Sustainable vs. frugal - the chicken edition.
While most of my produce this season has come from either the CSA or my own garden, there is one thing neither can provide - meat.
So, I just ordered my first batch of sustainable meat: chickens from Chez Nous Farm.
Pasture-raised, certified organic chickens.
After a bit of phone tag, I managed to speak to Mr. Chez Nous and placed my order for five chickens, which should be ready in about two weeks. I'm lucky to have a farm like this so close - less than 15 km away, and close to my parents, close to the Garden Club meetings, and on an alternate way to work, so I can combine trips to make going there even more economical.
As an aside, the closest slaughter house he can find that handles organic birds is in St. Jacob's, Ontario - a day trip away just to get the birds slaughtered. The farm's quota is 300 birds per years, which is a bit much to be slaughtering on the farm, hence the use of a slaughter house. This drives home just how fractured our food system is. And why the cost of local, sustainable meat is so high.
High, as in over $5 a pound. There is a slightly cheaper option, but it's over 50 km away from me, and driving that far to save about 50 cents a pound is, well, not on. And while the birds they sell are organic, I don't know the farmer. I can't drive to the farm, talk to the farmer, see farm pictures on Facebook. I can't stop off and see if they have some garlic to sell, and maybe some kale. I can't chat with the farmer about the crappy spring, and how you really can't till wet clay, no matter how late in the year it's getting and how much you NEED to get your plants in!
What is personal contact worth? What is keeping local farmland worth?
To me, it's worth my CSA share and chicken at triple the price I can get it for at the grocery store.
But, of course, I still haven't won the lottery, and I need to stretch this chicken as far as I can.
So, I'll roast a chicken. And along with some potatoes and onions and veggies from the garden, get 4 meals* out of that. I prefer dark meat, so each leg is two meals, leaving all the white meat for leftovers.
I'll cut the remaining meat off the carcass, and toss all the bones into the stock pot, along with veggie scraps and some seasoning. This makes stock.
Half the stock goes in the freezer, and half, along with the meat picked off the bones and some of the left-over meat, makes soup. Of course, I'll add pasta or rice, and some frozen veggies, all of which will cost less than $1.00 total for another 4 meals.
Since there is a lot of left-over meat, I'll add some more veggies and a rue, make a quick batch of pie dough, and have a chicken pot pie, which can be frozen for another time. And results in another 4 meals. And all for an additional cost of under $2.00.
That frozen stock can be used to make a risotto, or more soup - maybe a nice curried sweet potato and chickpea soup. Another 4 meals, for the cost of the sweet potato from the CSA basket and some dried chickpeas - maybe $2.00 worth of ingredients?
At the end of my $30 chicken, I've added maybe another $5.00 worth of ingredients, and eaten 16 meals - all tasty, nutritious and mostly local.
$35.00, 16 meals.
Just over $2.00 per meal.
*For me, meal = serving. I'm the only human here, so a roast chicken that will feed four people will feed me for four meals. Sorry for any confusion this causes you :)