The Farmlink Interview, Part III

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This is the final installment of an abridged interview conducted between Trever Clark of Farmlink and Jeff Duba of Duba & Co.

You’ve talked before about your vision for a standard burger on every menu, with a heritage beef burger available for an upcharge. Can you expound a little bit on this vision? Are any restaurants in the area doing this yet?
Yes. The idea got started when, at Mexican restaurants, I began to notice that there was a house margarita and a “top-shelf” margarita made with Jose Cuervo 1800 and Grand Marnier. In every bar, there are well drinks and their premium counterparts. The vision is for restaurants to have their “house burger” and a “top-shelf” burger. Top shelf because it’s: flavor, heritage, Highland, Red Poll, 21-days dry-aged, 100% grass-fed, the world’s oldest cattle breed (or rarest), and on and on…you pick.It’s an up-sell for maybe a few bucks more. It’s an opportunity for a server to educate your clientele on the kind of meat that you already want to put on your menu anyway, the kind of stuff you’d be proud to serve. It’s a way to become a force for real change in our food system.

Already there’s a brewpub in Duluth, MN, doing this (Fitger’s Brewhouse – [Ed. Note: Their take on heritage beef is here]). Half-pound house burger: $11.99. Half-pound Highland burger: $14.99. And here’s the kicker. Unlike the relatively few people who opt for the top-shelf margarita, I’m told that about 80% of people opt for the up-sell at Fitger’s.

 

What’s your “food philosophy”? Do you see heritage beef as being a more sustainable or healthier alternative to standard beef?
Hmmmmm. I believe that we’ve made a philosophical error when it comes to food, and it’s an ontological error (ontology is the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of being). The error was made at the time of the industrial revolution, a revolution which figured out how to make textiles inexpensively and cars affordable for the masses. “If we can produce cars (and textiles) more efficiently via the factory model, let’s apply that same thinking to livestock,” was (and is) the prevailing thought of the day. And it was a complete success! The price of meat fell, and meat was on nearly every weekday dinner plate in mainstream America. We ostensibly elevated our standard of living. But I’ve come to believe that we’ve done so at a moral cost.Livestock is not like cloth or a car. It’s a living being. Factory farming tends to treat living beings as if they were inanimate objects. Ultimately, this de-humanizes us as moral agents. But when you think about it, this isn’t the worst of it. We’ve treated human beings as animals or pure objects before. Slavery and human trafficking come to mind on the extreme end. Treating animals as inanimate objects is no where near as bad as these offenses, but I hope people begin to see all these actions are cut of the same cloth: in all these the same error is being made; it’s only a question of to what degree.

I’m all for the free market and its ability to lower costs and increase the standard of living, its ability to drive innovation. But none of us should want markets without morality. Ultimately, we all suffer as a result–though it may take some time for the negative effects of violating nature’s law to become apparent. The beauty of heritage meats (and all sustainably raised meats, heritage or not) is that they’re both nutrient-dense and flavorful (in the hands of a skilled farmer, that is). It’s nature’s way of rewarding a way of life in keeping with the natural order. It’s living the “good life”.

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