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No beef with new Pemberton steaks

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Now a retired vegetarian of 17 years, I prefer to eat what I call "happy meat".

Watching those slaughter house films of pigs stacked on one another five animals high with their feces running down onto each other, or packed cages of chickens whose beaks were cut off (no anesthetic) because they try to peck each other to death in the confined space is enough to scare anyone from the grocery store meat aisle.

However, due to my disastrous cooking talents with tofu, too many flues due to imbalanced meals and an offer to write for CityFood Magazine, I shopped around for both a caring and carnivore choice on one plate.

Natural free-range meat was my protein of choice: the animals roam free, aren’t pumped with steroids and live a life free from cruelty until they hit the cutting block.

Free-range chickens and eggs are easy enough to find, but a good steak at something less than the exorbitant prices of Kobe beef (cows live the high life with space, proper feed and opera music, I’m not joking) takes a little more hunting or a trip to Vancouver.

But a new company is giving steak lovers a healthy, local and quality choice to throw on the barby. Pemberton Meadows Natural Beef is now available for sale at Nesters and the IGA. The steaks, roasts and ground beef packages hit the shelves in December.

Pemberton farmers Bob Mitchell and Don Millard, with more than 90 years of combined recreational and professional farming experience, are at the helm of this new adventure.

"We felt if we could raise animals in a healthy way, go unmedicated – not certified organic, but the next best thing to it – it would be something the local market would appreciate," Millard said from his North Vancouver office.

"It’s really great that Pemberton is getting a reputation for some fine local and organic produce, with Across the Creek Farms, Helmer’s Organics and North Arm Farms. We are the first to be in the beef business. It’s a great thing for the valley."

The neighbouring duo is starting out small, with only 40 of this year’s 140 cattle ready for market. Cows live a stress-free life without growth hormones, steroids or antibiotics.

"Bob is known for pampering his animals with plenty of feed, lots of clean water and they move around freely," Millard said.

Pemberton Supermarket doesn’t distribute the product. However, green or happy animal alternatives can be found with McEwan Farm’s free-range eggs, plenty of organic produce from local farms and local bison in the near future.

To learn more about responsible food buying, visit www.slowfood.com .

Whisky dinner

Get into the whisky spirit with insight from Caskstrength’s Andrew Starritt into premium whiskies and scotches Thursday, Feb. 9 at the Westin Resort. The evening includes in-depth discussions and whisky paired perfectly with a dinner of local game meats and seafood orchestrated by Chef Hans Stierli. Tickets are $175. Dinner at 7 p.m. Call (604) 905-5000 for reservations.

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