Editor's Note Fall 2013

Apple press, Weathersfield; photo by Meg Lucas.

Written By

Caroline Abels

Written on

August 19 , 2013

It’s a fulsome time to be an eater of local meat in Vermont—or simply a booster of its production. Compared with three years ago, when our last special issue on meat came out, you can now access more products from more farmers growing a wider variety of animals in more varying ways. The meat is almost always raised differently from the industrial model, you can almost always visit the farm if you want to, and what is sold is pretty much always tastier than what emerges from factory farms.

At my local food co-op, for instance, I can now buy two kinds of hot dogs from regional farmers, one of whom is profiled in this issue (Walter Jeffries of Sugar Mountain Farm, page 18). There’s Certified Humane bacon sourced from Quebec and New Hampshire, a slew of local beef options, and Vermont-pastured chicken sold in parts (see story on page 16).

Elsewhere, farmers are selling rabbits, goats, Guinea hens, lamb, pastured veal, and even alpaca meat. Although the numbers are still small, Vermont poultry and livestock farmers have created a solid foundation on which to grow.
What’s more, the number of people putting their minds to the nagging, thorny bottlenecks in local meat production has grown. One of the most active steering committees to emerge from the Farm to Plate initiative is the Meat Processing Task Force, which meets regularly. Individual foundations and donors are looking into how to fund new or existing slaughter facilities. A highly successful New England Meat Conference was organized this year by Vermont’s own Chelsea Bardot Lewis of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and Sam Fuller of NOFA-VT. Important and practical research on grazing and livestock management is being undertaken by the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture’s Pasture Program. And membership in the Vermont Meat and Poultry Processors’ Association is on the upswing.

We still have a long way to go if we’re going to “displace” commodity meat on store shelves (to use a term favored by local food problem-solver Sean Buchanan, who writes a thought-provoking essay on page 22). But we should be encouraged by the fact that a couple of years ago, places like the Mad River Food Hub and Black River Produce’s new meat-processing facility didn’t even exist (see story on page 14.) Who knows what’s around the bend?

As we head down that road, we should all enjoy the emerging bounty. In these early days of fall (or waning days of summer, depending on your perspective), fire up the grill a few last times, gather up some friends, and cook up some beautiful local meat (perhaps using the recipes on page 12)! Be thankful we can be nourished by animals who were raised well, on land tended with respect, by farmers who truly care.

 —Caroline Abels

About the Author

Caroline Abels

Caroline Abels

Caroline Abels is the editor of Local Banquet and the founder-editor of Humaneitarian.org, a website that inspires people to buy and eat humanely raised meat.

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Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape ties into larger questions of sustainability and the future of our food supply.