The average American consumes 18 pounds of bacon each year – about as much as one pig can provide. But we don’t consume enough ham, pork chops, and loin to balance the demand for this all-American breakfast favorite, especially for low-volume pork farmers. Large-scale operations that sell to the commodities market can sell the whole carcass, whereas small-scale producers often sell individual cuts directly to the consumer. A principle known in the industry as “carcass balancing” alleviates demand inefficiencies and can be applied to all livestock.

Choice cuts, such as filet mignon and rack of lamb, are usually more desirable than lamb sirloin or blade steak. How do farmers meet this demand for prime cuts without wasting the rest? New awareness and trends are helping recover precious nutrients that often go unused - think bone broth and nose-to-tail cuisine. The small farmer still struggles to satisfy consumer demand without wasting valuable product. We, the consumers, can each play a significant role toward ensuring the success and sustainability of small farmers.

Smart, intentional purchasing from local and regional ranchers and farmers might mean stepping a bit out of your comfort zone – both in food markets and the kitchen. Get creative and prepare a delicious lamb “steak” from a sirloin cut, or marinate a beef blade steak and stir-fry it with fresh vegetables. Instead of the popular boneless, skinless chicken breasts, households get far greater value from whole chickens. The meat can be used for tacos and salads, while the bones can be turned into a broth for soups.

Conscientious sourcing of your meat proteins helps our farmers balance their carcasses and their budgets. Using these strategies in the kitchen can help lower the cost of sourcing high-quality local protein while supporting our local farmers.

Amy Mattias

Amy is passionate about regenerative agriculture, knowing where her food comes from, and growing community resilience.