Behind the Scenes at the DCM: How do we decide what meat goes on our shelves?

Have you ever wondered how we choose which products end up on our shelves at the Durham Co-op Market? Here at our community-run store, our process is very thoughtful, very human, and always ongoing – ie, every SINGLE product you see on our shelves has been hand-picked by a team of people with our core values and the needs of our communities in mind.

Want to know more? Here’s a little behind-the-scenes peek at the current selection in our meat department . . .

The Meat Meeting (Meating?)

Recently, we made an open call to our entire staff, inviting all available staff members to come to a meeting and share their views about some proposed changes in our meat department. We didn’t want our decision to be made only at the management level – our staff represents our larger Durham community, and we wanted to get direct input from as many people as possible, and have a group discussion.

And so we gathered a group of our staff members from across departments to have a deep conversation about our goals and values in our meat department. The question, as always, was: how we can best serve our entire co-op community? In this case: how can we both offer affordable meat and uphold our values? Where can we compromise, and where can’t we?

To be honest: we know that our customers can find cheaper meat at other grocery stores, and we know that there are many people whose budgets don’t allow paying the higher cost of ethically-raised meat. We want to make our food as affordable as possible, and we want our meat to uphold our values of environmental sustainability – and this means we walk a very thin line, based on many forces outside of our control.

And so we discussed. Should we widen our selection? How much? We all agreed that we would not sell factory-farmed meat in our store – it just contradicts our core values of selling high-quality, nourishing food and supporting environmental sustainability. But in all of our departments, we carry a variety of products, some local and organic, some not, but all deemed to fit within the spectrum our values. And so, where we could widen our meat selection, we decided we should.

And so we bring you . . . THE MEAT YOU’LL FIND AT THE DURHAM CO-OP MARKET! We are really proud of the research that went into finding these companies and the products we offer. Some are continuing favorites, and some are brand new . . . drum roll please . . .

Our Meat Selection

Thousand Hills Ground Beef
We’ve recently added a new line of ground beef to our shelves! Thousand Hills offers Lifetime Grazed 100% Grassfed Beef, and they do a great job explaining what that means HERE. We’re impressed by their regenerative agricultural practices – their mission is to “nourish soil, plants, cattle and people by holistically grazing cattle for their lifetime” – and proud of the price we can offer you.
Firsthand Foods Beef, Lamb, and Pork
From Day 1, we have been so proud to partner with Firsthand Foods at the DCM. It doesn’t get more local than this, folks – Firsthand Foods works with farmers who meet the highest standards of environmental sustainability, and they are based right here in Durham. Firsthand Foods supports small family farms across the state of North Carolina. All of Firsthand Food’s producers raise their animals exclusively outdoors on pasture, and none of them use growth-promoting antibiotics. You can find lots more information about all of their standards and practices HERE.
New Chicken from Springer Mountain and Farmer Focus
We are proud of the new lines of chicken we’ve recently added to our shelves. Why did we make a change? First of all, we believe that working with these new providers will allow us to keep our shelves better stocked with the products you most want, because both are able to give us a shorter turn-around time between when we place an order and when that order is
delivered.  We’re excited that we’ll be able to be more responsive to the actual demands of our community!
Also, both of our new chicken providers – Springer Mountain Farms and Farmer Focus – are more local than our previous supplier, as they are both regionally local to the South. We also believe that the farming practices and quality standards that both companies support are just as high, or higher, than the chicken products we have previously carried. 
And, FOR THE WIN, we are able to offer many of these new items at a lower price than before. Read on for more information about Springer Mountain Farms and Farmer Focus!
Springer Mountain
Springer Mountain Farms, based in Georgia, provides chicken that is free from antibiotics, free from GMO products, and American Humane Certified. 
Find some more information, directly from their website HERE.
“Springer Mountain Farms chickens are not classified as organic. We feel that our chicken sets itself above the standards for organic classification by USDA which allow the use of antibiotics the first days of life, do not address food safety, are not certified to a humane standard, and do not require testing of soil, water and feed. We NEVER use antibiotics, are certified by the American Humane Association, and we test soil, water and feed in our onsite USDA certified laboratory for contaminants and pesticides.”
“Our chickens are not free range nor pasture raised.  They are raised inside comfortable houses where they have an unlimited supply of clean water and fresh feed along with plenty of fresh air and room to roam about, allowing them the ability to live a normal life without the threat of predators, exposure to diseases from migratory birds, or harm from the elements as they’d be subjected to if raised outdoors.  Our low-stress growing practices and procedures have earned us certification by the American Humane Association, the oldest and most trusted advocate of animal welfare in the country.  Springer Mountain Farms was the first brand of chicken in the world to be American Humane Certified.”  
Farmer Focus
Farmer Focus is a company based in Virginia that partners with farms throughout the state to provide chicken that is Organic, Free-Range, Certified Humane, Animal Welfare Certified, and Non-Gmo Project Verified. They have created a business model that treats each farmer with
integrity and promotes the financial sustainability of generational farms. Find out more information HERE.
Farmer Focus also provides incredible traceability of every product – by visiting their website, and typing in a unique # on each package of chicken, you can find out exactly what farm it came from! Find that tool HERE.

A New Kind of Grocery Store

Some grocery stores just try to offer you the cheapest prices. Some offer only a curated selection of items that meet the highest standards. We’re creating a new kind of grocery store here at the DCM – one that balances both of those goals. We strive to be a store that is affordable, accessible, and holds high quality standards. We’re constantly re-evaluating the selection of items on our shelves to fit all of your needs – and we always want to hear your feedback! Please reach out to us and let us know how we’re doing – you can always call us at (919) 973-1707 or email us at