Lamb is the new Chicken

No more margarine in our house

No more margarine in our house

If you're a dairy-loving vegetarian you couldn't find a better life outside England. Organic milk in the supermarket is cheaper by the gallon than Costco. If you want grass-fed, happy goat milk yogurt, you don't pay a lot more for it. You can't make your own butter for as little as you can buy it here. And the cheese. Where do I start? I have a favorite wild rice and mushroom recipe that calls for Gruyere but I only make it when I feel flush, like around pay day when the account still has a positive balance. The first time I shopped at our local Waitrose, there was a block of cave aged Gruyere on sale for the equivalent of $2.50 and I nearly dropped to my knees and wept. Then I discovered the Cheese Man at the bi-weekly town market and was taking home rolls and balls and chunks of cheese for less than I spend on a jar of Nutella.

But the meat. I used to have so much organic chicken and wild caught salmon in my chest freezer that I had to have multiple dinner parties to get through it before we left town. The first time we ate English Atlantic-caught salmon I thought I'd done something terribly wrong during the cooking. It was dry. It was bland. It was NOT from Alaska. Salmon was the first flesh I crossed off my English shopping list. 

When I started pricing my protein standby, chicken, I came to have a new respect for the cost of living in this country. The supermarkets are packed with meat but how are these people budgeting for their meat consumption? I'll be the first to tell you I don't hesitate to spend money for good food. But when your good food meter has been set at a certain price point, it's pretty hard to ratchet it up several rungs. Organic chicken thighs? $13.55/lb.  Organic chicken tenders? $17.88/lb. Non-organic chicken that probably grew up in 5 inches of space and fed offal? $10.40/lb. 

 

 

I can't quite figure it out. If it has anything to do with the amount of land required to raise a chicken vs a cow, then chicken should be cheaper, right, and I should be having sticker shock over beef, which we rarely eat anyway. But chicken here is so expensive that I figure the birds are each given their own chicken condo, fed nothing but grasshopper pate, and massaged once weekly. Is it harder to get a chicken rearing license? Are there more regulations regarding chicken husbandry? I've essentially given up on chicken. If I really want to make a certain chicken-based recipe, I go for the label that states "raised by farmers who share our values." What do you suppose that means? I value my bottom line enough to cram a bunch of chickens into this cramped, windowless barn?

The eggs, too, are mind boggling. Organic free range eggs from Trader Joe's? About $4. Here? Nearly $7. No lie, I just checked. With the current exchange rate they are $6.91. I ask again, what is it with these chickens?!

Maybe C will finally agree to me raising our own chickens

Maybe C will finally agree to me raising our own chickens

 

I once got into an argument with the market place butcher over the merits of organic vs non-organic. When I asked if he carried any organic meat I expected to hear, "So sorry, we don't" but instead got a gruff "There's NO evidence whatsoever that organic meat is any better than regular."  I asked him where he got his information and he said "Research has proved it!" and then I asked, "And who was paying for the "research"? " at which point he simply ignored me. So I guess you could say my pride has gotten in the way of my meat eating diet. 

Come on. When was the last time you saw pigs free-ranging in an open field?! 

Come on. When was the last time you saw pigs free-ranging in an open field?! 

 

Enter the lamb. I guess I should also give pork it's due since these two meats are not only abundant in England, they're also readily available organically. In the States I usually bought the organic label carried by Trader Joe's or Costco, but didn't go so far as personally support the local farmer whose picture was in the Co-op newsletter and whose meat was another 1/2 more expensive than the chains. Since St Albans has no co-op, I do not feel slightly guilty for buying supermarket organic meat. What's more, organic lamb and pork is abundant and less expensive than the most inhumanely raised chicken. So now our bolognese has a slightly gamy taste to it, though the lamb meatloaf is better than ever. You can buy organic pork sausages with any number of herb combinations. I still need to master the art of the perfect pork chop, and will no doubt do that soon since it was on special the other day. And when in America do you ever get organic meat on sale? It happens here frequently (except for the chicken). In fact, I can go on-line to place a home delivery order and filter by "organic" and "on offer (sale)" and voila, it's what's for dinner.

Wish I had a bigger freezer

Wish I had a bigger freezer

But in general, we're eating less meat.  The twice weekly farmers market means I'm always buying some enormous head of dark green cabbage, sacks full of brussel sprouts or heaping bowls of cherry tomatoes. Recently I've been sprinkling everything with pomegranate seeds because I can get 3 for $1.55! If I could make the leap to vegetarianism with a whole lot of cheese we could probably save enough to buy a tran-Atlantic plane ticket. Then I could come home and stock up at Trader Joe's and Costco.