Food & Drink

Meat Has Seasons, Just Like Produce. And Here's How Factory Farming Has Messed With That.

There's a reason they call it a spring chicken.
10/30/2014 07:31am ET | Updated October 30, 2014

By now most of us are in tune with the idea of eating seasonal produce. Tomatoes are best late in the summer, apples are tastiest in the fall. Even if you don't practice it, most people have at least heard of the principle. But what about meat? A trip to the supermarket tells us that beef, pork, chicken and turkey are available any time. The thing is though, meat also has seasons -- it's the reason we eat turkey for Thanksgiving and ham for Easter -- but our current food system is incredibly removed from it.

Joel Salatin, the self-proclaimed lunatic farmer and fierce advocate of sustainable faming, explains that late fall/early winter is the right season for beef. "Once the frost has killed flies and sweetened the grass, cows are more comfortable than at any other time of the year. They naturally ramp up their forage intake and back fat," he wrote for Mother Earth News.

Terry Ragasa of Sutter Meats explained to us that "before refrigeration, people would slaughter hogs around fall because they were eating apples and acorns that would fall on the ground. They'd let them hang over the winter, hams would be ready by Easter. But now, pigs are pretty hearty, farmers have them in and out and they can be eaten anytime. But there is a different flavor in the meat depending on the season."

And they don't call it a spring chicken for no reason. Egg production reaches its peak in the spring -- it's also when yolks will be their brightest yellow -- which means that there will soon be extras for raising broilers. The natural season for chickens is throughout the summer months.

All this was more of a necessity in the past, when pasture raised animals were the norm and feeding hay and grain was just too expensive. This is less of an issue today, with the current factory farming system. But if you're looking to eat pasture-raised, grass-fed meat you might want to start thinking in terms of seasons -- even if you don't have to.

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