One of our writers recently purchased some bacon at a local farmer’s market in the Washington, D.C. area and was shocked to see the ingredients that were included in the bacon recipe. The list included sodium nitrite, sodium tripolyphosphate, monosodium glutamate and sodium erythorbate.
You might expect to see only “real” bacon at a farmer’s market, but that’s not always the case. So how does this happen? How does a small, local farmer end up bringing this kind of bacon product to the farmer’s market?
To get some answers we decided to visit Creswick Farms to talk to owner and operator Nathan Creswick. First, let’s start by saying he’s not the kind of farmer you might expect–in his previous life he worked as a Systems Engineer for the Defense Department. He actually reminded me of the midwest version of Joel Salatin. Very intelligent, thoughtful, friendly and knowledgeable. I got the distinct impression that he loves what he does. Nathan ended up with his awesome farm producing what he calls “clean” meat after discovering he was allergic to store-bought eggs and, later, farm-raised, warm-water fish. Turns out he was allergic to the chemical used to raise both the chickens and the fish!
We asked Nathan about this particular package of bacon and he told us it was a
standard production-type bacon recipe.
So we wanted to know: what would make a small, local farmer choose this type of “production” recipe that includes nitrites and MSG? These were Nathan’s thoughts:
- it could be that the farmer wasn’t aware of what was in the recipe
- the farmer might know that the production facility is using those ingredients to produce the bacon, but doesn’t care
- another possibility is that the farmer’s only access for bacon production is this facility, leaving no choice in how it’s produced
In Nathan’s case he’s able to control his bacon recipes because he has a production facility on his farm. You won’t find any strange-looking ingredients and chemicals on his labels.
So how can you make sure you’re buying “real” bacon at your local farmer’s market? Nathan’s advice is to always read the label. Products are usually displayed on the table at the farmer’s market so don’t be shy about asking to read the ingredients.
If you see something in the ingredients you don’t like, you can always say you’re trying to reduce your intake of MSG or nitrites. That way you can say this bacon’s just not for you without offending the farmer. And remember they might not have a say in the matter.
Our talk with Nathan of Creswick Farms was really enlightening and underscored the need for more small, local facilities that can process meat for farmers. As demand grows for local, “clean” meat we hope that like-minded butchers and meat processors will increase so local farmers will have an option.
Read more about removing barriers to local meat processing at Food Safety News here. And find out how you can get involved and support organizations that foster this growing demand for locally processed, real meat.
And we can’t wrap up this article without saying how great Creswick Farms‘ bacon is–the best we’ve ever tasted! It even looks “clean.” Find out more about Creswick Farms and their products here.