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A Late Harvest Carnivorous Treat

The longer an animal lives and the more work it does, the more flavorful its meat becomes. (Adam Danforth, author of Butchering, and as quoted in Modern Farmer, 20 January 2015)

LOW-BROW SENSIBILITIES

In our work with heritage meats–every bit as distinctive as a fine wine or craft ale–it is ironic that we have come to adore (even revere) the burger. Given the choice between an 8-ounce steak and a half-pound ground beef patty on a dignified bun–cooked at most to a medium temperature–it’s the later, hands down. No ketchup, no mayonnaise, no mustard. Just generously seasoned with salt and pepper.

Danforth’s above insight justifies my “low-brow” sensibilities. What parts of a beef become ground beef? It’s the gritty, tough muscles like the chuck or the round. Those are the muscles getting the work-out: “The longer an animal lives and the more work it does, the more flavorful its meat becomes,” (ibid.). But what about the other side of the equation, the question of maturity?

LANGUAGE OF THE FRONTIER

Since our inception as a company, we’ve been looking to the language of viticulture to describe the re-discovered territory of heritage meats. Terroir is one such term borrowed from wine country. When used in conjunction with meat, it describes the reality of a geographic taste in pasture-raised beef, lamb, turkey, or pork.

This week, meet another borrowed term, ripe with meaning: Late Harvest. This verbiage is used by baccharians to denote a wine made from grapes–long past their prime–whose intensified sugar content yields deliciously sweet desert wines, such as a Late Harvest Riesling. The same phenomena occurs in the flesh of a mature animal: the sweet intensification of flavors yielding beef that is deeply rich, with layer upon layer of complexities.

LATE HARVEST DEXTER BEEF

Next week, with Dreamcatcher Farm, we bring to slaughter 10-year-old Dexter beef, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Dexter is an Irish cattle breed (Europe’s smallest, in fact). It’s 100% pasture-raised, feeding on clover grasses. We are pleased to begin using the language of “Late Harvest” in conjunction with what I hope will be some fabulously tasting beef to enrich your celebrations of the Saint of Ireland on March 17.

The beef will begin making its way to West Michigan’s finest restaurants toward the end of this month and in the first part of March. A very limited amount will be offered for sale first to our Pioneer Members and then to the general public though our website. And if you want a fighting Irish’s chance for this Late Harvest Irish Dexter beef, become a Pioneer Member today by clicking here.

 

Heritage Breeds Podcast

The Historical, Flavorful Meats Our Ancestors Enjoyed

Listen to C.S. Wurzberger’s interview last month with Jeff Duba from Duba & Company. Wurzberger’s weekly podcast, Heritage Breeds, airs weekly on Sticher Radio and Heritage Radio Network which reaches over 1,000,000 listeners monthly in 200 countries.

room interior vintage with brown textured wall and Elephant head

The Elephant in the Room is a Pig

Editor’s Note: Strangely enough, I’ve always been moved by PBS’s and NPR’s fund-drives. Sentimentalism, I guess. The author of this piece (Josiah Lockart) is a Virginia farmer of rare and heritage breeds, a Slow Meat Committee member, and a personal acquaintance of mine from the first-ever Slow Meat Symposium in Denver (June 2014). This letter is written for those passionate about the cause for better meats and who don’t mind a good ‘ol fund-raising pitch for a leading non-profit of the cause, Slow Food USA.

–Jeff Duba

 

When it comes to meat in this country, the elephant in the room is a pig.

Industrial pig production is the poster child for the larger issues plaguing our food system. The status quo for pigs today is all about confinement. Pigs are confined in unethical ways. Flavors are confined to very few breeds. Wealth is confined to an agricultural economy that extracts income from rural communities.

This all comes at a cost to our land, animals, health and small farmers. It’s time to start talking about it. It’s time to start doing something about it.

And that’s why I urge you to support Slow Food USA today.

Because Slow Food is doing something about it.

As a pig farmer who raises only heritage breeds, I want to see, and be a part of, a world and community that values biodiversity, resilience, and food access.

Slow Food’s new Slow Meat program is creating that world. It’s founded on the belief that eating better meat, and less of it overall, is the foundation of sustainable meat consumption.

But we need your help to continue Slow Meat into 2015.

It’s not easy to raise heritage animals humanely, without added antibiotics or hormones AND to make a living wage. Running a farm this way is difficult and expensive, but networks like Slow Meat have given my family farm the support to thrive with good, clean and fair values at the heart of our business model.

The question is:  how do we move this type of farming from the sidelines to the mainstream? The answer lies not in what we are all doing individually, but what we do as a movement.

Slow Food is not only creating a space to solve tough questions but it’s also dedicated to building a system where farmers like me can raise animals humanely and support themselves while doing it.

You can help create a world where farmers like me can raise meat with animal welfare, environment and fair wages in mind.

I’m a farmer, not a fundraiser. But I truly believe in the work Slow Food is doing and I’m writing today to ask you to give what you can to ensure a better future for meat.

The truth is, you don’t have to be a farmer to make an impact on food and agriculture. Slow Food USA gives everyday people the opportunity to make a big impact in their community.

By donating today, you can ensure that our culture of confinement is no longer the elephant in the room.

Josiah Lockhart

Josiah Lockhart is the Executive Manager at Lockhart Family Farm, a family owned and operated farm in Caroline County, Virginia. [They] focus on raising high quality rare and heritage breed pigs and poultry in a natural woodland environment. [Their] Animals are free-ranged with supplemental non-gmo grain. [They] sell direct to customer and to a number of restaurants in the Richmond and Williamsburg area.

