The following article appears in the Autumn edition of Roadbelly Magazine, and we’ve been wanting to share it with you. The piece is written by Tiffany Ewigleben.
“Conveying the mystique and ethos of heritage meats, meats which
embody all that is noble and good about the Old World, the West, and
Duba & Company brings you meats that are more than just nutrient dense, flavorful sustenance. They bring you meats with meaning. A reverent respect for food and the people behind it seems to be in Jeff Duba’s blood. Son of the owners of the former Duba’s Restaurant, Jeff has grown up entrenched in the culinary world. The closing of Duba’s in Grand Rapids acted as the catalyst for the creation of a new company.
Former Duba’s Restaurant customers, frustrated with the lack of a good steak in town, caused the spark the started Duba’s Steaks, formed by Jeff and his father. It was decided that would sell the cuts the customers were looking for, but Jeff initially struggled with the type of meat they would be providing.
“I realized that the beef we would be selling would really just be conventional beef. A high-grade conventional beef, but still conventional beef… It comes from an industry that treats animals as if they were inanimate objects. So, I said, I’m gonna look for something else. That’s when I discovered heritage beef.”
Heritage beef comes from breeds of cattle that have been overlooked as the country’s food system shifted. From family farms to factory farms, we have made these animals rare. We’ve lost touch with cattle such as the Highland, whose long horns wouldn’t work in a CAFO; or the Dexter, a slightly smaller cattle that takes longer to reach maturity. Raising cattle has been reduced to simply making Meat™ — mass-produced¬, uniform, inhumane, and tasteless.
Sourced from pure breeds or a mix of rare breeds, these cattle are raised free of prophylactic antibiotics and growth hormones. They roam and graze pasture land — always nurtured with an all plantbased diet. The idea is to conserve these breeds and add to the genetic diversity of our livestock pool. By encouraging consumption, we can actively embrace our agricultural heritage.
With the idea firmly planted in Jeff’s mind that heritage beef would be one of their product lines, things began to take off. Leaving job security as a teacher (and philosopher), to embrace the new business, an unexpected setback suddenly occurred. In 2011, Duba’s Steaks lost their conventional beef supplier. Pursuing leads for new conventional beef would take Jeff across the country, to Colorado on the day of the Waldo Canyon Fire, and to Nebraska with an overbooked rancher, all resulting in missed opportunities to even discuss options for product.
“I say to my wife, ‘this is really strange, it feels like we are being thwarted here—but it doesn’t feel wrong, it feels like it’s meant to be.’“ Jeff looks off into the distance; eyes far away. He smiles. “Shortly after that, it became all about heritage beef. We decided to put all our energy into that. That’s what we’re passionate about anyway. The company became very focused and changed its name.”
Duba & Company-Merchants of Heritage Meats– the name itself is reminiscent of the past, reminiscent of something we have lost; knowledge unused. Jeff wants us to regain that knowledge. Duba & Company is not only a purveyor of fine meats, but also a company that provides education for the masses. After all, what better way to enjoy your food than to truly understand it?
Marketing will eventually take on the form of product flow. You will learn about the meat (such as beef), then the history of the breed (Galloway, for example), then information about the farm the meat is sourced from. Explanations of the various cuts will be available, along with cooking tutorials, via Duba & Company’s website.
Jeff is able to provide this information for his customers because of how hard he has worked to develop relationships with his farmers. Aided by his affable nature and honest passion, Jeff secured product from farms such as LEA-White in Charlotte, MI and DunDonald Highlands in Three Rivers, MI.
A natural progression of established Michigan ideals, which Jeff calls ‘symbolic potency,’ are occurring here. There is a correlation between things like microbrews, heirloom vegetables, and heritage meats. We are recapturing the lost, unearthing flavors that are unknown to us, but were known to our ancestors. By returning to a more affirming method of producing and consuming food, Duba & Company is helping us rediscover our roots — one steak at a time.