Support Your Local
Farmers' markets continue to grow in popularity and are an
excellent venue for humane farmers to sell their products. These markets
provide the critical connection between consumers and the farmers who grow
and raise their food, something you can't find in a grocery store. They also
give consumers a chance to ask farmers how they grow their produce and raise
sure where there is a farmersí market in your area? There are a number of
helpful websites that can aid you in your search for fresh produce and
humanely raised meat, milk, and eggs. We suggest using any or all of the
following sites to find a market near you:
If none of these sites help you to locate a farmersí market in your area,
there are other steps you can take. You can inquire with your local Chamber
of Commerce, and you can ask friends, family members or neighbors if they
know of any nearby. You can also contact local farmers to find out where
they sell their products.
you have located a farmersí market near you, FACT has some suggestions to
help you make the most humane and sustainable choices when shopping.
Not all farmers markets allow poultry or other meats to be sold. However,
if yours does, chances are the market will require that the meat or poultry
be frozen to comply with food safety or public health ordinances. In
general, freezing is done immediately after butchering and will not
compromise the quality of the meat.
When shopping for poultry (chicken or turkey), ask the farmer how the
animals are raised. Do they roam on pasture or are they inside a barn
most, or all, of the time? What do the hens eat? Are they ever given
antibiotics, and if so, under what conditions? Antibiotic use is only
acceptable when used to treat acute illness. Although most pastured poultry
are fed grain, they should be raised on grass, free to peck and walk around.
If organic poultry is your preference, make sure to ask the farmer if the
grain they feed their chickens is certified organic. Hormones are not
permitted in broiler production by law. Therefore, a "no added hormones"
claim on chicken is unnecessary and misleading.
Are you looking for beef? Cattle should be raised entirely on pasture,
without growth-promoting antibiotics or hormones. Although most cattle
are raised on pasture, typical factory-farmed beef is "finished" for the
last few months on a feedlot diet of corn. FACT does not consider this to be
humane. Cattle should be raised and finished on pasture. Some farmers will
supplement with grain, but the less grain, the better, as grass is a more
natural diet for cattle and will not upset their rumen (stomach). Beef
labeled as grass fed should come from cows that do not eat any grain, but
consume only pasture grasses and forages. Grass fed beef is higher in
conjugated linoleic acid (a good fatty acid), and lower in saturated fat,
calories and cholesterol. Read our page on Labelsto
learn more about what to look for on packages of beef.
Pigs should be pasture-raised or raised in hoop houses with deep bedding. Sows
should be free to nest and move about freely. Ask specifically if the farmer
uses gestation or farrowing crates. If they say yes, then move on. Gestation
or farrowing crates are used in intensive confinement systems and FACT does
not consider their use humane. Hoop houses are an alternative production
system for hogs that involves using greenhouse-like structures and a
deep-bedding system. Hooped shelters are designed to take advantage of the
natural behavior of hogs to segregate their sleeping, dunging, and feeding
areas. Deep bedding consists of a deep layer of 14 to 18 inches of material
such as straw, cornstalks, hay, and ground corn cobs. This material absorbs
moisture and odor and helps keep the pigs dry and warm. Additionally, pigs
should not be raised with growth promoting antibiotics or other drugs.
Hormones are not permitted in pork production by law. Therefore, a "no added
hormones" claim on pork is again unnecessary and misleading.
Is the farmer selling eggs? Ask the farmer how they raise their hens. Are
they in a cage free environment? Do they have access to the outside and what
kind of access is provided? In general, most farmers who are selling eggs at
a farmersí market have a small outdoor flock and raise other livestock,
grains or produce. However, this is not always the case, and unless you ask,
you won't know for sure. Remember that the color of the eggs depends on the
hen, so expect to see eggs in all shades of white and brown. Occasionally,
you will see green or blue eggs. These come from Araucana or Americana
chickens, breeds well suited to life outdoors.
Cheese is becoming more popular at farmers' markets. Some farmers raise
the cows that provide the milk for their cheese, others do not. Make sure
the farmer knows how the dairy cows are raised. They should be free to roam
on pasture, not living in a confinement facility. Some farmers make their
cheese entirely from grass fed milk. The cows that produce this milk graze
on pasture and are not fed any grain. If you can find grass fed cheese, buy
it. Like grass fed beef, grass fed cheese is higher in conjugated linoleic
acid and lower in saturated fat.