In our second article of a four-part series accompanying our “Crave Kitchen Shorts” –– a series of short videos leading up to this year’s Crave Lexington food + music festival (Sept. 13-14) –– local chef Dan Wu, featured on this season of “MasterChef,” walks us through the process of purchasing an entire animal from a local farm. Watch the video at www.cravelexington.com.
PHOTOS BY SARAH JANE SANDERS
When you walk into your local grocery store, you’re entering a bit of a fantasyland. The produce section is chock-a-block with glossy, colorful, out-of-season fruits and vegetables. The meats are portioned out, packed in Styrofoam trays and wrapped in clear plastic. Don’t get me started on all the processed foods in boxes and cans.
The good news is that healthy, sustainable, delicious alternatives exist, and they’re more accessible than you might think. Lots of us agree that despite any perceived obstacles to buying local –– it can be more expensive, it’s not always convenient, etc. –– ultimately, it is worth it. Why? Not only does local food support local people who in turn spend their money on other local businesses (as opposed to sending your money to national companies in faraway lands), but buying directly from the source also gives the buyer the opportunity to make sure firsthand that the animals are well treated, allowed to pasture and live a more natural, cage-free, cruelty-free life. Happier animals produce better meat.
But for me, it all comes down to taste. Locally grown/raised food simply tastes better, like it’s meant to taste. Juicy berries, succulent meats, crisp vegetables. Since they are harvested at the peak of freshness, locally grown products are bred for taste and nutrition, not simply appearance, durability and shelf life. Why eat those firm, tasteless strawberries when you don’t have to?
Taking “buying local” to the next level
Lots of us are well-versed by now with the abundant options for purchasing locally raised meat and produce via the Farmers’ Market, Community Supported Agriculture packages (CSAs) and even local and national grocery stores. But an often overlooked option for the adventurous and locally conscientious home cook is to purchase an entire animal from a local farmer. Several area farms, including Pike Valley, Elmwood Stock, Triple J, Hood’s Heritage Hogs, Brookview, Stone Cross and several others provide this option for various animals, from chickens to hogs to cows. Just ask your favorite local producer if they offer it next time you see them at the Farmers’ Market; chances are they would be thrilled you asked.