Better Meat Sources in New Jersey
The statement “know your farmer, know your food” is never more apt than when applied to the purchase and consumption of meat. The spotlight shed by Covid-19 on the industrialized meat system is only the latest in a long history of disturbing looks behind the curtain at our nation’s meat supply.
Fortunately, in recent years an increasing number of New Jersey farmers have dedicated themselves to the humane production of beef and pork, but it is not an easy task.
The challenges of humanely raising animals for food go far beyond elements such as allowing them to thrive on grass pastures, feast on non-GMO feed, or remain free of antibiotics. The number of slaughterhouses in our region has been on the decline for decades. With increased consumer demand, this lack of slaughter facilities makes timely processing difficult. Options are limited. Transportation in tight quarters on trucks for long distances can be stressful to animals that have only known firm ground and open fields. This stress can also negatively impact the meat’s taste and texture. Post slaughter, there are additional obstacles to navigate, including restrictions related to distribution.
Locally raised meat requires an enormous amount of labor and input. For farmers who rise to the task, the benefits usually go far beyond the financials. “We wanted to know where the meat we were eating was coming from,” explained Robin McConaughy to Edible Jersey in 2015 (“A Better Way to Go,” High Summer issue). She and her husband, Jon, own Double Brook Farm in Hopewell Township, which now has its own on-farm USDA-inspected processing facility. Their chute design is based on Temple Grandin’s work for slaughterhouses to reduce animal stress and anxiety.
Personal reasons also played a factor for Carla Gazzara of 7th Heaven Farm in Tabernacle when she and her husband decided to move beyond simply raising livestock to selling their own meat in 2005. “My mother had become ill with cancer and I had learned a lot about food,” she recalls, adding that the right foods can both help cure and help prevent disease.
While quality local meat usually tends to cost more than its industrialized equivalent, most customers, similar to the farmers themselves, believe the benefits far outweigh the costs and effort. Gazzara notes that while her customers seek out her products for a variety of reasons—health concerns, environmental beliefs, or humane values, to name a few—they usually have one thing in common: They are knowledgeable and committed consumers.
“My customers understand everything about my meat products…. They ask questions, but they have pretty much already decided this is what they want to do. They’ve already done their research. They have a reason to seek out this type of product.”
The farms below raise a variety of both beef and pork products, usually along with poultry and other items. Nearly all have seen a dramatic increase in business since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and demand remains high. We encourage you to contact the farms directly for more information regarding availability.
A partial list of NJ farms that raise a variety of beef and pork products:
7th Heaven Farm
1154 Old Indian Mills Rd., Tabernacle
Bulk orders only; home delivery or farm pickup
1250 Lacey Rd., Forked River
105 Crusher Rd., Hopewell
On-farm market; farmers’ markets
Cotton Cattle Company at River Valley Farm
Cornfield Lane, Asbury
Online/ship direct; home delivery; monthly subscriptions
Double Brook Farm
130 Hopewell Rocky Hill Rd., Hopewell
LL Pittenger Farm
143 Creek Rd., Andover
On-farm market; farmers; markets; select retailers
Lima Family Farms
826 Amwell Rd., Hillsborough
On-farm market; farmers’ markets; select retailers
Natures Own Farm
448 Lewistown Rd., Columbus
Farm pickup; farmers’ markets; buyers club
803 U.S. Highway 202, Readington
River Bend Farm
25 Branch Rd., Far Hills
On-farm Market; shares; farmers’ markets; select retailers
Opossum Road, Skillman
(also raises on farms in VA & NY)
Totten Family Farm
442 Naughright Rd., Long Valley
152 Trench Rd., Bridgeton
The following meat retailers sell humanely raised beef and pork products from regional farms:
Brick Farm Market
65 E. Broad St., Hopewell
Fossil Farms Market & Kitchen
81 Fulton St., Boonton
Skillman Farm Market
1932 U.S. Highway 206, Skillman
Walden Local Meat Co.