Shorthrn with Anvil

Heritage Tech

With the release yesterday of our Shorthorn beef line, you’re invited to take you take a virtual farm tour of Tillers International, a truly unique mission-driven organization. Not only do they raise Duba & Co.’s heritage Shorthorn beef, they preserve and pass on traditional knowledge and techniques that inspire rural innovation. Their work makes it possible for rural communities at home and abroad to utilize low-impact technologies, enabling these communities to become self-sustaining agrarian economies. Enjoy this short introduction to the work of Tillers International…

To support the mission of Tillers and to help preserve the Shorthorn breed, whose conservation status is listed as “critical” by The Livestock Conservancy, consider an investment in a quarter or eighth of this rare beef breed. With only  a few quarters and eighths left and at an all-inclusive price of $6.65 – $6.70/pound, you’ll get for everything from ground, soup bones, and offal; to roasts, ribeyes, and New York Strips. It’s an unbeatable price for an autumn or winter’s worth of beef full of rich, deep, and earthy flavor. Plus, we’re throwing in free delivery for those in Grand Rapids, MI.

Contact deckhand@dubaandcompany.com for availability, more information, or purchase.

Riven Rock 2
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Country Roads

Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.
Life is old there, older than the trees…

(John Denver, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”)

Last week my wife Erin, daughter Analise, and I traveled to West Virginia and–from there–to northern Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains. These forested mountains rose and fell with the reds, yellows, and greens of autumn’s colors, just then beginning to peak.  A more idyllic setting can hardly be imagined for Riven Rock Farms, home of the heritage Belted Galloway cattle which spread out to pasture on more than 700 acres of shaded farmland.

These cattle, with a distinctive white “belt” around their middle section, graze on the shaded pastures and drink the fresh mountain waters. Chuck and Lou Ann Neely oversee the operations at Riven Rock and, in addition to raising “Belties” (as the breed is affectionately called), they raise lamb and pastured heritage pork. Their hogs have access to seven acres of forested grasslands where the oaks let drop their acorns for the animals to gobble up. It’s a diet that harkens back to the earliest days of pork production, in ancient Roman times.

From the Virginias, we drove east towards Connecticut, stopping to hike in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area. After a couple of days in Avon, Connecticut, in the Farmington Valley of Hartford, we took a train into Brooklyn, New York, to spend some time with Patrick Martins, founder of Heritage Foods USA and the Heritage Radio Network. Times Square, Rockefeller Center, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral (currently under renovation) rounded out our visit to the Big Apple.

Our return home took us through the rolling hills of New York State and Pennsylvania until we spent one final night on Lake Erie–perhaps the last warm night of the year–listening to the trees, blowing in the breeze.

Riven Rock 1

On Vacation This Week

My family and I have been traveling this past week on a late “summer” vacation that included a farm visit in the Allegany Mountains of Virginia. Above is a snapshot of the farm’s Belted Galloway cattle milling on the mountainside, a preview of coming attractions when the blog post resumes next Thursday, October 9.

 

Idle River Turkeys (May)1

Thanksgiving in April

April. That’s how long Thanksgiving has been on my mind this year. That’s the month we asked Idle River Farms of Burlington, MI, to raise our first crop of heritage turkeys. Taking up to 2 1/2 months longer to bring to harvest than conventional turkeys, our order was placed at the 11th hour.

Ever since then, Matt & Kristal Burdick who run Idle River have been passing along images of the turkeys’ progress. From poults in May to the images that arrived today, I have been moved by these photographs–so pastoral in nature. They speak of life and, moreover, a quality of life which translates into quality of meat. The images remind me of a conversation with Mary Wills and Jill Johnson of Crane Dance Farm who run an animal welfare approved operation in Middleville, MI. Of their livestock they observed that they enjoy hundreds of good days and one bad day, while animals which are the product of the conventional meat industry have hundreds of bad days and one good day. For both, that day is harvest day.

The appointed time for the Narragansett and Bourbon Red turkeys you see pictured below is November 18. It’s a sobering thought and one that instills, paradoxically, a reverence for life and a sense of gratitude. It’s this piety that was so acute in the Native American peoples that came to know and give thanks with the earliest American colonists, and I like to think it was the Narragansett turkey that graced their tables on that first Thanksgiving.

On pasture late this summer

On pasture late this summer

A turkey appears to be investigating the plant life

A turkey appears to be investigating the plant life

Allowed to roam in the fields, the turkey eat all sorts of vegetation

Allowed to roam in the fields, the turkey eat all sorts of vegetation

To place your Thanksgiving order (and to enjoy 10% off through the end of September) visit the turkey product pages by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

glass of apple cider with fall themed background.

Hot Spiced Apple Cider

This recipe is unbeatable: my mother’s hot, spiced apple cider was always associated with cool Fall nights but especially Halloween night. She brewed it in an antique coffee maker that moaned like a ghost, and the aromatics filled the house with cinnamon, clove, and allspice. This cider benefits from extended brewing times.

