The Conscious Carnivore

As a refresher, here’s the workshop description, straight from the website:

How to use the whole animal to promote sustainability, avoid waste, and dazzle your tastebuds.

Again, I wanted and expected direct tips & tricks and ideas. A set of maps to various cuts, with suggestions on what to substitute for what. Ways to cook kidneys or tongue or tripe1. Someone else wanted to know how to get ALL the internal organs. I have no idea what she was planning for the lungs or bladder, but I’m kind of curious.

There was very little (though not none) of these kinds of tips. (Okay, the only one I remember was the suggestion that sirloin flap is a good substitute for skirt steak.) There were definitely some comments on how to use (and store) a whole animal. This was basically, in my opinion, not useful to an apartment dweller. For example, Ellen Malloy suggested doing a pile of pressure canning for storing meat (in sauces, or similar) to someone who asked about how an apartment dweller goes about buying a whole animal, but she didn’t seem to consider where.

The truth is, I only have so much space for storing canned food and frozen food. Yes, I may theoretically be able to be like her and buy & butcher a whole hog (though in actuality I wouldn’t know where to go after ordering the pig), but I can’t fathom where I’d store the food. And there’s a lot of food, if you read the end of “her post here.”: I do wish that there’d been pictures of everything broken down. Maybe once I saw it all (aside from the bits they ate as they were butchering, of course), I’d feel more confident that I could store it all. Unfortunately, as it stands, I’m thinking, “Even with what under the bed space is left for storing cans, there’s just not any room for a whole animal. Except a chicken, but I already use all those parts2.”

So, what am I to do?

Bartlett Durand of Black Earth Meats suggests we apartment dwellers get a meat CSA. It’s once a month delivery (or pick-up) and all sorts of things that are supposed to just fit neatly into the freezer above your fridge. Which is a great theory, but what about all the OTHER foods in my freezer? I spent a lot of time blanching corn, peeling peaches and flash-freezing berries, as examples, for the winter. Both my freezers were packed to the gills, and they’re only slightly less packed now (though we are eating through them).

Another couple I met there had similar sentiments. Sure, we can theoretically pressure can a bunch of sauces and meats, and just store them in wacky and not-so wacky places (under my bed, as a suggestion), but as the other couple pointed out, there’s still only so much space. And do I have space to store a pressure canner? Not really, no matter how much I want one. I’d share with my friends, but I don’t actually think any of them own one. Maybe someplace rents one.

Another point made was that not everything has to be canned to be shelf stable. But I don’t have the space to hang hams & sausages. Bill and I discussed the community garage, but we think the condo board might have a small issue with it. Also, we don’t know that we trust the space, since we’d don’t have ultimate control over it.

I don’t know. And I’m not getting the sense that people who work in the meat business (and all own houses, for the most part) are the best people to advise me. Perhaps I will get a meat CSA or buy a whole (or large part) of an animal and simply see how it goes.

Actually, that’s almost exactly what I’m going to do. In May, I’ll start discussing again the possibility of buying part to all of a hog from “Meadow Haven Farms”: when he processes them in July. The farmer and I discussed it briefly in early March. We’ll see. The question, of course, becomes if I should ask other people to join in on the purchase.

Which may be, in the end, what apartment dwellers should do. Of course, we’d have to fight over the single slab of ribs…

fn1. I actually don’t know how to make menudo, no. Also, the butchers on the panel imply that tripe (stomach) is one of the organs they can’t sell you due to various laws regarding small and large meat producers. I have no idea if this is true, or I utterly misunderstood.

fn2. Actually, as I type this entry, I have chicken stock in on the stove. It’s the exact same premise as veggie stock: but includes most of the “waste” parts of chicken; bones, neck, slightly (though not extremely) freezer-burned meat. The only parts of chicken I don’t use are the hearts (I think it’s a heart, anyway) and the livers that come inside my chickens. Right now, I just don’t know how yet.