Millions of Americans are drooling in anticipation of the first 2011 holiday celebrated with ceremonial grilling. That’s right — Memorial Day is just around the corner.
My local chain grocery store has placed Memorial Day reminders prominent locations, everything from charcoal and lighter fluid to buns, ketchup, and mustard. You still have to trot over to the coolers to pick up hamburger, hot dogs, and bratwurst.
In the coolers, the only brands present are the nation’s largest industrial farms. It is challenging to find products from smaller operations, and you have to go somewhere else to find steak from a cow that was raised humanely.
Farmers markets, food co-ops, and natural foods stores usually showcase local suppliers who run sustainable, humane operations. It can be expensive — maybe not kobe beef expensive — but be prepared to pay two, three, or even four times as much. While the price is discouraging, I like to think of it as encouragement to eat more vegetables.
Lately, I’ve been enjoying bacon and bratwurst courtesy of Black Oak Farms in Byron, Michigan. Here’s how they describe their fare:
We farm a 700 acre, second generation, sustainbale family farm on the south branch of the Shiawassee River nestled in the rolling hills of Shiawassee County. We raise Berkshire and Chesterwhite breeds. We ranked 1st in pork quality among 20 producers winning Organic Valley’s 2009 Best Pork Quality Award. We provide for the humane treatment and the health and welfare of our animals. Our animals eat all vegetarian food raised on our farm. Our meat is grown without any checmical additives, antibiotics or hormones.
Black Oak’s products are delicious and they have kept their prices very reasonable, making my shopping decision easy. Unfortunately — other customers at my local natural foods store feel the same way, and Black Oak sells out within a day of weekly re-stocking.
If you want to avoid the industrial meat coolers but can’t find a decent local farm, another option is to make your own sausage. My entire background in homemade sausage is a 30-second clip from an episode of Seinfeld. Luckily, Kevin Weeks from NPR has helped fill in some of the details. Over at that link you’ll find instructions for making italian sausage, lamb sausage, bratwurst, and more. I don’t think sausage-making will enter my weekend plans, but it’s something I’ll think about later this summer.