Monday, February 24, 2014

February Farm Market

I go to the farmers' market in the depths of winter for the apples. I haven't purchased a grocery apple in a dozen years. Fuji is my go-to, winter apple .

Carrots, mounds of carrots -purple, yellow, and the obvious orange. I buy them all. If they were organic, I would appreciate them even more. The two organic farmers who sell at Grand Army in winter do not sell winter carrots.

Here's another reason. Flowers. Outside. In winter.

There are many more meat farmers at Grand Army this winter, but I do not partake. The price is usually out of my league. Ground pork at this stand was on sale, $6.50 -down from $9.50. I partook. Since my decision to buy only humanely raised and slaughtered meats (which usually means capital O, organic), I've been buying meat at the co-op on Cortelyou. We are definitely spending more, but we are still eating meat because I buy only the lower cost cuts, and the co-op keeps prices down by not sourcing hyper local and not using the smallest producers. Buying this way has limited my options just a bit too much.

A little over a month ago I decided I wanted to buy from a local, small producer of pasture raised meat. A whole steer would have been biting off more than I could chew, so I sought out a farmer raising hogs as well. When you buy a whole hog, the price is multiplied by the post-slaughter weight, what is called the "hanging" weight, which means you will pay for weight you do not eat. This is usually about 40 pounds, or put another way -about $180. Add to this my cost of gas and tolls for pickup and delivery, and the cost goes up another $60.  The remaining 140 pounds of hog will be butchered, divided into cuts, frozen fresh or smoked, labeled, and sent back to the farm.

I found six households to go in on the whole hog because who can afford $1000 for hog? More importantly, who can fit a hog in their urban freezer? Each household will receive about 28 pounds of cuts, and each will receive ham roast (smoked or fresh), shoulder roast, several ribs, several loin chops (1 inch thick), belly bacon (smoked or fresh), and ground pork. Based on the prices in the picture above, these alone should drive the cost well over each household's $170 investment. The remaining cuts, which include the tenderloins, extra bacon, ribs, and loin chops, hocks, smoked jowl, cheeks, ears, tails, organs, and leaf lard, will be haggled over by the group. We'll all meet at a central, Brooklyn location so the extras are divided as fairly as possible. I think we will see a price of about $7 per pound for all cuts, which is less than I pay for a pound of ground pork at the co-op.

Of course, the decision to do this goes beyond cost, but to do better, to treat animals and the land as best as we can. I do expect better flavor, but that is not my primary motivation. If all goes well, this will be our model, and possibly expand to include another six households to bring down the pickup and delivery costs even more. Maybe we'll venture into steer territory too, but let's not put the cart before the ox.

Update: I corrected the math above, bringing down the price a bit.

1 comment:

If I do not respond to your comment right away, it is only because I am busy pulling out buckthorn, creeping charlie, and garlic mustard...