Local Food

Buying Local: It’s Worth It!

Have you ever wondered why buying local has become a mainstream trend? More and more people have begun to seek out options for locally sourced produce, meats, and other foods. But what does “buying local” really mean? In this blog, we will help you discover the importance of buying local foods, the endless health benefits of eating locally grown produce and livestock and why making this choice leads to a more sustainable environment.

What Is “Local” Food?

Fresh, seasonal, sustainable & healthy are all terms that come to mind when talking about local foods. While the answer to this question may vary from consumer to consumer, local food is commonly known as products sourced from within 100 km. In turn, this means that the distance the food must travel is minimal, making freshness is incomparable.

On average, imported foods in Canada travel a minimum of 2,500 km before making it to your plate. In winter, this number rises to a minimum of 3,000 km with some foods reaching close to 10,000 km. How fresh can your food be at that point? Unfortunately, many preserving techniques come into play during this process, depleting freshness and nutrient levels. All the more reasons to educate yourself on buying local and getting the best bang for your buck! Plus, you can make meaningful connections with people in your community along the way.

Why Should You Care?

It is up to you to decide what buying local really means to you. Maybe you base the idea on foods that are growing within your region, province or country. Alternatively, maybe your focus is on making connections with local farmers you can talk to and learn from. This could mean attending a local farmers market, such as St. Jacobs Farmers Market, or connecting through a local CSA. Lastly, for some, it is more about contributing to creating a sustainable world with values on small-scale and community-based initiatives. Whatever the reasoning, you should care! Understanding where your food comes from and what farming practices are being used is important for many reasons including:

  • It enriches your lifestyle and helps you create a better connection with the food you purchase.
  • You can support growers & farmers that you trust. At Hilltop Acres, we are here for you as a consumer.
  • You become more aware of the money you spend, and the food you are putting into your body.

Buying Local Is Better

When buying locally, products not only look better but taste better too! Have you heard the term “Farm to Table”? This idea relates to cutting out the middlemen (wholesalers/grocers) to provide better products to consumers. As we mentioned, the shorter the time between the farm to your table, the less likely you will lose out on freshness and nutrients. Local farmers are picking crops at their peak, and producing livestock products nearby at reputable facilities. It is especially important in regards to livestock, where farmers can oversee quality and confirm ethical practices are in place.

Buying local gives consumers a sense of assurance. Assurance that they know where their food is coming from, and knowing it hasn’t been sitting on a truck/plane or warehouse shelf for weeks before purchase. Subsequently, Did you know that when products are imported off-season, they are often artificially ripened using gases such as ethylene? Therefore, not only is buying local better – but safer! Luckily, if you have any questions or concerns, your local farmer is just a short drive, or a quick phone call away.

We Can Help Our Environment

Food has increasingly become not of the leading drivers within climate change within Canada. In saying this, we can help reduce CO2 emissions by cutting back the distance food must travel. Remember – local food generally travels only 100km to the consumer, while imported products reach upwards of 10,000km. That’s a massive difference in the number of food miles.

Today, our society has become more suburban then ever. When you buy local, you are contributing to a proactive movement to preserve our landscapes. Compensating farmers fairly for the products they produce means they will be less likely to sell green space to make ends meet. By supporting your local farmers today, you are helping to ensure that there will be farms in your community for years to come! So you are not only maintaining the environment but also contributing to your local economy as well.

How YOU Can Buy Local

Farmers Markets

Farmers markets offer a plethora of products that could satisfy the needs of almost all consumers. Freshly picked produce, locally sourced meats, handmade items, and the list goes on. More importantly, it gives consumers a chance to create meaningful connections with local vendors. In other words, the experience becomes an educational one. Consumers can not only see food firsthand but also try the products to ensure satisfaction. Look up your local farmers market today!

