Affordable humanely-raised dairy, meat and eggs in NYC?
March 25, 2012 9:27 PM   Subscribe

Affordable humanely-raised dairy, meat and eggs in NYC?

I live in lower Manhattan, and would like to switch to eating more humanely-raised meats, but it is difficult for me to justify the cost. I normally pay from $2-4/lb for chicken breasts for example, and the humanely-raised stuff (at Whole Foods, at least) seems to run around $12/lb. Ouch. I'm also concerned about what exactly I would be getting, as Whole Foods is a corporation, and I'm not terribly confident in their honesty or rating system.

Humanely-raised to me means that the animals are raised in a low-stress environment, eat foods that are agreeable to them, and receive humane treatment. I do not especially care whether the meat is local, or who owns the farm where it is produced.

A couple other constraints: I'm single, so CSAs are tricky. I don't have a car, or a giant freezer, but my regular-sized freezer is all mine, and mostly empty most of the time.
posted by !Jim to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I buy my eggs, dairy, and some meat at Tompkins Square Greenmarket on Sundays. It's definitely cheaper than Whole Foods and you can inquire as to the provenance of the meat. The inventory of the one meat vendor they have fluctuates wildly, but if you get there early you can get most things.
posted by AaRdVarK at 9:32 PM on March 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I guess since I no longer run it, I guess I can promote it, but I started meatshare in NYC before I moved away. Yes, the quantities seem intimidating, but the intention is that you share a share with other people if you want. We just didn't want to deal with subdividing 50 shares ourselves, so we set up smaller number of shares that the starters could handle organizing, and then told everyone to use the message boards if they wanted to divide them into more shares.

And also the experience usually empowers our members to realize that yeah, you really can call a farmer, get pretty cheap meat, and find random people on the internet to share things with. Luckily, it's a buy when you want kind of thing, not a CSA, so you aren't tied down. It's just a model for doing things.

I think a single person can fit somewhere around 15-25 lbs of meat in a normal size freezer? I had a big freezer in NYC (a great investment), but I have procrastinated about getting one in Chicago and have been just using my normal fridge for meat I've bought. I've never had a car, which makes sense because I don't know how to drive. And there are lots of people like us who want to buy this stuff, so it's pretty easy to find them on the meatshare comment boards and message board. And when you consider that the meat is $4-$10 a lb, and usually really good, and you can meet the farmers and talk to them, I think it's a good deal. I've been meaning to get the model out in Chicago, I know there is already a club in Austin.
posted by melissam at 10:42 PM on March 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

You wouldn't be the first person outside Brooklyn to join the Park Slope Food Coop for the amazingly affordable organic/grass-fed/cage free goods!
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 12:13 AM on March 26, 2012

Any of the NYC greenmarkets would be a good starting point; become a regular and you can actually get to know the people who raise the animals you eat.
posted by anildash at 6:32 AM on March 26, 2012

Union Square Greenmarket is your best bet; it's open MWF and Saturday, with Wednesday and Saturday being the biggest in terms of farmer attendance. Some farms I like for meat are Flying Pigs Farm and NY Beef Co. It isn't cheap though mainly because raising animals correctly isn't cheap. The way it becomes affordable is to just eat meat less often. I like the slab bacon from Flying Pigs, because I can freeze it for weeks and just cut off small amounts as needed for sauces, pastas, etc. Ask the vendor for the best ways to prep and store the products you purchase, and which would be best for your particular situation (their knowledge in this area is another reason to shop at the Greenmarket).

In supermarkets, be skeptical of labels like "cage free" "free range" "grass fed" "organic" - these labels mean little to nothing. For example, grass fed does not mean grass finished. Try to avoid water-chilled chicken and, if you need to be eating chicken, opt for air-chilled chicken instead. I'll let you do your own research into the labeling. In most cases, a supermarket chicken/steak/egg is a supermarket chicken/steak/egg, regardless of the label or the price. The only way to get some assurance that you're eating humanely and safely raised products is to buy directly from farmers.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:15 AM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Check out Dickson's Farmstand Meats.
posted by slkinsey at 7:23 AM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Greenmarkets are probably the way to go.

I'd also check out Fairway- their prices won't be super cheap, but they'll be better than Whole Foods. Ditto some of the older, family-run butcher shops still surviving in the city. I'm partial to Ottomanelli's on Bleecker Street- they source their meat well, have reasonable prices, and have been at it for generations.
posted by mkultra at 8:45 AM on March 26, 2012

Definitely the greenmarkets. Union Square's is huge and we get lots of good stuff there. You can also sign up for a partial share in a CSA, or see if any friends want to share one with you - there's this one that's pairing up with a local delivery service so you don't have to worry about pickup. Their medium share is probably too much food for you, but if you can split it with a friend it might be doable.
posted by bedhead at 9:23 AM on March 26, 2012

Best answer: 2nd Dickson's Farmstand Meats and the Union Square Greenmarket. FreshDirect also has some grass-fed beef (100% grass-fed Hardwick Beef).

At Union Square Greenmarket, here are my provider notes (may be out of date, check What's In Today before you go).

I find Wednesdays and Saturdays to be best in terms of variety.

Monday: New York Beef Co, Uphill Farm
Wednesday: New York Beef Co, Arcadian Pastures
Friday: Grazin' Angus, New York Beef Co
Saturday: Elk Trails Bison, Grazin' Angus

Wednesday: Arcadian Pastures, Garden of Spices
Friday: Flying Pigs, Fazio, Grazin' Angus
Saturday: Flying Pigs, Quattro's, Grazin' Angus

Wednesday: Di Paola
Saturday: Di Paola, Quattro's

Wednesday: Arcadian Pastures, Tamarack Hollow, Oak Grove Plantation
Friday: Flying Pigs, Oak Grove Plantation
Saturday: Flying Pigs, Oak Grove Plantation

Wednesday: 3 Corner Field
Saturday: 3 Corner Field, Catskill Merino

Monday: PE & DD Seafood
Wednesday: Blue Moon
Friday: Pura Vida
Saturday: PE & DD Seafood, Seatuck

Good luck! And bring a rolling cart, perhaps an ice pack, and some extra bags.
posted by kathryn at 10:40 AM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for your answers everyone!

In terms of the greenmarkets, does anyone have any advice on how early one must arrive to have a good selection? I'm not really a morning person, especially on weekends.
posted by !Jim at 8:31 PM on March 26, 2012

Best answer: When the weather is nice, the Union Square Greenmarket gets crowded around 10am-11am on a Saturday in the spring/summer. However, a lot of people are there just to look around, take photos, or buy produce. There aren't as many people buying meat, at least, that I have observed. So while you'll still have a decent selection of meat to choose from, getting around the market can be really annoying (lots of dogs and strollers and slow-walkers).

Also, if you need a special item (for a dinner party or something), you can always call a specific farmer ahead of time and make special arrangements.

The only big item I would be worried about is seafood, especially if you want something specific. The good purveyors will usually have a long line, and sell out of the popular items or those with a short season pretty fast.
posted by kathryn at 9:28 PM on March 26, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, kathryn. Good thing I don't like seafood.
posted by !Jim at 7:32 PM on March 27, 2012

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