How Your Meat Is Raised Is A Matter Of Trust

When it comes to our health, we put our faith in people we trust. If we’re sick, we go to a doctor. If we need a specialist, we get referrals. That same level of trust is needed in another aspect of our well being: what we eat. All meat is not created equal, and it all starts with how it’s raised, continues with how it’s processed, and carries through to who sells it. At Porter Road, we’ve spent years building relationships with farmers, developing trust in how they raise their livestock, and creating a program that ensures that you, in turn, can trust that we’re selling nothing but the best meat possible.

It’s a wonderful thing when farmers choose to raise their animals responsibly and sustainably, but it’s a double-edged sword. It’s better for the environment, reducing erosion and waste runoff into our rivers and streams, better for the animals, who can treat their ailments by adjusting their own diets naturally, and better for the farmers, who have more control over their operations without pressure from large corporations.

It’s also more expensive, full of risk, and requires that farmers put their trust in people like us, who pay a premium for healthy, pasture-raised animals.

We know each and every farmer that we work with. They work closely to raise their animals based on our specifications, and rely on us to make a living just as much—if not more—than we rely on them. Running a farm takes advanced planning to manage fields, rotate crops, and breed animals responsibly. They’re raising beeves, pigs, sheep, and chickens to our standards, trusting that we’ll purchase their animals, and that we’ll continue to do so for years to come.

James and Chris at Rittenberry Farms

We visit our partner farms regularly, and often do so unannounced. In fact, farm visits are our favorite work days! We walk the pastures, through the woods—in rain or shine—to truly understand how their animals are being raised. We can’t always be there to watch cows and sows nurse their young and graze the fields. That’s why every farmer and everyone involved in every operation must sign an affidavit agreeing that their animals and practices meet the criteria of our humane livestock program. It requires the following:

  1. No added hormones
  2. No antibiotics EVER
  3. No animal by-products ever fed
  4. No waste by-products fed
  5. Must be raised on pasture/woods
  6. No crates/cages/or tethers are permitted EVER
  7. All animals must be treated with the highest standards of animal husbandry—ALWAYS

We’ve worked with our primary farmer, Joey Rittenberry, for over four years. His farm is about two hours from our shop. It’s even closer to our processing facility. We don’t have to travel far to see how Joey and his animals are doing, and they don’t have to spend much time on the road to come to our processing facility. Short trips make for happier animals and more delicious meat (and happier farmers, too, because time in the truck is time away from work that needs to be done and, of course, family).

Owning our processing facility is part of that trust. It allows us to truly see the benefits of raising animals responsibly. We know the deep red color found in humanely raised beef, the rich pink and thick fat cap that comes from happy pigs, and the golden hue of chickens who have spent their days outdoors with room to flap their wings. Those are the natural colors of these meats, and they’re signs of tastier, more nutritious food than what’s found at grocery stores.

James Inspecting Beef

It also allows us to spot farmers who are trying to cut corners. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, that trust has been lost, and their relationship with Porter Road ends immediately.

We established our humane livestock program because we believe that we have a responsibility to sell only the best meats possible to our customers. That requires us to know our farmers, visit their farms, and process the animals ourselves. We see, hear, smell, feel, and taste every aspect of the meat that we sell.

The best way to learn about the meat that you’re buying is to ask your butcher. Learn about where and how it was raised. They should know the answers to all of your questions, and you should be pleased with their responses.  

We can answer those questions. Our process is as transparent as our meat is vibrant. That’s trust. That’s Porter Road.