Author of The Blackout Book and the online course Bloom Where You’re Planted
Chalk it up to a side effect nobody ever expected from the pandemic: meat is becoming difficult to get. Who would have expected this to result in grocery stores across the country rationing meat purchases? Who would have ever thought the COVID-19 virus would mean that places like Wendy’s would stop selling burgers altogether and that McDonald’s would cut its menu to only a handful of offerings?
Workers at meat packaging plants have been especially hard hit with the coronavirus. Almost 60% of the employees at one Tyson plant in Iowa have tested positive for COVID. Plants everywhere are shutting down for the safety of their employees and despite President Trump’s invocation of the Defense Production Act to force them to reopen, many workers have refused to return to the plants. Factory farms have culled millions of cows, hogs, and chickens because they cannot be to plants that are either closed or reducing the amount of meat they’re able to process while practicing social distancing.
Historically, the centralization of food has always ended in disaster. Unfortunately, giant CAFO operations and USDA approval have centralized our own food supply, and here we are.
Do the meat shortages mean that you have to become a vegetarian? While that is one option, here are some other ways to keep meat on the table at your house.
Buy in bulk locally
One of the best ways to acquire meat is to purchase in bulk and to do so locally. You can buy a quarter or a half of a pig or cow and have it processed into your favorite cuts. As well, you are locking in your meat price by purchasing it all at once. This way, you won’t be as strongly affected by meat inflation until next season.
Here are a few tips for bulk purchases of meat
- If that is more meat than your family can use or more money than you can spend right now, consider going in with another family and splitting the purchase.
- You need a deep freezer in order to make the most of such a large purchase.
- I also like to can meat so that I am not as dependent on the electrical grid. Look into canning entire roasts, meatballs, or chili. You can also check out my canning cookbook for more canning recipes.
- Have the poorer cuts turned into stew meat or ground meat.
- Slow cooking a lower quality cut can turn something tough into something that melts in your mouth.
You’re more likely in the future to get meat in cuts to which you are unaccustomed, so, for example, whole chickens instead of a styrofoam tray of boneless skinless chicken breasts. You will be more likely to cook a stew or a roast. Have a plan for what you can do with those leftovers to extend them through another meal. Here are a few quick ideas:
- Make gravy. If you have a serving of meat too small to go around for all of your family members, consider making gravy and serving it over mashed potatoes. Add some onion and mushrooms to the gravy to extend it even further.
- Make a soup or stew. This is another way to extend a serving that isn’t quite big enough to go around
- Mix it with beans and add Mexican seasoning to make burritos or to serve over rice.
- When you make a large roast, thinly slice the meat for sandwiches and salads throughout the work and school week.
- Cover leftover stew with pie crust or biscuit dough for a delicious potpie
- Look for recipes specifically written to use up leftovers.
- If you have more leftovers than you can use before they spoil, sometimes they can be canned – check out the instructions here for some examples.
Don’t waste anything
Use up the things that most people throw away. When preparing the meat, if you are cutting away some fat or bone, place it in a bowl and put it in the freezer. When you have enough like scraps of meat, it’s time to make broth from it. You can make hearty broth from ham, turkey, chicken, beef, or pork – virtually any kind of meat. Use the inedible parts and cook it down for hours to get a rich and delicious broth. You can then use this broth as a base for soup or to cook your rice in to add a hit of nutrition.
Here are directions on how to make and can poultry broth and ham broth. There are some great ideas for not letting any meat go to waste in this article.
Do you have such a tiny amount of leftovers that it won’t equal a full serving? Start a container in your freezer for those leftovers and create “leftover soup”. Sometimes it’s fantastic, sometimes it isn’t so great, but those odds and ends can combine to make meals that I consider to be basically “freebies.” We always have a large Tupperware container in the freezer that contains little bits of vegetables or meat. Add a jar of homemade broth and a handful of rice, barley, or pasta, and you’ve created “leftover soup.” It will be different every single time, based on your family’s leftovers.
Raise your own.
If you live in a place where this is possible, it may be time to start raising your own meat. If you are in suburbia, rabbits could be your best option, since they’re quiet and unobtrusive. Even cities that allow you to have some laying hens tend to frown upon residents butchering those hens in the backyard.
If you live more rurally, the choice is yours: goats, chickens, turkeys, and pigs are all reasonable ways to get started raising your own meat. If you are worried about the slaughter, you may be able to work out a barter with someone who is skilled at butchering meat in exchange for some of the harvest.
Hunt and fish
This answer isn’t for everyone. Some folks prefer to forget that the meat on the styrofoam trays at the grocery store didn’t originate on those trays. Others have gotten locked into a more narrow definition of “meat”, believing that the options are fish, pork, beef, and chicken, and that nothing else exists. However, if you aren’t bothered by the concept of hunting, there is an abundance of meat walking, swimming, and flying around. Invest in a good game cookbook to best prepare meats that may not be familiar to you.
You don’t have to hunt, yourself. In the past, I had some friends and neighbors who hunt. In exchange for some of the bounty, I’ve bartered my skills at canning things like venison chili or moose meatballs in spaghetti sauce.
If you fish, that can put an instant meal on the table. Learning to quickly and efficiently clean fish is a great skill and can gently prepare you for butchering other types of meat.
Perhaps with the sharp uptick in meat prices and the rations, it’s time to brush up on these skills and learn to harvest what is naturally abundant in your area.
Use less meat in your recipes.
If you can’t get around the rations, then you’ll have to adjust to using less meat. Instead of making meat the star of the show, try using less of it in your meals.
- Use it as a condiment. Throw in a small piece of ham or a couple of slices of bacon when making bean soup. Crumble crisp bacon on top of casseroles or potato dishes.
- Mix meat with another protein source. This is less noticeable in meals with strong spices. In your chili, use more beans and only half a pound of beef.
- If you eat soy products, try mixing soaked texturized vegetable protein half and a half with ground beef in recipes that call for it.
- Cooked lentils can also be mixed with ground beef in stews, soups, and casseroles.
- Stir-fries can make a little bit of meat go a long way while still providing a tasty, nutritious meal for your family.
While your meat and potatoes family members may not be delighted, there may not be an option for some families other than to reduce their meat consumption.
If you found this article useful, be sure to sign up for our newsletter. How do you get meat if you’re facing rations? What is the meat situation at your local stores? Do you think these shortages will continue long-term? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Daisy Luther writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, voluntaryism, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. She is widely republished across alternative media and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, PreppersDailyNews.com. Daisy is the best-selling author of 4 books and runs a small digital publishing company. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.