“Where’s the beef?” takes on a whole new meaning when you’re looking for ways to source beef raised within San Diego County.
What can we say—raising livestock, like agriculture in general, is becoming increasingly challenging to maintain in our region. The cost of land, water, and labor and very slim margins for profit are the primary factors contributing to the swell of local farmers shutting off their water, uprooting groves of avocado and citrus trees, selling off land and herds that have been in families for generations, and shuttering doors.
A summer of extreme heat has killed off desperately needed crops, and local producers need community support more than ever. We are not here to pour sugar on the reality.
Look for grass-fed beef free of antibiotics and hormones. Grass-fed beef is sometimes grain-finished, which can be favorable for marbling and a richer flavor. Individuals looking to avoid grain-fed altogether should be sure to ask for grass-finished beef, which will have yellower fat, a lower calorie content, and higher levels of antioxidants and fatty acids.
Refresh your memory on the environmental issues that plague the dairy industry. Some might argue that this region may not be suitable for the large herds essential for the production of scale needed to turn a profit when it comes to beef production.
But small-scale farms can benefit from small herds of livestock. When managed properly, food animals can be beneficial to promoting soil health and instrumental in comprehensive forms of regenerative agricultural practices. (While they don’t have cattle, you can take a tour of Stehly Farms to see how livestock can benefit organic agricultural practices.)
As one small-scale farmer put it, the big barrier is the cost of processing cattle, or the lack of USDA processors suitable for small producers within close range. Having a few head of cattle would benefit both the health of this farmer’s land and her bottom line until she factors in the cost of transporting and processing. It would far exceed what she could hope to make selling the beef from a tent at a farmers’ market.
ANOTHER OPTION FOR RED MEAT
We are lucky enough to have the option of buying locally raised lamb at many of our favorite restaurants and markets.
Goat is another red meat alternative that’s gaining in popularity with the increase of regional food tourism. Environmental impacts are decreased with smaller livestock herds.
BUY LOCAL AND HUMANE
If you’re looking in a deli case, Heart & Trotter was the only butcher that we could find consistently offering California-raised grass-fed and grass-finished beef.
If you’re dining out, we encourage you to put your phones down, skip the drive-thru line, and sit down with your loved ones for a grass-fed cheeseburger at Burger Lounge, the popular chain that started in San Diego. They also offer low-carb and plant-based options for your diverse friends, plus local beer and seriously tasty fries.