A white van rolled into the parking lot of Pound Hall last Friday afternoon and unloaded seven coolers of meat to kick off the third annual Meat Meet at the Harvard Law School.
About a dozen customers gathered around the coolers—filled to the brim with various cuts of beef, lamb, and pork—to dig through and grab as many pieces they could fit in their bags, and purchase by the pound.
JJ Gonson, a personal chef, said she was motivated to create the market to sell meat from a local provider—Stillman’s Farm—because there are no winter farmer’s markets locally. She added that this makes her job difficult since she often needs to buy large quantities of meat and is forced to drive “out to the middle of nowhere.”
“It’s shocking that in the Boston area we consider ourselves progressive,” Gonson said. “And here we are, still in a parking lot, and still lacking a year-round market.”
Gonson said her ultimate goal in creating the market was to reduce the miles and hands that people’s meat goes through.
“This way it is literally farmer to consumer, with no middleman,” said Gonson. “It’s pure, direct—farm to table.”
Gonson added that she sees the Meat Meets, which are held about once a month throughout the Boston area, as an opportunity to help build community. “I want this to be a gathering, a chance for people to come together, trade recipes, share their enthusiasm,” Gonson said.
Standing in line last Friday, customers shared Gonson’s excitement as they revealed their juiciest “meat secrets”—disclosing everything from their “secret ingredient” for the perfect homemade beef jerky to where to go to find organ meats for a dollar.
For others, the market offered a chance to support local farms.
“This is true sustainable agriculture and I want to encourage it,” said Mathieu P. Lalonde, who earned a doctorate in chemistry and chemical biology from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. “When you raise animals on open pastures, it’s completely sustainable.”
But Avalon C. S. Owens ’13—president of Vegitas, the Harvard College Vegetarian Society—called into question this view on “open pastures”.
“It’s easy for a farm to claim that they are a free-range farm, but in the end there is no oversight because they aren’t regulated by the [Food and Drug Administration],” Owens said.
Owens said it wasn’t the concept of a meat market that was the problem. Instead, she said she was concerned with the lack of information made available at such markets.
“It’s just really important that people understand where their meat is coming from because...they could really just be supporting one more factory farm,” she added.
Gonson said she hopes the concept of a winter market will gain momentum, adding that she wants to eventually add vegetables to the market.
Meat enthusiasts remain loyal, Gonson added, and customers even show up in freezing conditions in the dead of winter.
“I have seen incredible dedication in customers,” Gonson said.