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

Have you heard the term CSA and wondered what that entailed? Many people are investing in this idea that created benefits for both farmer and consumer. In terms of buying local, a CSA is an efficient and cost-effective way of getting fresh produce directly to your table. A CSA is a different way of getting fresh produce to your table. With a CSA, farmers organize and sell shares of their crops to customers. In turn, customers compensate the farmers fairly in order to subsidize these farms. Some CSAs will ship directly to their customer’s homes on an interval basis; others asked to be picked up at a nearby location. In conclusion, this is a great way to experience local, seasonal produce right from your own home.

Direct From the Farm

Both farmers markets and CSA shares can be considered buying local. However, there is something nostalgic and humbling about visiting the farm in person. At Hilltop Acres, we firmly believe that there is importance in knowing your farmer and recommend visiting the farm where we produce our products. When buying direct from the farm, there is many benefits such as:

  • See where the products are coming from. Is it clean? Is it ethical?
  • Ask questions and receive answers directly from the farmer.
  • You may have access to specialty products & pricing that is not available within other methods of purchase.
  • You can purchase the freshest products available.

Fresher food is within your reach. Stop shopping for over-priced, imported products and reach out to a local retailer today.

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Healthy Cooking with Poultry

Canadians are eating more poultry than ever and with sound reasoning. Poultry contains less fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than other meat choices such as pork or beef. Consequently, Canadians are looking for healthy cooking with poultry methods to add to their diets to help better their lifestyles. The bird is the word!

In this blog, we will go over some of the significant health benefits to cooking with poultry, preparation and storage tips, and the top 3 methods to achieve healthy cooking with poultry in your own home. We will even throw in a few of our favorite recipes at the end.

Health Benefits

  1. Poultry is Nutritious. It is a lean (low in fat), high in protein meat choice that contributes to muscle growth and development. It contains essential nutrients such as B vitamins, iron, and zinc.
  2. Natural Anti-Depressant. You know that feeling you get when you eat a big bowl of homemade chicken soup? It’s not all in your head! Eating poultry increases the serotonin amino acid levels in your brain which leads to mood enhancement, and makes you feel less depressed.
  3. Strong Bones & Teeth. If you are concerned about your bone health, healthy cooking with poultry can help to alleviate some of the stress. Eating poultry will aid in your fight against bone loss due to the amount of protein it withholds. Consuming just 100mgs of chicken breast will fulfill half of your necessary protein intake for the day. Furthermore, poultry is high in phosphorus and helps to maintain the proper functioning of the liver, kidneys and nervous system.
  4. Body Weight Maintenance. Looking to slim down? Whether it is for medical or cosmetic reasoning, poultry is the answer! This high protein choice provides you the necessary to energy to function properly, while keeping your stomach full, longer. Nutritionists suggest incorporating poultry, such as chicken, into your diet 2-3 times per week. However, be sure you are using cooking methods that provide nutritional benefits as well!

Safe Storage & Preparation

Chill

For healthy cooking with poultry, it is especially important to keep your food out of the temperature danger zone. Within these temperatures, bacteria are most likely to grow and can, therefore, make you quite sick.

 For healthy cooking with poultry, it is especially important to keep your food out of the temperature danger zone. Within these temperatures, bacteria are most likely to grow and can, therefore, make you quite sick.

Chill your poultry safely with these tips:

  • Keep your fridge set to 4C (40F) or lower and your freezer set to -18C (0F) or lower.
  • Cook fresh poultry within 2 to 3 days after purchasing.
  • If you do not plan on cooking within those 2 to 3 days, freeze it! Poultry will keep for up to a year if stored correctly.
  • Always keep wrapped in a clean container, away from unwrapped food. If neccessary, use a plastic bag to avoid any leaking raw juices from contaminating other items.

Thaw

Be sure always to thaw poultry in the fridge or cold water, NEVER at room temperature. It is important to remember to keep your poultry wrapped at all times, or in a container that prevents the contamination of other surfaces. When defrosting is completed, cook protein right away with your desired method – do not refreeze.

