Grilled steak for healthy summer eating

Know the source of your meat

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This is one time of year that, more than many others, celebrates the glory of the barbecue. Grilling meat is embedded in the culture of American summer. And though I wouldn’t ever advise anyone against enjoying it if it’s what they enjoy, it is worth having a conversation about how do to it the right way—for your own health, for the health of our planet’s animals, and its entire ecosystem as a whole.

What we’re not told by the meat industry is where our meat is coming from. Are you picturing a beautiful green pasture? Did you know that most of our meat comes from corporate-owned factory farms?

Animals are suffering needless mutation and being raised in cramped living conditions, which expose them to a wide range of injury and disease. They’re routinely kept alive with daily doses of antibiotics. The same goes for poultry, so look for organic and free range.

While it would be better for our health and our environment to be vegetarians, that is a personal choice. I do believe there is a place for meat and poultry in our diet. So here are some thoughts on how to eat meat and poultry healthfully and responsibly:

  • Eat less of both. The average diet does not need as much animal-based protein as we’re told by the meat industry. Experts are divided on how much is too much. But most agree that while it can be a great source of nutrients such as iron, iodine and vitamin B12, we don’t need to eat a lot of it to get the value of those. It’s largely recommended that a serving of meat should be 65 to 100 grams (far smaller than most restaurants serve or cookbooks call for). So opt for that, and for moderation, whenever possible. Even when grilling, there are great ways to focus your meal on delicious dishes other than meat.
  • Know the source of your meat. Know your source, and choose smaller, local family farms with sustainable business practices—visit the farm and talk to the farmer
  • Buy organic, grass-fed beef, free-range chickens, and hormone free eggs and hormone-free milk. It’s infinitely kinder on you, the animal, and the environment—we owe this to our children and to ourselves.
  •  Explore different cuts of meat from parts of the animal we don’t typically eat. They can be just as delicious as (sometimes far better than!) the usual suspects, and eating them honors the whole animal, rather than encouraging the meat industry and farmers to use only the most obvious parts and waste the rest.
  • Here are some great trusted local farms that we highly recommend using as a source for your meats. Many of them offer CSA (a.k.a. Community Supported Agriculture) sharing services that deliver packages of choice meats directly to your home monthly or bi-weekly, and/or are also sold in grocery markets or farmer’s markets in and around Boston:

Brambly Farms, 84 Cleveland St., Norfolk, MA, 508-520-2321

Smolak Farms, 315 South Bradford St., North Andover, MA, 978-682-6332

Walden Local Meat Co., P.O. Box 227, Carlisle, MA, 978-631-1135

River Rock Farm, 449 River St., North Springfield, VT, 800-228-5481

Blackbird Farm, 122 Limerick Rd., Smithfield, RI, 401-232-2495

Maple Wind Farm, 1340 Carse Rd., Huntington, VT, 802-434-7257

Black River Farms, 449 River St., North Springfield, VT, 800-228-5481

Stilton’s Farm, 1410 Lancaster Ave., Lunenburg, MA, 978-537-3342