How To Buy "Clean" Meat

Bison_drinking If you're like most people these days, you're looking for a source of lean meat.  But an increasingly large percentage of you aren't stopping at lean -- you want a "clean" source of meat.  What do I mean by "clean," and how can you find clean meat?  Read on to get the inside scoop. What is "Clean" Meat? "Clean" can have different meanings to different people, but there are some things pretty much everyone agrees must be present to consider meat "clean."  First, it must be grass fed, (see last weeks post on "grass fed" meat for a better understanding on this topic.)  Next, it must be antibiotic free (meaning not routinely given antibiotics.)  It must be a healthy, viable animal, free of disease.  Ideally, it would also be organically raised.   How do you know you're buying "Clean" meat? The hoof and mouth disease that swept through Europe in the late 1980's and early 1990's illustrated what you can do when you're concerned that the meat supply is tainted.  As the disease spread, buyers became more and more concerned and bought less and less beef. Sales of chicken and lamb skyrocketed and beef sales fell to near zero.  It's not that people suddenly didn't like beef anymore.  It was simply not safe to eat beef that might be tainted. So what happened?  Butchers began putting up signs in the meat counters saying (in effect,) "This beef came from Joe Jone's farm out on highway 25, the one with the big red barn.  You've driven past it every day of your life and you know that Joe is safe, clean, healthy organic beef that is not contaminated with any disease.  This beef is Safe!" As I read that sign, I thought, "This is the way to be certain of what you're getting."  When you buy meat in the grocery store -- or even from a butcher -- you're almost never certain of the origin of that meat.  And the obvious way to protect yourself is by knowing the source. Bison sales, in many ways, are no different than beef.  Most bison is sold over the internet, so you are never sure of the source.  Some internet vendors are actually growers as well, but many are just brokers -- buying raw or frozen meat from the cheapest source and selling it as though it came from their own ranch (which is actually a misnomer, since many of those brokers don't have a ranch.  They have an office in a high rise building in the city.)   So how do you protect yourself from the charlatans? You do it just like the people of Europe did 30 years ago.  You be sure you know the source before you buy.  Reputable bison growers like Intermountain Bison  of Idaho Falls, Idaho raise all their own bison on their own ranches.  They can trace the genealogy of every animal they bring to the market.  The animals are fed natural grass on free range.  They are watered in free-flowing rivers and streams.  They graze in huge pastures that are free from pesticides and herbicides and they are never given antibiotics indiscriminately. And not only that, if you are concerned about your food (and you should be) the folks at Intermountain Bison would be happy to show you around any of their many bison ranches in the high mountain valleys of Southeastern Idaho.  You can see for yourself how the animals are raised -- how they're treated every day of their lives.  And you can buy with the confidence that you are getting exactly what you were expecting, and not some marketing hype. Finally, you should consider how long your provider has been raising bison.  Like anything else, there is a learning curve in raising bison.  They're like cattle in some ways, but in many ways, raising bison is nothing at all like raising cattle.  Look for a grower that has been around for awhile.  Someone who knows the ins and outs of raising bison.  Someone who has learned by experience how to raise the healthiest herd around.  Again, Intermountain Bison has been raising bison for nearly 40 years.  Four generations of the Ball family have worked with these animals and they know what it takes to raise a healthy herd.   Before you buy bison from anyone, you should ask these four questions:
  1.  Do you have your own bison, or are you selling for someone else?
  2.  Are these animals "naturally" raised?
  3.  How long have you been raising bison?
  4. How big is your herd?
If your grower has all the right answers to these questions, you're on the right track to clean, red meat.  If not, check out our friends at Intermountain Bison.  And see for yourself what other sellers are missing.    

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