The Ingredients

1 gallon apple cider

1/4 C. honey

1 cinnamon stick

1 t. allspice

1 t. cloves

The Preparation

1. Place apple cider in a crock pot or large pot on the stove. Heat on high if using a crock pot or a medium heat in on the stove.

2. Add cinnamon stick, allspice, and cloves.

3. Once the cider has become hot, stir in the honey and reduce crock pot to low. If on the stove top, reduce heat to a very low setting and partially cover: the liquid should continue to steam but not simmer.

4. Allow cider to brew at least an hour, but longer is better.

5. Serve hot.

yogurt with spiced pumpkin puree

Pumpkin Shake

Here in the clove of the seasons, one day feels like Summer and the next like Fall. That’s certainly been our experience in Michigan this week. One part pumpkin pie and one part ice cream shake, try this pumpkin shake recipe for these in-between times…

The Ingredients

2 scoops vanilla ice cream (1 1/4 – 1 1/2 C.)

1/2 C. milk (the creamier, the better)

1/8 C. pumpkin puree

1 t. sugar

1/4 t. vanilla

1/8 t. ground cinnamon + extra for garnish

1/8 t. ground cloves

1/8 t. ground ginger

pinch salt

whipped cream (optional)

The Preparation

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth

2. Top with whipped cream and garnish with cinnamon

Serves 1

NOTE: The cinnamon, cloves, and ginger may be replaced with pumpkin pie spice.

A Brief History of Tom

A Brief History of Tom

“…when the last individual of a race of living beings breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again.”

William Beebe, American Naturalist and Explorer

1,335. That’s the number of Heritage Turkeys that remained in the United States in 1997, a number dangerously close to extinction. The Heritage Turkey, indigenous to North and South America, is the bird that our fore-bearers served on the Thanksgiving table, and is part of our American cultural treasury–every bit as iconic as George Washington, the Redwood Forests, and the Liberty Bell. But how did we come so close to losing this national treasure?

For the better part of America’s 225+ year history, turkeys were raised in range environments: breeds like the Narragansett, Royal Palm, and Bourbon Red. Between 1920 – 1950, however, a new breed (the Broad Breasted Bronze) was developed to meet a demand for greater breast widths and bigger birds, a breed which began to dominate the marketplace and displace the heritage breeds. From the 1960s on, a new breed eclipsed the Broad Breasted Bronze in popularity: the Large or Broad Breasted White Turkey, desirable because it lacked the black pin feathers which were a feature of other birds. The modern turkey industry has gotten increasingly better at developing these commercial breeds to yield maximum amounts of meat from low feed inputs, thus driving down the cost of the Thanksgiving Turkey to between $1 to $2 per pound. One of the costs of this advance, however, is that the modern Broad Breasted Bronze and Large or Broad Breasted White Turkeys cannot reproduce naturally; all require artificial insemination.

10,404. That’s the number of heritage turkeys in 2006, and their numbers are on the rise every year. Unlike their modern counterparts, heritage turkeys mate naturally, can fly and stand on their own two feet. Their slower growth rates–about 28 weeks opposed to as little as the 18 weeks of modern turkey production–means meat whose flavor has had time to develop and mature. Age imparts flavor, and those who’ve tried heritage turkey note the superior taste that comes from America’s culinary past.

Author’s Note

Pre-sales of heritage turkeys from Duba & Co. begin this week. Not only do they meet all of the requirements of The Livestock Conservancy, they are GMO-free and have spent much of their time on pasture. They are raised by Idle River Farms in Burlington, Michigan.

White horned goat grazed on a green meadow

Just Goat for It!

For those who frequent the farmers’ market in Michigan, one becomes aware of the seasonality of produce: rhubarb, morels, and asparagus in Spring; cherries, squash, and tomatoes in Summer; apples, pumpkins, and parsnips in Autumn. What we may not realize is that there’s also a seasonality to meat. This is the first in a series of posts which will focus on the meat seasons. There’s a reason why the turkey is associated with Thanksgiving and the goose with Christmas. This week’s focus is goat, best harvested in the first part of Autumn.

Goat is at one and the same time the world’s most popular meat and arguably the most under-consumed meat in the United States (okay, maybe the most under-consumed meat is kangaroo which I’ve heard is very good from a friend of a friend who lived among the Aussies). Goat meat, bearing a close resemblance in flavor to that of lamb, has a highly desirable taste. And the reason why it begs to be eaten in the Fall has everything to do with the animal’s natural breeding cycle and milk production. Goats mate in the Fall, give birth in the Spring, and by the next Fall the male goats—which will not be used in milk production—are ripe for the harvest. Otherwise their flesh gets too tough and (some consider) too “gamey” as they age.

