Farmers’ Markets and Pastured Animal Products

eggs at marketFats are finally getting positive headlines AND farmer’s markets are about to kick into high gear. How are these two things connected? Three words: pastured animal products. While some grocery stores stock free-range eggs and grass-fed meats, most don’t, so unless you have a neighbor raising urban chickens in her backyard, one of the best places to find pastured animal products is your local farmer’s market. You can talk to the farmers about how the animals were raised, pepper them for cooking tips (pun intended), and leave knowing that you bought incredibly nutritious and delicious ingredients and supported your local economy at the same time.

What makes pastured animal products so much better? Since I’m not a farmer, I’ll let Joel Salatin speak to that. He’s widely considered to be America’s First Farmer, and he’s written several books about the benefits of raising animals on real farms on real grass. (Salatin wound up in the limelight after Michael Pollan interviewed him for Omnivore’s Dilemma in 2007.) As he points out, his chickens spend their days pecking for bugs and greens—he refers to them as having a “fresh daily salad bar”—and plenty of sunshine, with the typical flock being no more than 300 birds. Conventional flocks number over 10,000 birds, and they’re kept in closed, cramped facilities with artificial lighting on 24 hours a day to force the hens to overproduce eggs. Along with routine hormones and medications, they’re fed arsenic to stimulate their appetites and synthetic vitamins to replace what they would have been able to eat in fields. These birds live such stressful lives that their beaks are cut off to prevent them from pecking each other to death. If I were a chicken, I know where I’d rather live!

Beyond animal welfare, allowing animals to roam on pasture results in animal products that are good for humans, too. Meat, eggs, and dairy products from pastured animals are high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats and health-boosting minerals, plus they have much higher vitamin levels, especially vitamins A and D. (Plants contain high levels of beta-carotene, which is what our bodies use to create vitamin A, so any animal eating those plants will create lots of its own vitamin A. And any animal—including humans!—basking in sunlight will have high levels of vitamin D.) Meat, eggs, and dairy products from pastured animals also have a richer, fuller flavor and cook more quickly because they’re naturally lean.

So the next time you’re at the farmer’s market, pick up a dozen eggs! Or a pound of meat or a pint of yogurt. And then savor every bite.




  1. Tammy Reitz says:

    Last year I visited Joel Salatin’s Polyface farm – it is only an hour from where I live. It is a peace of heaven. Spotless and clean everywhere you look. I am so thankful he is being spotlighted, especially to let the world know that not only are his animals and the environment more healthy, but it is a prosperous way of doing things as well.

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