Memorial Day weekend unofficially marks the start of grilling season, a summer of eating flame-kissed meat and veggies.
For many, the vegetables will be grown nearby and purchased via one of Alabama’s numerous farmers markets or local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) bundles. The meat on the grill also can be a local product. Small farms from the mountains to the coast produce beef, pork, chicken, and lamb for public sale. Many are processed in-state as well.
It’s a win-win, especially for a celebratory splurge. You support your local economy and neighbors – farmers, their families, their suppliers, the workers at the processing plants, and the markets that sell them. You’ll also enjoy some of the most delicious and well-raised meat available outside a fancy restaurant. Unlike factory-farmed meat at the grocery, these animals are active, grow at a more natural pace, and eat what they naturally enjoy.
Many are heritage breeds better known for flavor and intramuscular marbling than their leaner grocery counterparts. Fat equals flavor. Higher marbling is a major factor when beef is graded “prime.” Here are some Alabama animal farms, including what they grow and where to find their meat.
North Alabama Wagyu (Vinemont)
Your farmers: Whitesell Farms
The basics: The farm raises beef that genetically is whole or part Wagyu, the beyond-prime Japanese breed prized for its marbling. The cattle are processed just over the state line in Tennessee. The farm’s subsidiary, North Alabama Wagyu, handles retail sales.
What’s going on your grill: Beef is what’s for dinner. Steaks, hamburger patties and ground beef, roasts, stew meat, ribs, organ meat and what they call “interesting bits (ask and if we have them, you’ll get them!)”
Where to find them: Madison City Farmers Market (next: May 20), The Market at Pepper Place (next: May 27).
Direct sales/shipping: Pre-order retail cuts for market days through North Alabama Wagyu. Order beef sides through Whitesell Farms.
Sherrill Family Farms (Anderson)
Your farmers: Justin and Lindsey Sherrill
The basics: Animals are raised all or mostly on pasture; any feed is soy-free, corn-free, non-GMO.
What’s going on your grill: Pastured pork and chicken, beef and lamb that are fed and finished on grass, and beef that is grass-fed and grain-supplemented. They sell beautiful multi-colored eggs from their pastured hens, too.
Where to find them: Madison City Farmers Market; The Market at MidCity (Huntsville), The Market at Pepper Place (Birmingham)
Direct sales/shipping: The farm periodically offers “dinner boxes” with some 15 pounds of meat. Free home delivery within a 50-mile radius. Telephone 256-777-4177 for more information.
JS Cattle Company (Falkville)
Your farmers: Dalton Jenkins, Robert Summerford, and Joey Jenki
The basics: Animals are raised on a family-owned farm in Falkville and sold through its Woodland-based wholesaler.
What’s going on your grill: Beef and pork, by the cut or bulk. Beef sides also are pre-sold in increments from one-sixteenth to a whole carcass. Ground beef and pork boxes are available.
Where to find them: Tallapoosa River Farmers Swap and Market, The Market at Pepper Place (Birmingham).
Direct sales/shipping: Order online. Free shipping on orders over $175.
Mason Hills Farm (Grand Bay)
Your farmers: Mason Hills Farm
The basics: Cattle is 100 percent pasture raised; grain-finishing is available. They are processed and packaged at the farm’s USDA-inspected plant.
What’s going on your grill: Beef cuts including steaks, hamburger patties, ground beef, brisket, eye of round, skirt, and flank. Bulk boxes and partial carcasses also available.
Where to find them: Order directly.
Direct sales/shipping: Free two-day local delivery for orders $125 and up, and one-day delivery for orders of $250 or more.
Sweet Grown Alabama Farms (Tanner)
Your farmers: Chris and Audra Loftin
The basics: All animals on the 22-acre farm are grass-fed on regeneratively-managed pasture (no-till, soil-building). No hormones, antibiotics, and feed from soy or GMO sources are used. Its sheep grow hair versus lanolin-rich wool, producing a less-gamy flavor.
What’s going on your grill: Beef (lamb and poultry are currently out of stock). Eggs and honey from the farm’s apiary also are available.
Where to find them: Online shop includes steaks, roasts, ground beef, ribs, oxtail; The also carry bulk boxes with steaks and/or hamburger patties.
Direct sales/shipping: Order via the website.
BDA Farm (Uniontown)
Your farmers: The team at Bois d’Arc Farm
The basics: The 6,000-acre farm in the heart of the Black Belt uses regenerative and other pasture-building practices to produce flavorful and nutrition-dense meat. It also sells farm-produced honey and eggs, and farmed saltwater shrimp grown nearby.
What’s going on your grill: Individual cuts of beef, pork, and lamb. Other options include monthly subscriptions, combo meat boxes, and single-item bulk orders.
Where to find them: Greensboro Depot (Fridays and Saturdays), farm pickup, BDA store (Green Street in Marion).
Direct sales/shipping: Order online for two-day shipping. Farm pickup and local delivery also are available.
Purely Pastured Farm (Foley)
Your farmers: Robert and Maegen Benford and family.
The basics: The Benfords started out to produce better-quality food for themselves and their children. Now they also sell their pasture-raised meat and other products directly to the public.
What’s going on your grill: Pastured chicken and pork, sold in retail cuts, combo boxes, and grill bundles. Eggs from pastured hens also are sold by the dozen.
Where to find them: Online orders only.
Direct sales/shipping: Pickup sites are throughout Baldwin County and nearby. Here is a list. Farm pickup also is an option.