Weaning my 3 year old off of hot dogs…there must be a local, organic beef hot dog somewhere
I have a real love hate relationship with the state of New Jersey. I love living a short 20 minute drive away from the Atlantic Ocean but I hate that I live so far south that I feel so far removed from everything else…except for the thousands of tourists that find their way to the shore towns during the summer months. When I made up my mind to search out a local farm/purveyor where I could purchase, organic, sustainable meat and poultry I shouldn’t have been surprised that the nearest farm was over an hour away but I was. Where were all the livestock farmers in my area? There is a horse farm less than two miles away from my home so why not a cattle farm. After I got over being royally annoyed I decided to do some homework and see if this local “meat” was going to be worth the drive.
I have been able to make quite a few changes to my family’s eating habits without it wreaking too much havoc on my bank account, but making the switch to locally farmed meat and poultry, was going to be tough. Supermarket brand steak was already a luxury, I could only imagine what the local stuff would cost, but knowing what I do about the mass production of meat in this country, I thought, why not? I went to my trusty resource, Google, and searched the websites of the two farms I’d found. I also read testimonials from retailers and consumers. But I knew a visit to the farm was in order before I would make my final decision.
Not knowing when I could tear myself away from the daily grind to pay the farm a visit, I did the next best thing. I enlisted the help of my 21 year old sister and her college room mates. They called and arranged a time to go up and take a tour. They arrived bright and early one Saturday morning greeted by the head farmer and his teenage son. As my sister and friends weaved their way through a good part of the 220 acre farm by tractor they listened to the story of how the farmer and his wife had always longed for the simple yet backbreaking life that a farm would offer and they have a real desire to make a difference in terms of the quality of meat that is available to consumers today.
After visiting chickens in portable pens (moved frequently to keep predators away) and watching large cattle graze in the sun they decided it was time to see if they really could taste the difference between the cattle gazing leisurely in the sun and that which they were used to. Before leaving they picked up a whole chicken from the retail store located on site at the farm and a few steaks. The next evening I got a phone call and my sister said “This is the best chicken I’d ever tasted”. At first I laughed, I figured she must have just been seduced by farm life but when her room mate jumped on the phone and declared that she too loved the chicken the decision was made. I opted to try the chicken for myself because it was the least expensive as much as I wanted to splurge on the beef it was just too rich for my blood. I placed an order for five chickens to be picked up in August. The farm buys the chickens when they are chicks, feeds them, raises them, and when they’re ready for the consumer you go pick them up. The cost is pretty steep, almost twice the amount of a supermarket roaster but this is something that I really want to do for my family. I’m thinking if I can afford to place two orders a year I’ll be happy with that and when I hit the lottery then I’ll try the beef. I’ll be sure to let you know if it was worth it come August.
Oh, I almost forgot about the Hot dog kid. All I have to say is this, try to make up in your mind very early on what you want your kids to eat and not eat. I never had a real aversion to hot dogs but I didn’t keep them in the house either. From the day my oldest daughter went to stay with my sister in law and was introduced to her first beef hot dog it was all down hill from there. Jaymi Lee is pretty much an accidental vegetarian except that she loves beef hot dogs and chicken tenders and until recently they were the one thing that I couldn’t find that was local or organic. I tried to stop her from eating them cold turkey but when I tell you I had never seen a toddler so miserable and so I caved but then the light bulb went on, organic hot dogs. I finally tracked down some organic hot dogs and it took us three different brands until we found one that was “acceptable” to her palate. It was this struggle that ultimately led me to start looking for a place to buy local chicken and meat. But just when I thought she was sold on the “good” hot dogs she recently informed me after her latest visit to Aunt Kim’s house that she’d eaten a “real” hot dog with her cousins not those “other” ones. Oh well, here we go again…
Next Time – Heather reviews “The Backyard Homestead” by Carleen Madigan.
Heather Jones is a wife, mother, freelance food writer, and graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. She has worked for Gourmet Magazine, TV Personality Katie Brown, and the New York based Indian-fusion restaurant Tabla. Heather resides in New Jersey with her husband and two daughters. She is a strong supporter of the Sustainable Food Movement and believes that education is the key to making a difference.