Before the growth explosion of raising livestock in mega factory conditions, families consumed meats in season. Think Thanksgiving turkey and Easter ham.
We tend to forget this important practice due to the quick and massive growth of livestock factory farming after World War II. Farmers were given incentives to buy cheap government-subsidized corn and soy along with confining herds for raising “cash cows” instead of nutrient rich yummy foods.
So in order to start selling meat year-round most turned to “finishing” the cattle on grain which resulted in breaking beef’s tie to seasonal grass growth cycles. This set off a domino effect where a system of massive monoculture is used, requiring heavy pesticide applications, and resulting in over tilled soils.
On the other hand, a well managed permanent pasture – where grasses are dense with maintained root systems improve the soil, prevent soil erosion, and sequester carbon by storing carbon in the soil.
An Exploration Into Seasonal Meat Eating
We now have the choice to consume all types of meats year round, but at what cost to our health, the environment, humane treatment of the animals, and the quality of their meats? Let’s check out how we can create a conscious balance with our forks using the choices of meats we pair with our seasonal veggies and fruits.
Fall into Winter Meats
Steak started out as an autumn delicacy because cows are at their fattest at the end of summer as their bodies bulk up preparing for temperature drops. They where slaughtered after they packed on weight from grazing on grass for months at a time. Because the herds where not feed stored hay and grain feeds their meat was higher in Omega-3’s. Keep in mind refrigeration was not available, so families worked together to form a beef club where every week for the entire summer a family would donate a steer that was divided evenly amongst its members. With this collaboration if there were 16 families you would have fresh beef for 16 weeks – the entire summer.
Pigs were slaughtered throughout the fall, with all the remaining mature hogs killed in the winter. Folks got together once the homesteading/farm chores of spring and summer where completed to work in the meat packing and smoke house of a neighbor or relative. It was in these smokehouses that pork bellies became bacon, hind-quarters turned into cured hams, and all other edible parts made into smoked sausages.
Spring into Summer Meats
Hams cured all winter are where ready in time for spring meals and the Easter feast.
Chicken, duck, and goose where mostly consumed at their best in summer. These meat birds wandered about in the summer feeding on an abundance of grass and bugs. When the shorter days of fall came about their hormones signal their bodies to retain more fat for the coming cold months, making them ready for our tables during the birds’ summer feeding abundance.
Turkey became the thanksgiving bird because their prime harvesting peak was in November.
Food For Thought
I have not touched on the fish farming industry because that is an entire blog by itself. However you can start understanding the different types of fish species, fish farming techniques, and how they rate “sustainably” by downloading the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch pocket guides here.
The global conversation on industrialized livestock farming is growing. We can be the solution by supporting local livestock ranchers.
Check out my musings on farming with your fork along with five steps to farming with your fork for inspiration.
I would love to know your thoughts on this concept in the comment section!
Another important insight into how and why we do what we do. Thank you. Yes, we get habits that we don’t even understand. Truly, when I travel, I see how people eat differently, especially meat in moderation. In America, meat ends up in the trash. I still can’t get used to that. As an immigrant, I don’t waste much, but sure not meat from another living creature.