If you enjoy the taste of lamb and are looking to expand your horizons, I’d encourage you to just “Goat for It!”. One place to start is by contacting Hickory Knoll Farms out in Onondaga, MI. They have a presence at Grand Rapids’ Fulton Street Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings where they sell goat cheese. From time to time they’re able to provide call-ahead customers with goat meat. And while at the market picking up goat meat, don’t forget your parsnips and pumpkins.

 

Ark of Taste

Celebrating and Preserving Livestock Genetic Diversity

Editor’s Note: The author of this piece, Mr. Ralph Loglisci, published the following for the Slow Foods USA blog on 18 August 2014. It appears here as a companion piece to last week’s blog post “An American Treasury of Taste.” The re-publication is used with permission of the author and Slow Foods USA.

The list of names of the more than 100 Slow Meat delegates reads like a Who’s Who of the sustainable food animal world. Many are farmers, ranchers and veterinarians who are working to preserve endangered breeds of livestock and poultry.

During one of the several break out sessions delegates discussed the benefits and difficulties of raising heritage breed animals. Not surprisingly, farmers raising heritage breeds that best suited the land they were raised on experienced little difficulty. In fact, most animals rarely required medical treatment or medicine, unlike their conventionally bred cousins that make up the majority of the 9 Billion food animals produced in the USA each year. Most of the difficulties discussed were not about raising animals but finding markets that will cover their costs.

Jeannette Beranger, Research & Technical Programs Manager for The Livestock Conservancy, pointed out that the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) declared biodiversity is key to maintain a sustainable and fair food system for future generations.

In 2006, the FAO reported that of the 7,600 breeds in their Global Databank for Farm Animal Genetic Resources, 190 became extinct with a 15 year span and 1,500 were considered “at risk” of extinction. Just among breeds of cattle, goats, pigs, horses and poultry, within 5 years, 60 breeds were lost. That’s an average of one breed a month. By now almost 100 additional breeds are most likely extinct.

According to The Livestock Conservancy, “A mere 14 species provide 90 percent of the human food supply from animals.” Additionally the Conservancy found that in the USA, 91 percent of the nation’s dairy stock are Holstein cows; 90 percent of the nation’s turkeys come from seven strains of large white turkeys. Out of the 60 breeds of chicken that were raised before World War II, only 5 industrial breeds supply the majority of our chicken meat and brown eggs; and white eggs are almost exclusively from a single breed of industrial white leghorns.

FAO leaders say that maintaining genetic biodiversity in plants and animals will ensure future generations will have available to them new breeds of animals better able to cope with unforeseen risks, such as disease or extreme climate changes.

Slow Food International’s Dr. Sergio Capaldo, a veterinarian by training, is working in Italy to find ways to support farmers who are working to preserve genetic biodiversity in food animals. In 1996, Dr. Capaldo told Slow Meat delegates, as Coordinator for Slow Food International’s National Livestock and Breeding projects he reached out to slaughter houses, distributors, restaurants and marketers to ensure heritage breed farmers and ranchers would be paid a fair price.

In an effort to preserve biodiversity, Slow Food international created an online catalog, known as the Ark of Taste, which lists small-scale produced foods at risk of disappearing across the globe. To help support small artisan producers sell their goods at a fair price the Presidia program was created. The goals of the Presidia are to guarantee a viable future for traditional foods by stabilizing production techniques, establishing stringent production standards, and promoting local consumption.

Many delegates who were butchers, slaughterhouse owners, suppliers and distributors were eager to discuss and share with other delegates their successes and failures. For many, demand for their services is so great that the biggest problem is having to turn away customers.

Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir

An American Treasury of Taste

Three years ago, my wife and I honeymooned in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, spending the better part of the day hiking past waterfalls, through woodlands, then down to the white sands of the Superior shore. A year or two prior, there was a week’s worth of backpacking Isle Royal, the nation’s least-visited National Park which, with moss hanging from trees and populated by wolf and moose, is best described as primordial forest.

Having spent some time in the Badlands in his younger years and struck by its rugged, untamed wildness, Theodore Roosevelt returned later in life–stunned by the degradation of the land and the wildlife it supported. This experience no doubt galvanized Roosevelt who became the “Conservation president”, setting aside designated lands as veritable national treasures which would eventually include the beloved Pictured Rocks and Isle Royal.

One of my favorite ways to understand heritage meats is as a “National Parks System for Meat.” In 1977 The Livestock Conservancy, like Roosevelt before it, recognized the need to ensure that endangered resources would not disappear from the face of the earth. Having lost far too many breeds to industrial agriculture, no breed put on the Conservancy’s watch list has yet undergone extinction. And, what’s more, the very reasons for heritage livestock breeds’ undesirability in the conventional model make them the most enjoyable to eat, namely slow growth rates and performance on pasture.

Through the Conservancy’s efforts (and those who eat heritage meats), flavors nearly lost to history are being discovered as an American treasury of taste. Instead of the Red Wood Forest, Red Wattle pork. Instead of the Grand Tetons, Galloway beef. Instead of Shenandoah, Southdown lamb.