The Farmlink Interview, Part II

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This week, the continuation of the interview published by Farmlink on On February 28, 2015, between Trever Clark of Farmlink and Jeff Duba of Duba & Co. It is mildly abridged…

What’s so special about heritage beef? Why is it worth the premium price?

Heritage meats are the last frontier in the craft food movement. Beginning in, oh, maybe the ’60s cheeses, then wine, then coffee, and now beer have undergone (or are undergoing) an artisanal Renaissance. Meat is only now beginning to enter this territory. Meat is, in this decade, where the beer industry was in the ’80s.

It’s the recovery of lost, historic flavors and traditional farming practices. I’ve compared conventional beef as having just about as much flavor as a Budweiser. Heritage meats offer a variety of flavor (and a depth of flavor) best compared to microbrews. You don’t know you’re drinking swag until you begin trying Porters, Lambics, IPAs, and the like.

If this example is too stark, a very fair (and conservative) comparison is drinking Famous Grouse and then imbibing in a Scottish whisky. That’s the kind of difference we’re talking about, and that’s what makes them so special. That, and their unlimited marketing potential: breed, history, farm, flavor profile, sustainability, conservation, age at harvest, dry-aging, are all ways to set yourself, as a restauranteur, apart in the marketplace.

We search out and find those farms producing the best heritage meats out there and bring them to market. We’re a Martha’s Vineyard of meats, really. A merchant passionate about quality. The best comes with a price, and we’re willing to pay a premium for it. We work with some of the country’s best producers. Further, we enhance the quality of our meats through dry-aging which helps tenderize and concentrate flavor (to a degree this also decreases yield, so we wind up paying a bit more than we otherwise would have).

We’re here to help restaurants, through marketing consultations, get a premium price for heritage meats on their menu. If you’re a fan of The Office, we’re really going for that Michael Scott WIN-WIN-WIN scenario: guests get more than they’re paying for in terms of quality, restaurants benefit financially from a premium-priced “top-shelf” product, and rare breeds thrive (and the farmers who raise them). So, actually, it’s WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN.

Any big plans for 2015? New products? Expansions? Anything changing?
Back in October 2014, Patrick Martins, president of Heritage Foods, USA, and I met at his headquarters in Brooklyn. There was some talk of collaboration. He’s a guy–I’m given to understand–who sources  Mario Bartali’s restaurants across the country. Martins and I have been in contact since, and he’s put me in touch with some great people in the Chicago, IL, and Madison, WI, markets. No big plans for 2015, other than to continue to develop these relationships. With any luck, we may see the kind of collaboration in the heritage meat industry that you find amongst brew-masters.
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