How a Butcher Can Help You Eat More Economically and Sustainably
Enlist the help of your local butcher to shop and eat smarter.
You know that guy with the black butcher's apron and the trendy bacon tattoo on his forearm? He can actually help you eat greener and more budget-friendly. Meat is shifting away from the center of the plate, but the meat that remains can be found in 'new' and sustainable cuts. A butcher — be it the old-school gent who's been in the neighborhood for decades, the trendy gal or guy with their own shop, or someone at your local supermarket — is happy to help you get the most for your money at the meat counter by sharing their wisdom.
Choose Less-Popular Cuts
"I realize the idea of cooking nose-to-tail may seem a bit out of the home-cook's league, but believe me, it's not," says Chris Bolyard of Bolyard's Meats & Provisions in St. Louis. "One of my favorite cuts is beef neck. It's super flavorful; and after a long braise or time in the slow cooker, it becomes succulent and moist." Because many butchers receive whole animals, ask them which cuts are less-popular and thus less-expensive. A few beef cuts to look for include: steaks called Denver, hanger, chuck or flap, also top and bottom round roasts, and anything from the shank or shin. Whole chickens and turkeys are also good buys. (Keep reading for pork.)
Ask About Local Meat Sources
Butchers often source from farms in your area. They have connections and are usually happy to share contact information if you want to purchase sides, quarters, or half animals. Bolyard says he like to help customers and farmers connect to form cost-effective relationships, for both sides.
Cook More Flavorful Meats
By choosing more flavor-intense meats, you can get more bang for your buck, by using less. "All lamb is pasture-raised, so it has more flavor," says Kristopher Doll of Shank Charcuterie in New Orleans. "Some people who haven't eaten lamb in a while find they really enjoy the sweet-rich flavor of today's tender lamb cuts. It shines in spicy dishes like curries or a pot of chili, where other meat may be overshadowed."
Make Easy Charcuterie
Budget-friendly pork cuts make tasty sausages. Bolyard recommends less-expensive pork jowls, or any meat found on the head or cheek. Think sausage making is out of your league? Check around for local charcuterie classes. Boyard's Meats offers classes for beginners, and even a conversation with one of their so-called "meat-heads" behind the counter will get you their basic bacon recipe.
No matter where you shop, look for bone broth (often in the freezer section.) While more expensive than the stuff in a can or box, butcher-made bone broth adds amazing flavor the nutrients found in beef, lamb, turkey or other bones. Bone broth is really just a fancy name for what your grandma when she made when she boiled the bones of her Sunday chicken carcass to make soup for the week. To avoid waste, you too can make your own broth. Try Day-After Turkey Soup or Nona Lola's Beef Broth to get the basic idea.
Serena Ball, MS, RD is a food writer and registered dietitian nutritionist. She blogs at TeaspoonOfSpice.com sharing tips and tricks to help families find healthy living shortcuts. Follow her @TspCurry on Twitter and Snapchat.