As anyone who's gotten through the "What's in the Meat?" chapter of Fast Food Nation knows, research has uncovered some unsettling questions regarding the quality of many of our main courses. As a result, an increasing number of health- conscious consumers are turning toward organic ranchers for a healthier—and environmentally sustainable—alternative to mass-produced and -distributed meat. Apparently, treating the animals well, feeding them only natural feed (rather than potentially disease-ridden animal by-products), and allowing them to move about freely is actually good for them. And that makes it good for us, especially when we dig into our next filet mignon, Thanksgiving turkey, or Christmas ham.
Organic products may cost a bit more, but many say they're worth it, both for your health and your peace of mind. Plus, critics say free-range meats and poultry actually taste better. Here are three good places to find food that's friendly to your stomach, your conscience, and your environment.
Coleman Natural Meats
Based on a ranch in Saguache, CO, Coleman contracts with 700 ranchers in 17 states to produce meat from animals that have never received added hormones or antibiotics. Coleman beef and lamb are not available for purchase over the Internet, but the Web site includes a state-by-state directory of all restaurants and retail shops that carry Coleman products. www.colemannatural.com
Niman Ranch adheres to strict animal husbandry guidelines that dictate that animals are treated humanely, are fed only all-natural feeds, and are allowed to mature naturally. Niman products are available both in stores (listed by state on the site) and via the online store. Niman Ranch supplies a wide variety of restaurants, including the McDonald's-owned Mexican food chain, Chipotle. www.nimanranch.com
Diamond Organics is a virtual clearinghouse for all organic edibles—produce, groceries, meats—and flowers, too. Overnight shipping guarantees next-day delivery in most cases. www.diamondorganics.com