Back when I used to buy my meats at a supermarket, the choice each week was pork, chicken, or beef. It required slightly more thought once I moved out and decided that I wanted meat from animals that were fed a bit better than the average penned pig, chicken, or cow. However, it was still grass-fed pork, chicken, or beef.
Now that I buy meats at my farmers’ market, it’s still pork, chicken, or beef (there’s also goat, rabbit, turkey, bison, boar, etc) but all of the suppliers from whom I buy meat raise their animals on pasture or in free-range style enclosures. Only recently did a huge lightbulb moment happen when I realized that not only am I eating pork, chicken, or beef but I’m eating pork from a Berkshire boar or Tamworth pig, or beef from an Angus cow, or cheese from the milk of Lacaune and East Friesian sheep. The animals have unique breeds and characteristics!
This may sound stupid and naive but to me, it truly demonstrates just how removed we can be from our food. I’ve long considered it strange that the names of our food source and the food itself are different (pork from pigs, beef from cows), almost to create one degree of separation with a name change alone. However, I’ve never really equated my food source with having a breed. Pork was pork was pork and beef was beef was beef. I think if I stayed within the mainstream food distribution chain, I’m actually not that far off from the truth since – based on all that I’ve read – large-scale animal farms have honed in on the most effective and efficient way to raise a certain breed of cow or pig for slaughter. They don’t raise a diversity of animals.
So each time I buy some meat at the market, I’m learning more about the animals that I eat…like what a heritage breed is. Fun times!