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.

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.

Cattle Stock Prices

Beef Prices are Rising (Ours Are Not)

For the past few years, I confess a near-complete ignorance of conventional beef prices to the point where, until this Monday, I didn’t have a clue as to what a pound of ground beef runs ($5.79). As late as the Spring of this year, I began to hear rumblings about the prices of conventional beef rising, and people have been asking me about the cause of the price hike (and whether the prices we were paying for beef were also going up).

To address the first question, what I’ve heard is causing the rise of conventional beef prices are two main factors. First, there was a blizzard this winter that wiped out tens of thousands of beef cattle in the plains. Second, there’s a scarcity of grain brought on by, presumably, drought. A scarcity in the of supply of both cattle and feed would certainly lead to higher prices.

To address the second question, no, we haven’t seen the prices we’re paying for cattle rise. Our farms, to my knowledge, did not experience a loss of cattle this winter, even when actual temperatures hovering around -20 F. One wonders whether this has to do with the heartiness of the animals themselves which, in some cases, have had the benefit of a thousand years of natural selection in some very unforgiving climates (like the Highlands of Scotland). In addition, our cattle primarily–if not exclusively–feed on grass, instead of the conventional feed effected by the drought. This is not to say that a drought wouldn’t have a detrimental effect on pasture (it would).

As my family heads north this weekend for a wedding on the shores of Lake Superior, we’ll be swinging by a Highland farm for a visit. While there, I intend to test what has been put forth in this post against a man who has an insider’s connection with the industry. Depending on how the conversation goes, there may be some updates and/or revisions to this post, so stay tuned!

Highland Beef Liver Pate

Liver Pate: Relic of the Past or Relish of the Future?

Those who dined at Duba’s Restaurant (circa 1949 – 2005), were well acquainted with the relish tray which accompanied every meal (along with garlic bread and a soup and salad course, all included in the meal price). The relish tray: an assortment of vegetables, served with spinach dip and a liver pate. In all those years dining at the Family restaurant, the liver pate remained untried. Being a member of the third generation of the Family restaurant, I never saw any of our dining companions touch the stuff. My conclusion: liver pate was old people’s food, good only for making a very realistic-looking doggie-doo sandwich.

But that concept is beginning to change. Since we buy and sell whole beeves, hogs, and lambs, our family is becoming more adventurous (and adept) at utilizing the whole animal. This week’s uncharted culinary waters involved creating a recipe for a Scottish Highland liver pate. Employing Highland beef liver and using Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for a chicken liver pate as a template, I created my own, drawing inspiration from the predominate spice of that traditional Scottish dish: haggis. And it was delicious! My very skeptical wife, once with vegetarian leanings, preferred it to humus. Trying to make it more palatable to our 1 year-old daughter Analise, we gave it to her on crackers; she spit out the crackers after consuming the pate.

Scottish Highland Liver Pate

The Ingredients

3/4 – 1 pound livers of Highland beef, soaked in milk then coarsely chopped

1 stick cold, unsalted butter

1 C. onion, chopped

1 C. mushrooms, chopped

2 t. garlic, minced

1 T. whole corriander

2 bay leaves

1 t. fresh thyme, chopped

1/2 t. salt

1/2 t. ground black pepper

1/4 C. Scotch (or brandy)

crackers or sliced baguette

The Preparation

1. Soak livers in milk for 6 – 12 hours, then coarsely chop.

2. In a large skillet, melt half of the butter and saute onions, then add the mushrooms until onions are cooked through and translucent.

3. Add the garlic and continue cooking until fragrant.

4. Add the beef liver, coriander, bay leaves, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook until the livers are pink in the middle.

5. Add the Scotch or brandy and cook until the livers are cooked through, then remove from heat.

6. Discard the bay leaves and process the mixture in a food processor, adding chunks of the remaining butter one at a time and pulsing to blend through.

7. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Place pate in a mold or serving dish, cover, and allow to cool in refrigerator for 6 hours before serving.

Charlottes-Web

Charlotte’s Web This Is Not

Who doesn’t remember, with a hint of nostalgia, the story of Charlotte’s Web and Charlotte’s crusade to save the pig Wilbur from slaughter? When it comes to preserving the “Ark of Taste” and biodiversity, the exact opposite is–paradoxically–called for. This is the topic of the following four-minute segment from the July 23rd edition of The Salt on NPR. It features Kentucky farmer Travis Hood who raises heritage Red Wattle pork, a species discovered wandering the woodlands of eastern Texas. In 1999, the breed was down to no fewer than 50 hogs. But with this shift in thinking, Red Wattles–and other heritage breeds–have experienced a substantial recovery. Yet, the breed’s still not “out of the woods”–so to speak.

To read more about the breed and the Michigan farmers who raise them; or to try Red Wattle pork for yourself, visit our Idle River Farms product pages. For now, enjoy the program…

Blooming Desert

And the Desert Will Bloom

The 114 delegates, representing the entire of the United States, were gathered in downtown Denver last weekend for the first-ever Slow Meat symposium.  Huddled in the ballroom of the LEED certified, state-of-the-art conference center, they were treated to the keynote address, delivered by Alan Savory of the Savory Institute. The topic: desertfication (the process whereby fertile land turns to desert). As the delegates would soon learn, livestock–once blamed for the process–may indeed hold the key to what appears to be a desperate and irreversible calamity. Here is the content of Savory’s compelling message, given at TED 2013: