RK Tip of the Week|How a real person can eat real local

Posted on January 27, 2010


Many of you really want to eat well. Many of you also want to do your small part to leave this Earth nice when you leave it to your grandkids. Many of you also believe in not letting corporate conglomerates rule this world either. The good news is that if you believe in any of these statements, it means a tiny piece (or hopefully a little more than a tiny piece) of you is motivated to do “right” by something. Hooray! Moral integrity & personal commitment! I knew this was a good bunch of people!

This week we dive into how a real person -with a family- can actually eat local food, do it well & make it more cost effective than you’d think. I had the chance to interview Dr. William O’Brien, chiropractic physician/amazing partner of Dr. John D. Turner, who’s incredible interview with us shed plenty of light on living a gluten free life regardless of requirement for it. As I got to know Dr. O’brien, I found out that Dr. O’Brien & his family do something that is exactly the right thing to do when deciding how you’re going to feed your family, and I was so impressed that I asked him to give us an interview about what he’s up to & how it’s working for him. Here’s what he had to say!

K:  Who are you, what is your title, what is your practice/philosophy(s) as relating to the care of a family’s health, including the kids?

 Dr. O: My name is Dr. William O’Brien and I am a licensed Chiropractic Physician in the state of Illinois.  My practice is located in Glendale Heights, Illinois.  I am a Certified Applied Kinesiologist with post-graduate studies in Chiropractic Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology.  Currently, I am also the President and Co-founder of the American Academies of Sports Practitioners (http://www.sportspractitioners.org).

K:  You take an approach to feeding your family that is still somewhat unique in this country. You go right to the source- the farmer- to get your meat. When did you start doing this & what was it that made you make the decision to do this?

 Dr. O: We started going directly to a farmer for our meat a little over 7 years ago.  Although as a family, we do not eat an abundance of red meat, as a husband and parent of two little boys, my wife and I try to provide our children with nutritional choices that are helpful in their development. 

K:  As I understand it, you buy part or all of a cow from a farm each year. What kind of cow is it? Organic? Pastured? Where does it come from i.e.somewhere in Chicagoland?

 Dr. O: We purchase our beef from a farm in Wisconsin and have it processed at a local Wisconsin butcher.  The beef we purchase is considered a free range, grass fed organic cow. 

K:  Why do you buy the whole thing or a very large section of it vs. just buying the small packs of meat at a place like Whole Foods? Is there a big difference in cost when buying all or part of a cow?

 Dr. O: The reason we purchase the whole cow is convenience and cost.  The beef comes individually wrapped, deep-frozen and is divided into whatever selections you would like: steaks, roasts, ribs, ground beef, etc.  As far as cost, you do save quite a bit of money when you purchase the beef in bulk, either a ¼, ½ or whole cow.

K:  What health benefits are you getting from this meat compared to regular meat (non-organic) in the store? 

 Dr. O: The health benefits are the same as most organic meats:  no antibiotics, no pesticides on the grass they eat and no hormones are used throughout the raising or processing.

K:  What do you tell your kids about why your family buys this way vs. the way many Americans do, one pack of meat at a time?

 Dr. O: My children are young, so we try our best to explain to them the health benefits of organic eating.  We tell them that non-organic foods contain chemicals that may be harmful. 

K:  Have you had to answer any questions from your kids about why other kids families eat foods that are not normally on your dinner plate?

 Dr. O: Not at this point.  With the kids being young, those topics do not come up very often.

K:  That may change as they get to school age, I suppose. So, do you buy anything else straight from the farmer? If so, what? & what benefits are you getting from doing this?

 Dr. O: We also buy organic chicken and eggs from the farm.  This we do on a smaller scale than the beef.  Most of our other non-beef meats and poultry, we try to purchase at the local supermarket and try to stick to an organic selection. 

K:  Do you find you save money eating this way or is it more costly & just something you need to budget for?

 Dr. O: Definitely (a money saver).  Typically, the cost of the beef after processing ranges from $2.50 – $3.50 per pound.  When you compare that to the cost of organic beef at your local supermarket, $5 – $15 per pound, it is much less expensive.  Especially when you are getting cuts of meat like Filet Mignon, NY Strips, Rib Eyes, etc.

K:  Mmm, Filet Mignon…that is very hard to find at a low price when it’s organic beef! Is there anything else you’d like people to know about eating well locally & the benefits of eating organic?

Dr. O: Overall it’s up to the consumer, the process of purchasing organic beef in bulk, is obviously a little more involved than going to a supermarket.  When you factor in the cost benefit and overall health benefits, it really is worth the little extra time once or twice a year to visit your organic farmer.

Dr. O’ Brien, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us about how a family of 4 really can eat locally, and eat well. I hope this will motivate others to do some research & find a farmer near them. I’ll have a few resources at the end of this post to aid in that search.

One of the things I appreciate most is that, having met his boys a few times, they are really young in age & they are eating real food. At an age where finnicky eating begins to rage if not coached appropriately, these little guys are eating real food, thanks to the coaching of their parents. As I mentioned before gang, you control what your kids eat. There is no such true statement as, “Little Johnnie will only eat chicken nuggets & pasta at this age.” It’s simply not true. At some point he’ll get hungry & will suck it up and learn to eat broccoli, grilled turkey burger, salad, etc. because they’ll be hungry and they just won’t find cookies, sugared cereal, fried chicken nuggets, or fast food. Unless you let them. And that would be a disappointing thing to give a child at a time when they are growing new cells every single day, and at a rapid rate. Don’t have kids you need to worry about? How about yourself? You are just as important to ensure you get good nutrition into your body.

A few final points:

  • Maybe a 1/2 a cow is a lot of meat for you for 1 year. Find a friend & split it!
  • Thinking this makes sense for meat since you’ve checked out how much higher priced good, organic meat is at the grocery store? How about doing the same with your vegetables? Join a CSA this year (shares are being sold now for the growing season) & get a 1/2 bushel or more of fresh, local, organic, in-season veggies delivered to your door or to a local drop-off point.
  • Clear from your mind the word “expensive” as it related to something of such high value. You may pay more for things that are better quality – organic, pastured meat is infinitely better quality than what you typically find in your supermarket. Don’t know why? Watch “Food, Inc.” and you’ll get it – it’s a stunning visual picture of the reality of factory farming & how disgusting that is to the animal, to the planet and to consumer. Organic, pastured meat & organic veggies are of high value, so you may find yourself paying a premium if you don’t go the CSA or farmer-direct route.

So where do you get your search started for this endeavor? A simple Google search of local organic farmers will produce several results in your area, but if you live in Chicagoland, here are some places that are doing it that you should take your business to.

Moo Grass Farms does organic, pastured meat, produce, eggs, bakery goods, dairy and a few other goodies.

Hasselmann Family Farms lets their pigs, chickens, and other meats run around the pasture & eat natural stuff.

Green Earth Institute does CSA shares, which means you may get them delivered to your door, a drop-off point, or you may even get to go work on the farm for a day if you’re interested in really seeing where your food comes from.

Do something good for yourself, your family, the animals, the Earth & your local economy. Start buying local food. It only takes so many people to make a ‘movement’ today, something that is utterly ‘normal’ in the next generation. You’re expected to do your part. So get on it.