6 of the Eco-Friendliest Meats You Can Buy

By Chelsea Leu

June 3, 2015

One could argue that sustainability is at the heart of charcuterie's centuries-old tradition.

Photo by Lori Eanes

One could argue that sustainability is at the heart of charcuterie's centuries-old tradition. "It's taking a less desirable cut of meat and transforming it into a satisfying meal," says Eric Miller, who co-chairs the charcutérie committee for the Good Food Awards. In short, no part of the animal goes to waste. 

Miller's team tapped some appealing choices in this category, including salami, pâtés, mousses, and jerkies. The main ingredients? "Meat, salt, and time," he says. 

These six options, featured clockwise in the above photo (starting with the slices under the white dish with the spoon), are all made from animals that were humanely butchered and not pumped with hormones or antibiotics. The results are melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

The folks at an Indianapolis meatery called SMOKING GOOSE "seam-butcher" their meat, separating cuts by the natural places where muscles meet. It's time-consuming but ensures that no part of the pig goes to waste; even the ears are made into dog treats. The company's South Cider Salame is a tart, savory blend of free-range goose meat, pork, and Indiana persimmons, fermented in cider from a local brewery. Toss slices with pea shoots and roasted asparagus, or pair with hard cider. $14 for 5 ounces

Paul Murdoch, owner of GARY WEST ARTISAN SMOKED MEATS, is picky about the people who raise the animals that become his line of sausages and jerkies. All of the ranchers he works with preserve their land and treat their livestock well. His Wood River Smoked Wagyu jerky comes in hand-cut strips of marbled beef, smoked with pear wood from on-site orchards—a tasty source of protein on backpacking trips. Its high fat content gives it the flavor of a buttered steak, especially when heated. $15 for 4 ounces

S. WALLACE EDWARDS & SONS got its start among the farms of Virginia's "peanut belt," where swine would roam after harvest, eating the nuts scattered on the fields. The company's owner, Sam Edwards, ensures that his certified-humane Berkshire hogs have plenty of acreage to wander on, and he feeds them grass and grain. His Surryano Ham  is dry-cured for 18 months and pasture-raised sans antibiotics. Sliced thinly, it pairs well with fruit. $44 for 12 ounces

While the pork, salt, and spices that go into Salame Nostrano come from non-GMO providers, they're typical ingredients for salami. What makes this sausage distinct, says Paul Bertolli, founder of FRA' MANI HANDCRAFTED FOODS, is the flavor imparted by specific microorganisms that grow in Fra' Mani's aging rooms. The mild, yeasty meat is best with figs or melon. Around $25 per pound

As the in-house charcutiére at FORMAGGIO KITCHEN in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Julie Biggs uses a hand-cranked sausage stuffer and gas ovens to craft locally sourced beef and pork into charcuterie, one five-pound batch at a time. Her favorite is the Tongue and Cheek Terrine, which rolls beef and pork cheeks, eggs, cream, and spices into a flavorful loaf, garnished with corned beef tongue and thinly sliced guanciale. Pair it with mustard, some cornichons, and crusty bread. $13 for 8 ounces

After a coworker's friend smuggled two ounces of salami from the volcanic hillsides of Sicily back to Oregon, Elias Cairo of OLYMPIA PROVISIONS spent three years chasing its simple, beautiful flavor. The result is Salami Etna, a refreshing blend of pistachios, sea salt, lemon zest, and hand-butchered pork. Its subtle Mediterranean flair comes from the pig's delicate fatback, lending the salami a smoothness that's punctuated by the pistachios' crunch. $10 for 4.5 ounces