The Cheapest Cuts Of Meat To Buy Organic & How To Make Them Taste Great
Going completely (or mostly) organic is obviously something many of us would like to do. And it's often pretty achievable with veggies—which don't tend to be too much more expensive than their conventional counterparts (plus, you can prioritize what veggies are most important to buy organic by consulting the EWG's Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen list). With meat, it's kind of a different story. The problem: It's often more important to seek out high-quality meat across the board than it is other foods, for both health and environmental reasons, yet the cost can be prohibitively expensive.
"Organic and/or grass-fed meats can reduce exposure to antibiotics and hormones, and they provide a healthier fat profile," says Jessica Bouchard, R.D., owner of Wellness Provision. "It is also shown that organic, grass-fed farming is better for the environment as there is reduced harmful runoff, and fewer resources are required."
So, if you're a meat eater, how do you feel good about your meat-buying habits without totally breaking the bank? It's all about selecting the right cuts of meat. Fun fact: I pay about half the price for organic chicken thighs as I do chicken breast...so I no longer buy chicken breast. Sure, some of these cuts are the less "desirable" options, but don't let that deter you—they taste amazing when prepped correctly.
Here, we asked registered dietitians and food bloggers for their recs on the cheapest quality cuts and how to prep them to make them taste great:
1. Whole chicken
"My biggest tip is to buy the whole animal. Labor always gets added to the price tag. Bringing home the whole chicken is by far the cheapest way to go," says mbg Collective member Phoebe Lapine, whose blog Feed Me Phoebe is a great resource for nourishing budget-friendly meals. Bonus: A roast chicken couldn't be easier to prepare—and you'll have leftovers for days. Simply rub it with some oil and your favorite spices and pop that baby in the oven for a few hours on the weekend. Try Lapine's Magic Faux-Tisserie Chicken with smoked paprika, garlic, and chili powder.
2. Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
After the whole bird, "cuts with the skin and bone-in tend to be more budget-friendly," says Bouchard. "Chicken thighs, wings, and drumsticks are typically priced much lower than organic chicken breast." Plus, dark meat chicken (which all of these are) is a great source of vitamin K2, which can be difficult to find in food sources.
You can keep it simple and bake them in a skillet with some salt, pepper, and thyme. Or take things up a notch: Remove the skin and bones, cut the thighs into chunks, and marinate in yogurt, hummus, or tahini with olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice and then grill, suggests mbg Collective member Jessica Cording, R.D.
3. Ground lamb
If you're a fan of lamb, Lapine recommends organic ground lamb, which is much cheaper than popular lamb chops. Plus, it's a nice variation from ground beef, chicken, or turkey. Ground lamb is also less gamey than a chop and pairs well with spices like cumin and fennel. What to do with it? Try Lapine's Grain-Free Moroccan Lamb Meatballs. She pairs them with a romesco spaghetti sauce, but they'd also be great with a tangy yogurt sauce.
4. Stew meat (or chuck roast)
"For red meat, organic beef stew meat is one of the lower-priced choices," says Bouchard. Stew meat simply refers to tougher cuts of beef, like chuck or round roast, that have been pre-cut and trimmed into bite-size cubes—so to save even more money, you can buy straight-up chuck or round roast and trim them yourself.
This cut of meat will need some preparation in order to make it tasty as it can be tougher. "In this case, marinating is your best friend," says Bouchard. "A simple marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and fresh herbs will help tenderize the beef and give it a flavor boost. Marinate it overnight and use the beef in your favorite kebab recipe on the grill."
5. Pork shoulder
Pork shoulder, also called pork butt, is usually a pretty large and tough cut of meat—meaning, you might not think to grab it for a quick weeknight meal. But it's amazing for weekend meal prep as its meat transforms into something completely delicious, juicy, and tender with a few hours in the slow cooker. Cheaper per pound than pork chops, organic pork shoulder is the ideal cut for making pulled pork if you're craving some healthy bbq fare. In more of a Mexican mood? Go for Lapine's Pork Posole Soup.
6. Beef short ribs
Want the flavor of steak without the price tag? Lapine recommends opting for boneless or bone-in short ribs (which aren't actually ribs; they're just cut into strips)—they're fattier than some of these other cuts, making them one of the most flavorful cheap cuts around. This cut is particularly tasty when braised, but you can simply season and fry up in a cast-iron skillet (just like a regular steak) if you're short on time.
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