Cold cuts for foodies
August 29, 2009 8:48 AM   Subscribe

Healthy/organic/free range cold cuts? Read Omnivore's Dilemma, saw Food, Inc. Horribly frightened of processed meats and refuse to support factory farming. Have been hitting farmer's markets for the last couple of years to get free-range and pastured chicken, beef, and pork. Yet, I love me some sandwich meats. How do I go about getting thin, delicious slices of turkey, roast beef, or ham that have come from humanely raised, safely slaughtered, and preferably local animals? I live in Central Pennsylvania. How does one go about determining how a company processes their meat?
posted by billysumday to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps you could ask the people you buy your meat from if they could start selling sliced meat. You're probably not the only one who'd be interested. People like sandwiches.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:55 AM on August 29, 2009

Have you considered making it yourself? I finally picked up a copy of Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn's Charcuterie after numerous recommendations, it's hard not to drool just flipping through the pages. Roasting those free-range chickens you're already buying is easy, and they are just as delicious in slightly thicker slices.
posted by ecurtz at 8:59 AM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Home food slicers aren't so expensive you couldn't buy one. Slice your organically sourced meat and cheese as thin as you like, yourself. Also helps keep your refrigerated, uncut meat fresher, longer.
posted by paulsc at 9:08 AM on August 29, 2009

If you get a meat slicer (like this), you can slice your own deli meats. This will work for chicken, etc., but obviously you still have a problem sourcing deli meats that are sausages, like bologna.
posted by Houstonian at 9:10 AM on August 29, 2009

Are you anywhere near Penn State? The Meats Lab (or Meat Slab, as it's usually referred to) is worth investigating. You'll only find beef and a few pork products (baloney, salami, hot dogs, sausages) there and in buying from them you do two things; you help support students who are taught how to prepare meat in a traditional manner, and as most of the beef and pork raised there is free range, so you also support sustainable agriculture. At the end of the Spring semester there's a competition where students from all over the country submit prepared meat for judging. Afterwords they sell all the entries pretty darn cheap and we use the opportunity to stock up on hams, bacon, sausages and deli meat (but again, no fowl). You have to line up pretty early though as they sell out quick.

One other resource to consider is They've just started up but as they're based in State College, that location is pretty well populated with local producers of all sorts of farm products. Feel free to MeMail me for anything more specific. I'm also in central PA and have lived here for twenty years. I'd be happy to hook you up with some local producers and processors, though my knowledge of those doing cold cuts is admittedly limited.
posted by Toekneesan at 9:53 AM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yes, I live around Penn State. Thanks for the links, Toekneesan, I'll look into both of those.
posted by billysumday at 9:59 AM on August 29, 2009

You kidding me? Just get a hunk of meat from your local farmer's market and slice it as you need it. The advantages are manifold. It's tastier, better for you (way less sodium most of the time), and normally no more than 25% of the cost. Use a slicer if you like, or just, you know, use knives. Since the meat is so much cheaper--I never pay more than $2-3/pound, and deli meat is rarely less than $5/pound--you'll actually be able to get a slicer after a few months.

Also, having grown up in Central PA as well, Toekneesan is right: you're kind of in an agricultural bonanza. About the only thing you can't get locally is citrus.
posted by valkyryn at 10:41 AM on August 29, 2009

My local food co-op sells this type of cold cuts. If there is any sort of natural foods store (Whole Foods/Wild Oats type places) in your area, they should have options for cold cuts.
posted by ishotjr at 11:02 AM on August 29, 2009

Seconding the Penn State meat lab for steaks and such. I get in line Friday mornings around nine for the best sirloin I have ever eaten. Anywhere. I also like that I can see the cattle grazing from my house...

I also bought a half of beef from Peachey Foods, which is about a half hour drive from Penn State. They are grass fed in the summer, and corn in the winter because it is just too cold here. Frozen, vacuum packed steaks, ground beef, etc. Their web site mentions "German Style Old-World Bologna." I have not tried it, but their beef was quite good.

Neither of these options is certified organic or anything, but Peachey's is run by very friendly Mennonites, and they will tell you exactly what was done, show you around, etc. I got to meet my cow when it was alive!

Another local option once deer season rolls around is venison. I know killing Bambi has some cringe factor, but the area has a deer overpopulation, and you can't get much more free range than a deer in the woods...
posted by cjemmott at 2:16 PM on August 29, 2009

Don't know about local, but my SO and I try to eat only humanely raised meets at home, and Applegate Farms brands fit the bill.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:18 PM on August 29, 2009

meats, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:18 PM on August 29, 2009

Yeah, both the Big Valley and Penns Valley are great places to pointlessly drive around in. There's not only Peachey's in Big Valley, but there's also a place called Peight's, closer to Belleville. Not at all easy to find. Here's a map. Speaking of Belleville, there's also the Belleville flea market and auction on Wednesday mornings. And in Penns Valley there's Bierley's Meat Market in Spring Mills. But Anabaptist farm products aren't all crunchy. Quite a few Anabaptist farmers can be just as bad as commercial producers, especially when it comes to the treatment of animals. They don't typically use the drugs and chemicals common in factory farming, but their treatment of livestock is controversial. They might call it pragmatic, others call it abusive.

One Amish farmer I can personally vouch for is Bieler's in Spring Mills. They raise meat not unlike they do at Polyface. You can visit them here(that's their farm in the center). But they only sell meat, not cold cuts. What you could do is buy the meat from Beiler's and then ask the guys at Bierley's to process it for you. Or, as suggested above, experiment with processing yourself.
posted by Toekneesan at 2:58 PM on August 29, 2009

Make your own, slice them thinly. Don't spend the $ on a slicer, spend them on better meat.

(Alternately, you could try to be a little less afeared of cold cuts, eat them in moderation, and recognize both Omnivore's Dilemma and Food Inc for the buzzword-heavy alarmist propaganda that they are - which is not to say that they are without merit.)
posted by mr. remy at 4:12 PM on August 29, 2009

If you have an interest in the provenance of your meat, you might want to investigate curing your own bacon (hint: it's very easy and very safe) and getting a home slicer which would also serve for cold cuts.
posted by primer_dimer at 2:49 AM on August 31, 2009

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