Prepare

There is no reason to fret when cooking poultry products! Healthy cooking with poultry is an easy task when following the steps we provided for you in this blog today. Follow these simple rules when preparing your poultry for your next meal:

  • Always wash your hands before and after you touch any raw poultry. Wash with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds!
  • Do not rinse raw poultry to remove the bacteria – this makes it much worse! The bacteria may wash off the poultry itself, but anywhere the water splashes may now be contaminated.
  • As with all meat preparations, preparing poultry to the proper temperature is crucial. Never eat raw or undercooked poultry. If you are unsure, use a food thermometer and follow guidelines.

Healthy Cooking Methods

Many people assume that because poultry is already a lean, nutritious choice of protein, it can be cooked however you’d like. Unfortunately, this is very untrue. Individuals need to be mindful of the cooking techniques they use to prepare their “healthy” meals. We have compiled our top 3 methods of healthy cooking with poultry to share with you:

Poaching.

Deemed the healthiest way to cook poultry! Similar to the way you would poach eggs, all you will need is your poultry of choice and some hot water. Essentially, this is the most healthy because you aren’t introducing any other ingredients during the cooking methods such as oils or fats. Typically, you will bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. From there, you slowly submerge the protein into the pan and simmer until fully cooked. Try adding your favourite herbs, spices, and veggies to the water for added flavour. Recipe: Poached Chicken or Turkey Breast

Grilling.

Is your go-to method of cooking chicken to grill or bake it? Nutritionists say this is still a healthy option of cooking, as long as you are aware of the other ingredients you are using. When grilling or baking, be mindful of the number of additional fats you add to the dish. A good tip is to use a brush to cover the poultry, and using plant-based oils that are low in unsaturated fats. If you are looking to add extra flavour – marinate beforehand. Much like with poaching, use fresh herbs & spices and tenderizers such as vinegar or citrus. Recipe: 14 Healthy Grilled Chicken Recipes

Sautéing.

Third on our list, but still a beneficial way to healthy cooking with poultry. Much like grilling, sauteing requires you to use some time of fat to cook with to minimize sticking to the pan. However, we suggest investing in a high-quality pan to help cut down the amount of fat that is necessary. In addition to stopping food from sticking, a quality non-stick pan allows for better minimization of fats being used. A quick tip for this method: If you want that crispy outer layer without the extra calories, sear the poultry on the stove over medium/high heat and finish by baking in the oven. Recipe: Sauteéd Chicken with Fresh Herbs & Ginger

Get Cooking!

Within this blog, we have provided you with the fundamentals to start your journey into healthy cooking with poultry products. Looking to source your poultry from a local, reliable source? Here at Hilltop Acres Poultry, we strive to provide the freshest meat and poultry products possible to you and your family. We always have, and always will believe in going the extra mile to respond to your needs as a customer, and a fellow cook. Check out our list of products today!

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Preserving Freshness

The art of preserving freshness for our food, whether pickling, canning, making jams and jellies or curing, has definitely made a comeback. Preserving food is as old as the first time that anyone had leftovers. Fruits and vegetables are the most common to preserve, but you can also can some meats.

The Art of Preserving Freshness

Some preserving methods are older, and some might surprise you with how recently they were developed. Like every other generation before us, we have added our own flair to the processes which have been around for quite some time. Even in times long past, people around the world had ways to preserve freshness in food. Examples include natural cooling and freezing, drying, curing, smoking, pickling, fermenting, and preserving in honey.

Food historians believe that the art of preserving food accidentally occurred through geography and living conditions. Foods froze in the very cold northern areas and dried out in the hot southern sun. Early cave-dwellers likely stumbled upon smoking food after hanging it in the same caves where they made fires for their warmth and light at night.

Almost everyone in ancient times made pickles of some kind, either with a brine or by fermentation. People in India were likely the first to make cucumber pickles over 3,000 years ago. Ancient Egyptians and Babylonians pickled fish, including catfish, salmon and even pickled goose. The ancient Chinese used vinegar brine for pickling proteins, from eggs to a variety of meats, including rabbit, venison and goat.

Who is to Thank?

