Q: I've decided to be more mindful about my meat and fish consumption. Can you recommend butchers and fishmongers in Chicago or the close-in suburbs that sell responsibly produced meat and fish? I am looking for more information than the animal welfare scale that one local grocer uses.
—Claudia Perry, Evanston
A: I found two resources online that should prove helpful, the Shedd Aquarium's Right Bite program and Red Meat Market, a cyber/social resource for local, sustainable meat and those who love to eat it.
Red Meat Market, which is not an actual meat market, offers a list of Chicago butchers (redmeatmarket.com) based on specific set of criteria. Founder Mark Wilhelms said the butchers are ranked based on various sustainability factors, including how close to Chicago the animals were pastured, where the animals raised without antibiotics or hormones and if the animals grass fed.
Shedd's Right Bite program (sheddaquarium.org) seeks to steer consumers toward sustainable seafood. The program lists area retailers, restaurants, caterers and culinary schools as Right Bite partners.
"Right Bite partners receive staff training on seafood issues provided by Shedd experts," the aquarium's Web site reads. "They also pledge to offer at least two sustainable seafood options at all times and, if applicable, to permanently remove at least one unsustainable choice from their menus or product inventories."
I can think of a few other options you can pursue whether you live in the Chicago area or wherever:
1. Talk up your concerns with like-minded friends; they may have ideas.
2. Patronize your local farmers market. You'll likely find purveyors of sustainable, local meat there or if not, some tips to help you in your search.
3. Make it a habit to ask questions about the meat, seafood, vegetables and fruit you buy at whatever market you patronize. Where is it from? How was it grown or raised? What's been added to it (or not) in processing or shipping? Now, be reasonable about this. Don't expect to get much of an answer during, say, the evening rush before a major holiday. But if you're in the store during off-hours, you should be able to find someone in the store who can answer your questions.
Do you have a question about food or drink? E-mail Bill Daley at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Snail mail inquiries should be sent to: Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago 60611. Twitter @billdaley.