Facing the Facts
So let’s be honest, meat is expensive; but, unless you’re vegetarian or vegan, it is also a must. Meat is a very important part of our diets, all essential vitamins can be obtained through eating a colorful fruit and vegetable diet except for Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is essential for proper cognitive function and chemical reactions in the body that produce hormones, proteins, lipids, and red blood cells, all very important.
Now, this does not mean you should go out and eat a ton of meat or even that you need meat everyday. In fact, Vitamin B12 is stored in the liver which can store several years worth of it. Being deficient is rare because of this and most commonly occurs in the elderly due to a lack of stomach acid which is responsible for absorption. However, being deficient is possible and not a good thing; it can lead to anemia, depression, fatigue, and dementia.
Basically what I am saying is, you need meat (or a B12 supplement, although it is often fortified into foods). Whether in large or small quantities, you will eventually have to purchase it.
My Chicken Story
I am a college student, a busy one at that. In a typical week, monday through thursday, I do not get home until around 6:30 from class, volunteering, and club activities. Once I get home I have oodles of homework to do, club organization stuff, and a social life to tend to. Often times I leave again later that night to go to the gym or library. All in all, I don’t have time to bargain shop.
When I first started college life I would buy bags of frozen chicken for meat. However, I ran into some problems. One, I would never remember to pull the chicken out ahead of time to thaw and would then have to microwave thaw it. This sucks because it makes the chicken tougher than it already is. Two, it’s not very tasty and the pieces always seem super small.
My next decision was to buy the raw chicken breasts packaged at Harris teeter. I would buy the split breasts with all the skin still attached for around four dollars for three big ones. Its only the two of us, so one breast that size is enough for one dinner, especially since I try to not eat as much meat. This worked great for awhile, we would buy multiple packets and when I got home I would cut off the fat, put them in portion bags, and freeze them. At times it seemed like a lot of work having to fix the chicken right after I got home, but it was so worth it.
However, then I got to thinking… Why is that chicken so inexpensive? What exactly is Harris Teeter brand chicken? Where does it come from? Am I poisoning myself?
Knowing What You’re Paying For
After some major reflection, I decided the best course of action would be to start at the sources. I went to the websites of all the grocery stores in Wilmington in search of information about their meat. This is what I found:
Whole Foods definitely gave the most information.
Tidal Creek was a hard one to judge but if you read their “buying policies” section and go into the store to look at the meat available it’s not bad.
Trader Joes has a letter to the customers admitting that they have antibiotic free and non antibiotic free options of which they label. Nothing was stated about animal welfare though.
Harris Teeter states that “some” of their meat is higher welfare but what does that really mean? How much is some?
Lowes Foods didn’t give hardly information concerning their meat and was extremely unhelpful.
Why Animal Welfare is Important?
I know this seems like a common sense answer, and it is as far as morals are concerned. A life, no matter how insignificant it may seem, is important. Of course, we all know this, or at least I hope.
Nonetheless, animal welfare is important for more than just morals. It also affects meat quality and toughness. I have attached two articles outline the effects of stress on meat quality. The first is from a guidelines for humane handling and the second is a study from the Elsevier journal. I encourage you to read at least the abstract. If not I’ll summarize below.
Stress on the animals and inhumane treatment and abuse toughens the meat. Sometimes it does it to a point of making the meat nearly inedible. Pokes and prods leave marks on the meat where the glycogen in the muscle has been depleted, again making the meat tougher.
If you think about it, it’s not that hard to believe. What does stress do to humans bodies? It’s all the same.
Okay, so where should we buy our meat?
(I’m only talking about the grocery brand not the other brands they sell)
Where I buy my meat honestly depends on how much money I have to spend. If you have a farmer’s market with a local butcher, price and quality will always be best there. You can’t beat local food.
If money is not a major issue, Whole Foods is always a great place to shop. Another plus for them is their animal welfare rating system. They have stickers on their meat with different levels or “steps” of animal welfare outlined below.
If money is an issue, Trader Joe’s is a good option if you’re careful about which meat you choose.
Tidal Creek as far as money goes really depends. Because they are a co-op and buy their food from local and small farms, the meat prices fluctuate. However, I always try to buy there if it has a local label.
Harris Teeter and Lowes are no-nos for me. Especially Lowes.
So is your meat Lady Gaga quality?