(Heritage Hills Farmstead/Facebook)
Walk around any pop-up farmer stand or permanent site like the Montgomery Curb Market, and you’ll see the full bounty of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other plants that Alabama farmers grow.
But look closer, and you’ll also find state farmers who raise meat—generally beef, pork, and chicken but also lamb, turkey, and other livestock. Where there’s poultry pecking in pasture, you’ll also find farm eggs.
Just as some people are concerned about the distance their produce travels from farm to plate, considerations about how their meat is raised, its living conditions, and carbon footprint are paramount to many.
Yes, availability varies with these small-scale farms. And pasture-raised is more expensive than what’s at the grocery.
But these are heritage breeds selected for their flavor, so a little goes a long way. They aren’t raised in confinement and fed grains and growth hormones, practices that make mass-produced meat cheaper to buy, but also less nutritious to eat. Another price factor is that grass-fed animals grow more slowly, so are on the farm longer than their counterparts raised on commercial feedlots.
Despite Alabama only having a half-dozen or so federally-inspected processing plants—required for meat sold for human consumption—several family-owned animal farms are dotted throughout the state. Their products can be ordered online for pick-up or shipping, purchased at farmers markets, and even found at groceries like Piggly Wiggly.
These farms, listed from north to south, will slake any hunger for Alabama-raised meat and eggs.
Charles Ritch has raised egg-laying and meat chickens, beef, lamb, pork, and turkeys for more than 30 years. The pastured, free roaming livestock is sold seasonally via reservation and processed. Buy beef by the quarter, half, or whole cow. Lamb is available halved or whole. Pork is sold by the half. Fresh whole chickens are processed monthly from April through October. Thanksgiving turkeys are available by reservation. Sign up through the website for notification of when the meat is available.
(Heritage Hills Farmstead/Facebook)
Established in 1999, Whitesell Farms specializes in Wagyu cows, the well-marbled American version of Japan’s prized prime Kobe beef. The farm produces 100 percent Wagyu and cross-breeds, mostly 75 percent or more Wagyu. A subsidiary, North Alabama Wagyu, sells frozen processed cuts from Whitesell beef at farmers markets in Birmingham, Hoover, and Madison. Its detailed online retail pricing list features a wide selection from filet mignon to flat iron, short rib, organ meat, and of course ground beef.
Pigs roam and graze in a shaded forest, and the cows and chickens range freely at this farm, established in 2017 by Karl and Karli Amonite to provide themselves the most nutritious and healthful meat available. Chicken is sold whole or segmented. Pork is available in parts like chops and belly bacon, or by bulk. Grass-fed beef is sold by the quarter-, half-, and full cow, as well as processed pieces. Order at its online store; local delivery is free or it can be shipped.
This east-central Alabama family farm sells pasture-raised heritage beef and pork by the cut (even oxtail, organs, buckboard bacon, and other hard-to-find parts), plus whole-, half-, and custom-processed options. Order via text or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Twin Springs also is a Saturday regular at Birmingham’s Pepper Place farmers market. Look for the pink sign and chalkboards that list what’s available. Buckboard bacon, by the way, is made from the pig’s shoulder; Twin Springs also cures and smoked bacon from belly and jowl meat.
(Marble Creek Farmstead/Facebook)
Like other Alabama family meat farmers, the Lawrences pasture-raise animals like chickens, hogs, turkey, and sheep. But Marble Creek also has one of the few federally inspected processing plants in the state, right on the 40-acre farm where the family lives. The animals are raised using rotational grazing techniques. Buy its meat, eggs and cheeses at the Pepper Place Saturday market, many Piggly Wiggly stores, via subscription, or through its extensive online store that also includes beef, bison, goat, cheese, and other meat-related goods. Shipping and delivery are available.
Bois d’Arc, better-known as BDA, is a 6,000-acre farm that practices soil-healing regenerative agriculture to organically grow crops and raise beef, pork, lamb, and egg-laying hens. Its products are prized in high-end restaurants across the state. Buy its meat individually online, or in boxes with up to eight pounds of steaks, stew, and ground meat. BDA also offers weekly and monthly subscriptions of meat (and produce), as well as whole and half sides of beef and pork. Home delivery is available in select locations, and shipping statewide.
(Working Cows Dairy/Facebook)
Subscription boxes are available from this family farm, or find Yarbrough’s beef, pork, and poultry on Saturdays at the Montgomery Curb Market. Meat is raised on pasture or in forest without antibiotics or growth aids. Buy individual cuts (eggs, too), or in bulk. Order via Yarbrough’s online store.
As the name implies, Working Cows is mainly a dairy, producing milk (not homogenized), butter, cheese, and related products from grass-fed cows raised under certified organic and animal welfare-approved conditions. But it also sells beef from milk cows that have been taken out of production. Order online via Working Cows’ website for shipping or to pick up at the farm; orders placed by 10 p.m. Sundays are shipped Monday mornings. Its products also are sold in Alabama at select outlets in Birmingham, Dothan, Enterprise, Huntsville, Mobile, and Montgomery.