March 9 is known as National Meatball Day. The origins of why it’s celebrated on this specific date are unknown, but it’s no mystery that everybody loves meatballs. And meatballs are popular in many different cultures. They were believed to be invented by the Chinese in the 2nd Century B.C. Swedish meatballs are a popular type. And Italian-American created the combination of spaghetti and meatballs.
As the sustainable food scene is ever expanding, there are now even prepared nutrient dense meals for those with busy lifestyles. One of the most popular products from these healthy prepared food companies is meatballs.
While looking for the best grass fed meatballs, I have a few different requirements. It’s important that the brands aren’t simply using grass fed beef or pastured pork or turkey, but are sourcing from farms committed to regenerative agriculture. Also, if the food manufacturers are cooking the meatballs in marinara sauce, the sauce must be free of any rancid oils such as soybean or canola. And finally, I like to find ones which are available all over the United States.
Here are the eight best sustainably sourced meatballs:
In 1987, Stephen McDonnell and his friend Christopher Ely bought Chris’ family business Jugtown Smokehouse, which produced smoked meats without any synthetic nitrates. Stephen started Applegate with the purpose of asking “what if you weren’t afraid to read a hot dog ingredient label?” Next they made deli meat which was antibiotic free, followed by introducing the first widely distributed deli meat with an organic certification. In 2015, all of their beef products became 100% grass fed. Their meatballs are among their most recent grass fed beef additions. Applegate has two different varieties, both of which mix meat and veggies. The Asian style meatballs combine pork with brown rice, green onions, carrots, and parsley. And the Mediterranean style meatballs have turkey mixed with lentils, feta cheese, and spinach.
Beetnik is an Austin based business working with certified organic beef, chicken, vegetable, and herb farmers to make healthy frozen meals. They get their beef from ranchers whose cattle roam on open ranges their entire lives and are never fed corn. The company also works with a series of dieticians to advise them on making organic convenient foods. Beetnik now provides over 10 different meal options that get as diverse as lemongrass chicken to chili and sweet potatoes. And they have both grass fed beef and organic chicken meatballs. They sell packages of frozen meatballs and frozen meals of meatballs in marinara sauce with carrots and zucchini. The meatballs are all gluten free. The ones in the packages use a combination of organic white and brown rice flour while the meals are certified paleo being made with organic almond flour.
Wagyu beef is known for being well marbled, having great texture, and tasting flavorful, but not a lot of it is 100% grass fed. The First Light Wagyu Producers Group, a collective of 61 farmers in New Zealand, took up the challenge of raising Wagyu cattle on grass and out of their pens. Their meatballs are among other products they sell, including various cuts of steak, ground beef, and hot dogs.
Fifty Five Farmers
Like the company’s name implies, Fifty Five Farmers consists of 55 farmers in Australia who are devoted organic farming practices to raise grass fed beef. They’re committed to restoring the soil health by the means of grazing, organic composts, native grass species, and rest. The cattle at Fifty Five Farmers cell-graze in order to restore the grasslands into healthy areas thriving in biodiversity. The ranchers also don’t use any chemicals on the animals or the land at any of their farms. Fifty Five Farmers has three different flavors of meatballs, which are a Sicilian spice using red chili pepper, roasted garlic, and a three cheese consisting of romano, paremesan, and asiago.
Northern California sixth generation cattle rancher Darrell Wood felt he wasn’t being rewarded or recognized for raising cattle entirely on grass and never giving them hormones or antibiotics. After discovering that consumers in San Francisco appreciated what he did, Wood formed Panorama Meats with two of his friends. Today Panorama Meats has over 1 million acres of USDA certified organic grasslands spanning the nine states of California, Oregon, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Colorado. In addition to raising cattle naturally, Wood has established land conservation trusts throughout the U.S. guaranteeing that the land will be used for grazing and not torn down for real estate development. Meatballs are one of the items which Panorama Meats sells along with steaks, roasts, hot dogs, beef sticks, and bone broth.
Raise American is all about raising the bar extremely high when it comes to beef. All of the meat they supply is 100% grass fed, 100% organic, and 100% sustainable for the planet. Additionally, their beef comes entirely from America with ranches ranging across the country, including Minnesota, Colorado, Oregon, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Texas. Raise American has partnerships with its ranchers where they oversee the entire process from the pasture where the cow was born to how the cow is being treated on the farm to how the cow is transported. They’re encouraging all organic beef ranchers to go regenerative in order to revive the soil, replenish the land, and remove greenhouse gases. Raise American president Scott Lively wrote the book For the Love of Beef: The Good, the Bad and the Future of America’s Favorite Meat, which covers everything about beef from the different cuts to the benefits of being grass fed. Their meatballs are one of many of their offerings, which also include steaks, ground beef, frozen burger patties, and hot dogs.
Beginning out as an experiment in environmental conservation, Teton Waters Ranch discovered how they can replenish the abused soil of an old potato farm by the means of planting native grasses, cattle rotation, and the livestock fertilizing where they eat. These practices led to a system of food which is both sustainable and healthy. They ended up forming a company which produced hot dogs and sausages coming from grass fed and finished beef. They’ve since partnered with the Savory Institute, a worldwide nonprofit with the goal of restoring grasslands using holistic management. Teton Water has also recently expanded their product line into ground beef, starting with frozen burger patties and now meatballs. Their meatballs are cooked in marinara sauce and use white and brown rice flour to make them gluten free.
U.S. Wellness is one of the most successful online retailers in sustainable food. The business began in 2000 with working family farms in northeast Missouri and Illinois who been raising animals on the land for generations. Since then, they’ve partnered with a few other small family farms across the U.S. and their friends’ farm in Tasmania to provide all of their 100% grass fed and finished beef. U.S. Wellness gives their cattle a 30 – 45 day resting period between grazing to make the plants in the pasture more dense and grow back new native plants. U.S. Wellness has meatballs made from 100% grass fed beef and seasoned with adobo as well as ones made from their heirloom pork. Meatballs are among their large varieties of beef, lamb, bison, pork, seafood, poultry, dairy, and even non-meat products such as nuts and chocolate. U.S. Wellness’ main model is the Internet, but they also have a select number of physical retailers across the U.S. which carry some of their products.