Canning, however, didn’t come about until the early 19th century. Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte created a cash-prize challenge for whomever could create a method to preserve food to keep his armies fed. French confectioner Nicholas Appert, known as the “father of canning” won the prize money. He was the one who developed canning, using the same process that continues today to preserve seafood, fruits, vegetables, dairy and meats. These processes include heating, boiling and sealing food in sanitized glass jars.

Even though we feel a connection to our mothers, aunts and grandmothers through preserving freshness in food, some things weren’t done as often as most of us would like to believe. Much of what we feel nostalgic about when we first try our own preserving isn’t as old as we might think.

The Need to Preserving Freshness

Depending on the climate, the needs for preservation are different. The south has a pretty short winter and therefor the growing and harvesting times are longer. In the northern climates, there is more pressure to preserve. Not only was there not as much need for preserving freshness in foods in the south, not everyone had the resources to do it. Apples stored very well in root cellars through winter, and along with other types of fruit they were used to make cider and brandy. Not a bad way to enjoy the preserves! Sugar, on the other hand, was scarce. People ate fresh fruit when they had a sweet tooth. Making the fruit preserves, jams, and jellies wasn’t common until after the Revolutionary War.

Despite the differences in climates, many of the food preservation techniques from Europe, Africa, and other parts of the world eventually found a home here. Sometimes we have added new twists. The sweet-and-sour flavors in chow-chow, piccalilli, chutneys, fruit relishes and spiced fruits find their roots from Malaysia. Other types of pickling traditions came from Germany. Pickled eggs and pigs’ feet were often offered as free bar snacks.

Do you like your biscuits and gravy? Those came from the method of preserving ground meat cooked into patties, and then stored in crocks and layered with rendered lard. They would scoop out the meat patties with fat, and use them to make sausage gravy. The additional lard provided the fat for baking the biscuits.

Change in Times

After the Civil War, poverty hit everyone in the south. Food preservation then became even more important. If you owned any land, you grew food. Then of course, what you didn’t eat, you preserved! A way that we still see today within the Mennonite culture is souse (head cheese). This is a way to preserve all the extra bits of a pig.

The World Wars also changed things. It became every American’s patriotic duty to grow a victory garden. Everyone wanted to preserve and can food, to support the troops, to supplement rations and help families survive.

Preserving Freshness in Jars

During the Great Depression, the Ball Brothers Company, which made jars for canning, developed a canning unit. The federal government used the canning unit to create canning centers around the country. This assisted with helping families manage the cost and work of canning food. More canning centers opened during World War II, until over 3,600 centers were open around the country. Most of these centers were in the South and not only helped people eat, but also gave people (especially women), jobs.

Canning jars didn’t come on the scene until 1885 – and even then, not many could afford to buy them. Think of all the places that you can buy jars these days. Grocery stores, department stores, hardware stores and even the second hand stores often will sell used glass jars.

The necessity, along with the varied flavours and seasonal abundance is what made canning and preserving a very unique technique. Now we are going back to the basics more so, therefore we are taking those old preservation techniques to preserve our fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes we even come up with a new canning creation. We can develop skills that we haven’t used before, through watching YouTube videos on how to cure bacon at home, make freezer jam, process canned sausage or even make our own salsa recipe. There are more options available as well for participating in canning classes and clubs. We are able to preserve foods and flavors that weren’t widely available before.

Jars in the Basement

Think about the legacy that you have inherited and are also creating for future generations the next time you can a jar of homemade salsa. Much like the process itself, our love for preserved foods has been around for a long time, waiting patiently to be remembered and re-opened.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Why Supporting Local Food Matters

Every person on the planet absolutely relies on food to survive and thrive. Farms exist in many communities around the world, producing food for millions of people in turn. Here in Southern Ontario, our neck of the woods, there’s a very rich agricultural and farming landscape. This means that there are lots of local farms offering extremely fresh produce and serving their respective communities with high quality foods. We’ve written about some benefits of local food in the past, but we’ll go into some more detail in this post. Continue reading Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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Hilltop Acres Poultry Products
1501 Maple Bend Road
Bloomingdale, Ontario
N0B 1M0, Canada

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