Local Bar-B-Q

As soon as the weather allows, I cook dinner on a grill outside. It's in part because I hate being cooped up in a hot kitchen in summer but it's also because it's fast, easy and more often than not produces delicious results.The secret is in the ingredients, and for them, there is no getting around it, the very best are seasonal and local. Don't leave out poultry, dairy, meat and fish on this score, the more you know about where your meat is from and how it was raised the better.

But let's start with fruits and vegetables. The growing season is well underway in every state in the country as Simple Steps new Eat Local maps attest. And if you are not a gardener and growing vegetables yourself, you are sure to be within a short drive, if not a bus ride or walk away, from a farmers' market with the wonderful harvest of your area. You can use the Find a Farmers' Market search tool on the Eat Local maps to find all that are near you along with directions on how to get there. It's great.

Farmers' Markets are a great source of local dairy, poultry, meat and fish as well as breads. Or check out Local Harvest, the website, to find other sources. With so many cases of foodborne illnesses occurring annually in the U.S. most the result of contaminated meat, knowing as much as you can about the farm on which it was raised - the farm practices, the use of hormones and antibiotics, the feed, etc - is a key measure by which to avoid animals raised on disease-prone factory farms and feedlots or contaminated with mercury or PCBs from polluted waterways.

Demand is growing for locally raised meat, according to this story in the Washington Post which reported an increase in mobile slaughterhouses to serve smaller, regional farms. And chances are consumers are concerning themselves more with where their shrimp is from since the BP oil disaster, though as Julia Black, our Simple Steps intern, reported here, they may want to rethink their shrimp consumption altogether.

Whether locally sourced or not, there are important things to consider when shopping, preparing and grilling your summer meals. I like to review this Grilling Guide before kicking off the summer grilling season, as it reminds me what to be mindful of, what to look for when shopping, what labels like Animal Welfare means, and how to stay safe while eating well.

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