I often brag that I have not bought commercial meat from a grocery store in 20 years. Privileged to know a few rural farmers that raise meat well and get it butchered to market to customers themselves, I did not have to resort to buying industrially produced meat to feed my family. It has felt good to connect with these farmers, and not once have I missed the experience of wondering about the history of the animal’s journey into the cellophane and Styrofoam-encased packages I see in the store. Knowing almost too much about the food system, I have been uncomfortable with the hidden harms and unpriced externalities inherent in the global meat supply chain for a long time. But only this year (call it a Covid gift) have I been able to create a viable, ecological, and economical purchasing alternative for my friends and neighbors in and around Winnipeg.
People like me who want to buy meat directly from local farms can now order many cuts of regeneratively-raised beef, bison, pork, and chicken online from Prairie Routes and have it delivered. This isn’t just any old farm-raised meat though. Here are the 5 traits that make our meat so incredibly special:
1. Through a system of rotational grazing, the animals are constantly fed a diet of lush, nutrient rich pasture that provides balanced nutrition for the animals, and elevated nutrient content in the meat.
2. Growing many different species of plants together creates corridors for nutrient-exchange in the soil, enhanced water retention, and a natural resiliency to diseases and pests that allows their pastures to thrive without chemical applications.
3. Animals are happier outside grazing than they are in conﬁnement systems, where grain is the main source of feed, and medications are required more often to manage herd health.
4.The taste difference compared to industrial meat is referred to by chefs as ‘persistence’. It comes through in our meat from the complex interactions between the soil biology that feeds the plants, the species diversity that feeds the animals, and the reduction of stress on the animal.
5. Our supply chain is 100% local. The animals are raised, killed, cut, wrapped and frozen right here at home – so neither the meat, nor the dollars you spend on it, have ever left Manitoba.
At Prairie Routes, we can tabulate the total food miles from source to shelf, on each pack of meat. I challenge every other purveyor to do the same. While there will always be a role to play for the commodity global supply chain and trade, North America’s industrial meat processing system has broken down in places that simply will not allow it to go back to the way it was. And there is a consciousness quickly building among food consumers that their spending decisions matter. The production methods used to produce our meat have not killed helpful naturally-occurring biology– they have fed the biome and caused it to thrive, in the soils, the animals themselves and in the surrounding environment. These farmers do not limit entry or interfere with neighboring wildlife – they create welcoming environments for all people and creatures to come and share in their knowledge and natural resources. When you think about trying out our new online ordering page and delivery service, consider how buying meat from Prairie Routes might send a signal to the market. All at once, your purchase shows that you are willing to shop differently to:
-Encourage ecosystems to thrive in rural Manitoban agricultural communities,
-Support a string of small local businesses to work together to create an innovative and truly sustainable local meat supply chain.
-Create a new market for farmers that work in tandem with Mother Nature.
-Elevate the professional proﬁle of local innovators in biodiversity, soil health, rotational grazing, and humane treatment of animals.
-Become part of the regenerative agriculture movement and our community’s world-leader status on the topic.
Stay tuned to this blog as we continue providing public awareness about the booming regenerative agriculture movement, how food choices inﬂuence agricultural systems, and opportunities for new local economies. Next up, I will be proﬁling producers of grain-based pantry staples and snack foods that have had similarly amazing impacts in their communities and customer groups. You can see our current list of vendors here https://www.prairieroutes.com/meet-the-farmers