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How do I know that beef and poultry sold at a farmer's market have been safely handled?

Answered on July 29, 2014
Created July 28, 2014 at 11:51 PM

I recently visited a farmer's market in northern San Diego and was intrigued by a stand selling locally raised beef, turkey, and rabbit. I wanted to buy something but felt uncomfortable not buying meat directly from a store because of safety concerns. How does one know that the beef and poultry sold at any farmer's market has been safely handled? Is there a way to verify this?

79d8ae94fc5ecb0443c74da90ad81530

(50)

on July 29, 2014
at 12:06 AM

I feel like answering this question is going to lead to a debate regarding whether the USDA is a trustworthy entity, whether meat-handling codes are enforced at local butcheries, and various other side topics about the state of the meat industry (which I will happily concede is not good).

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4 Answers

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3491e51730101b18724dc57c86601173

(8395)

on July 29, 2014
at 05:07 PM

California law requires that farmers process meat through licensed processing plants for commercial sale. Most farmers welcome questions, visits to see how animals are treated, and will tell you where the processing took place (though it may not be possible to visit the processing plants). If the farmer is tight lipped about these things, don't buy their meat! We try to visit farms to see where our food is grown, so that we are assured of the conditions. I think it's a way of honoring and respecting the animals we eat.

In the scandal that happened last fall with a Sonoma County meat processing plant, the real tragedy was that 2 days a week that plant processed meat for local organic, sustainable farmers. These farmers had careful documentation of every step of the process and even had observers during the slaughter and butchering to ensure the quality of their meat, but the FDA still required them to discard all the meat processed--a financial nightmare for many. With the closure of the plant, farmers had to move their animals long distances, which stresses them out before slaughter. Fortunately, a group of these farmers have re-opened the plant with much stricter standards for ALL.

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5b9a25a1a676397a25579dfad59e1d7b

(2318)

on July 29, 2014
at 11:36 PM

By getting to know your local farmers :)

Good farmers are proud of their farms and what they produce. They are usually more than willing to chat about their methods, their feed, their treatment of animals and answer any questions you have. Heck, my local farmers have offered to let me come to their farms and check out the entire process myself and I've taken them up on it (highly recommended) just so I could see what's going on with my own eyes. Try striking up a conversation and start getting to know them better - I'm sure they could answer anything you may be wondering about far better than anyone on the internet could.

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56c28e3654d4dd8a8abdb2c1f525202e

(1822)

on July 29, 2014
at 05:43 PM

I note that my farmer processes turkeys and chickens himself (in Ohio). He will show you everything. But for larger animals he has to go to a USDA-approved slaughterhouse. Here in the Midwest there have always been small butchers, in the past mostly making money from dressing deer, although now grass fed has become big business. The previous butcher I used has a big window in the store, you could watch the workers cutting and sawing as you waited in line behind all the hunters.

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32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on July 29, 2014
at 12:03 AM

Why do you assume the grocery store (and all the middlemen associated with the grocery store supply chain) safely handles the meat?

Ok, now that your bubble is burst… Meat for resale will have been processed in the same plants used by grocery stores… or similarly government certified ones. (As if a government certification makes it safe!)

In fact, the only way to guarantee safe handling from slaughter to plate is to do all the steps yourself!

79d8ae94fc5ecb0443c74da90ad81530

(50)

on July 29, 2014
at 12:06 AM

I feel like answering this question is going to lead to a debate regarding whether the USDA is a trustworthy entity, whether meat-handling codes are enforced at local butcheries, and various other side topics about the state of the meat industry (which I will happily concede is not good).

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