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.

On February 28, 2015, the following interview was published between West Michigan Farmlink and Duba & Co. Here is the abridged version, published in parts.


How long has Duba & Co been in operation? Can you give me a brief history of the company?
In 2005 Duba‘s Restaurant closes after having sold their property to Northpointe Bank. Long-time patrons of the restaurant keep saying “It’s hard to find a good steak in town.” Duba‘s Steaks, LLC, is born as a legal but not yet operational entity circa Fall 2010. We’d be a local “Omaha Steaks”, purveying the choice (but conventional) steaks sourced from Duba‘s Restaurant’s long-time butcher. December 2011: Butcher closes, and we begin to look for new sourcing, traveling as far as Colorado. Spring 2012: while researching a presentation on heirloom vegetables, I discover a buried treasure–the existence of “heritage meats”, the carnivorous equivalent of heirloom vegetables. I’m undone by their romance, and eventually decide I’m “all-in” on heritage meats and under the impression we’d be the first purveyors of heritage meats in the country (in actuality, we’re the first east of the Hudson River–Heritage Foods USA in Brooklyn, NY, had us beat by a decade). Summer/Fall 2012: The search begins for the best in heritage meats. November 2012: The Burger That Changed Everything: late harvest Scottish Highland beef. Never before had I tasted meat that good. With funding from local venture-capital firm (Start Garden), Duba & Co. launches and opens for business in June 2013.
What got you interested in heritage beef? Did this grow out of your family’s culinary history in the area at all?
It all comes back to craft ales, the enchantment of Scotland, Ireland, and the Old World, and my love of “the Shire”–it’s ethos and way of life which heritage meats embody par excellence. But, yes–absolutely, yes–it’s in the blood: the role food plays in fostering family and friendship, the role of ambiance in creating an experience. I learned those lessons growing up in Duba‘s Restaurant and around the family table which, really, Duba‘s Restaurant was just an extension of.
How closely do you work with your farmers? Do you visit the farms? What are those relationships like?
We know all of our farmers personally and visit the farms, often more than once–even if it’s just stopping by for coffee or to say “hi” because we’re in the area. But the bottom line is trust. We only do business with people we trust, and we have beef and pork affidavits on file for all of the farms with which we currently work. It’s rare that we would carry product from a farm that we didn’t visit and have only done so because of the farm’s upstanding reputation and the personal relationship developed with the farmers themselves. Our farmers are our business partners, quite frankly.

In relation to each other, Ireland and Scotland have always seemed to be like sisters: two countries with a people cut of the same cloth (tweed, of course). In both, bagpipes abound and worldly ambition is abandoned for the simple life (I wonder if J.R.R. Tolkien thought of them when giving us Hobbiton of Middle Earth).

It seemed quite natural, then, to create a corned beef dish for St. Patrick’s Day using Scottish Highland beef brisket and an Alton Brown recipe as the base. In a nod to Scotland, it uses coriander–a prominent spice in Scotland’s national dish of haggis–in place of the traditional juniper berries. Coriander will lend subtle nutty and citrus characteristics to the classic Irish meal.

With the feast of St. Patrick drawing close–and since the brining of beef brisket is a 10-day process–it’s high time to secure your meat. If you begin brining on Saturday, March 7, it will be done on St. Patrick’s Day and ready after just a few hours of slow cooking.

The Ingredients
Highland beef brisket, 3 – 4 pounds
Water, 2 quarts
Kosher salt, 1 C.
Brown sugar, 1/2 C.
Saltpeter, 2 T.
Cinnamon stick, 1 (crushed)
Black peppercorns, 1 t.
Coriander, 1 t.
Mustard seeds, 1 t.
Cloves (whole), 8
Allspice (whole), 8
Bay leaves (crushed), 2
Ginger (ground), 1/2 t.
Ice, 2 pounds
Onion, 1 small (quartered)
Carrot, 1 large (coarsely chopped)

Holding Container
2 gallon plastic zip-lock bag

The Preparation
1. In a large pot, combine water, kosher salt, brown sugar, saltpeter, cinnamon, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, coriander, cloves, all spice, bay leaves, and ginger. Heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved.

2. Remove from heat and add ice until the temperature reaches 40 F. You may need to cool brine in refrigerator to bring down the temperature.

3. Place brisket in a 2 gallon plastic zip lock bag and cover with brine. Close bag and place in refrigeration.

4. Brine brisket for 10 days, stirring the brine daily.

5. After 10 days, remove corned beef from brine, rinse in cold water and place in a neatly fitting pot. Cover with an inch of water and bring to boil with onion and carrot. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer for about 2 hours or until meat is nice and tender.

6. Cut across the grain and serve with stewed carrots, potatoes, and cabbage or use to make one killer Reuben Sandwich!