors used to eat for eons can greatly nourish our modern bodies. This classic book helps you cook a lot of basics, such as stock and sauerkraut.
The Compassionate Carnivore, by Catherine Friend (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2009) — This chatty, pleasant book weaves reflections and tips on humane meat eating with farming experiences of the author, who raises sheep for meat in Minnesota. It provides a good introduction to topics that most consumers will stumble on when researching humanely raised meat.
Righteous Porkchop, by Nicolette Hahn Niman (William Morrow, 2010) — A memoir and call to action by a former environmental lawyer who crusaded against factory farms and is now the wife of sustainable rancher Bill Niman (who started the Niman Ranch line of meats). The book is at its best when revealing the underbelly of the factory farms that Hahn Niman visited in her activist days.
The Shepherd’s Life, by James Rebanks (Flatiron Books, 2015) A gritty, honest portrayal of the seasonal lives of hard-working shepherds in England’s Lake District – a place that, in the opinion of Rebanks (who is a shepherd there) has been over-romanticized. Rebanks is an uncompromising writer whose prose can take your breath away; he is also a prolific tweeter, and his photos of sheep are irresistable.
The Good Good Pig, by Sy Montgomery (Ballantine Books, 2006) — A must-read for any pig lover you know. A New Hampshire author raised a very large pig at her rural home, and he became the talk of the town and beloved by many — especially those he ran into whenever he escaped. (Humaneitarian’s 2012 intern reviewed the book here.)
A good meat thermometer would be appreciated by any carnivorous cook. There are electronic ones, instant-read ones, timed ones, ones that keep you from having to open the oven… you get the picture. I am not enough of an expert to endorse one, but I was recently told about a model called the Thermapen, which is a bit expensive but instantly reads the temperature.
You could also buy necessary items for cooking meat well, like a roasting pan, a Dutch oven, proper skillets, knives, etc. Even though these sound like basics, some people (like yours truly) have gotten away with cooking meat for many years without proper kitchen bling.
Or move away from the meat and give a tabletop yogurt maker to your humaneitarian friend. I bet they would use milk from a local pasture-based farm to make their own yogurt.
A CSA share — What a unique gift this would be! Buy a CSA “meat share” from a local farm (CSA stands for “community supported agriculture”). Your partner, friend, or family member would receive a certain amount of farm-fresh meat over a certain period of time. (Here’s Side Hill Farmers in upstate New York, a great CSA example.) Some CSA’s make deliveries, others have pick-up sites; some give you what they have “in stock,” others allow you to choose what you want. (Note: I’d suggest simply telling your giftee that you’re going to buy a share for them, then find out what kind of meat and delivery system they’d prefer.)
Mail-order meat — A number of medium to large farms that raise grass-fed, pastured, free-range, or certified organic animals are getting into the mail order business. This is good news for folks who live in places where you can only find factory farmed meat in stores. For example, check out White Oak Pastures or Tendergrass Farms. You can search for others and see if they sell gift certificates.
Got other gift ideas for humaneitarians? Tell me and I’ll mention them here.