My grandfather likes to tell a story about a family gathering during my early childhood. It’s somebody’s birthday, and my extended family is gathered around a long table in the dim mid-afternoon light of a Baltimore tavern. The waitress comes to the table to take our orders. The adults ask for straightforward fare: hamburgers, club sandwiches, caesar salads. Then the waitress turns to four-year-old me and asks what I’d like. “And you, in your piping voice, say: the rack of lamb, please!” He chortles. “That waitress could hardly believe her ears!”
Growing up, I thought people ate beef because they couldn’t find any lamb. Why else, I figured, would someone choose a boring steak over the heat-crisped exterior, rosy interior—tender and juicy and with a flavor actually particular—of a lamb chop?
My parents weren’t from Greece or Lebanon or anywhere else known for its affinity for sheep meat, but somehow they had discovered lamb, and so we ate lamb. We ordered it at restaurants. We served it to guests. It wasn’t a mundane meal for us, still a treat, but not an unusual one.
As it turns out, this is not the typical American relationship with lamb. Continue reading →
Nichki Carangelo, of the delightful Hudson Valley-based, cooperative Letterbox Farm Collective, has just finished a publication on the commercial production of pasture rabbits. Funded by a SARE grant, “Pasture Rabbit for Profit” is an easily digestible, practical resource for farmers intended to guide readers through the start-up phase of their own pasture-based rabbitry. It includes a full enterprise budget along with housing plans, sample breeding schedules, feed guidelines and other rabbit husbandry basics. And it’s available for free download here!
Now in its 28th year, the Farm School in Athol, MA provides comprehensive educational programming in agriculture for youth, visiting schools, and adults. (Read more on their programming here!) Watch for more original posts on this blog from Sophie Mendelson, a student in their Learn to Farm Program, talented writer, and past and future farmer.
Know Your Abattoir: How to Keep Sustainable Meat Sustainable
by Sophie Mendelson
If consumers want local meat, they need to go to bat for local slaughterhouses.
At Adams Farm Slaughterhouse in Athol, MA, they play classical music on the kill floor. Cattle carcasses—seemingly as big as dinosaurs—hang by the hock from metal hooks fitted to a track in the ceiling that winds around the perimeter of the cathedral-like room. As the carcasses move along the track, they are divested of their blood, their skins, their internal organs, their heads, their hooves, and ultimately their integrity as a saw divides the animals neatly down their line of symmetry. This is how a “side” of beef is made.
The door to the holding pen opens and there is a great rattling as a cow enters the first segment of the indoor chute. A worker steps forward to urge the animal into the final compartment of the stunning pen, but this is a smaller cow, and instead of proceeding smoothly through the Temple Grandin-designed system, it begins to turn in the chute—an option not available to a larger animal. The worker attempts to redirect by prodding the cow from behind; metal clangs as the animal presses against the bars in resistance. The worker prods again, with little luck.
Noticing the commotion, another worker makes his way over to the chute. Instead of pushing from the rear, this man approaches the cow’s head. He reaches through the bars and strokes the cow’s chin. The animal stills. The man leans forward and appears to whisper something to the cow. Then, gently, he takes the cow by the ear and guides it into the stunning pen.
Farms Not Factories is a small UK-based nonprofit that advocates for ethical farming practices and meat consumption. With 15 days to go, they hope to raise £10,000 “to create and publicise a series of short films featuring celebrity chefs making a delicious pork dish while explaining why serving high welfare meat is so important.” Farmers who provide the pork explain how they raise their happy and healthy pigs. Donate to their campaign here!
Seriously, we really want to know, and so do these film makers. Specifically, they’re focussing on the chicken industry, asking, if chicken is America’s favorite meat, generating more than $30 billion a year in revenue, but who benefits from this multi-billion dollar industry?
Spoiler alert! It’s not the farmers. This is a story that we hadn’t heard yet of the greed of large industrial ag companies, and it’s absolutely repulsive.
Man! We’re always asking the same question! Seriously though, this is a great episode, both for those looking for a good primer on the subject and a fascinating case study for those who already know a lot about it. The podcast delves into the soya market in Argentina, global ag subsidies as a whole, and, as a bit of a non-sequador, on lab-grown meat for human consumption.
Attention Northeastern meat eaters! These beautiful farmers, and our friends, over at Cairncrest sell sustainably-raised, small-scale, hand-processed pork (raised on forages, local non-GMO grains, and whey from yogurt manufacturing) and 100% grass fed beef at locations in NY, PA, and VT. Highest quality meat from caring and skilled farmers. Order what you want online and choose a pick-up location!
They are also looking for individuals or groups who might be interested in setting up buyers clubs in the Hudson Valley. So if you are a passionate foodie go-getter in the that area, contact the farm!
Anna will give us a tour of the lambing operation where she’s raising 300 lambs this year. Then we’ll enjoy a BBQ with Kinderhook meat and beer from Captain Lawrence Brewing Company. Bring a side dish if you can and plate/cup/utensils.
Kinderhook Farm (1958 Co Rd 21, Valatie, NY 12184)
All farmers, friends and family welcome! If you’re not able to bring food, come anyway!!
This workshop focuses on improving cattle herds with quality and quantity of meat per acre of grass. Learn how to recognize cattle that will yield 70% meat to bone and to reproduce it in your whole herd. And learn to recognize the bull that can make this happen. Learn about the importance of soil fertility and methods of achieving it.
Gearld Fry has a lifetime of experience earning his living from cattle to share. He has learned from the masters and brings along an exceptional gift in cattle detail. The last 20 years he has consulted world-wide, inspiring farmers and ranchers to improve their herds genetically.
Mike Scannell and Joan Harris have worked closely with Gearld for the last thirteen years. With Gearld’s guidance, we bought a small group of preindustrial phenotype females and bred them to Gearld’s pick of the best of the bulls in the world. We look forward to sharing our journey in breed/herd improvement. If you don’t understand improvement, degeneration is sure to follow.
The workshop runs from 9 to 4 each day, and lunch will be provided. Registration is $100.
Contact (518) 732-7350 for more information and to register by September 8, 2015 or ASAP
NMPAN is a national network of people and organizations creating and supporting appropriate-scale meat processing infrastructure for niche meat markets. Small and mid-sized plants — when available at all — can lack capacity, equipment, appropriate inspection status, and the human and financial capital to upgrade or expand. To meet this need, NMPAN assists processors, producers, buyers, regulators, and others involved in this growing sector by coordinating, distributing, and developing information and resources to improve access to processing infrastructure and the long-term stability of this sector.
The USDA and other agencies put some things on hold during the election, but now things are starting to move quickly with the looming budget debates. While we agree that budgets need to be in check, we don’t think you get there by cutting essential food safety programs that keep contaminated food from reaching your plate.
The USDA has a proposal to cut costs by removing USDA inspectors from chicken and turkey plants and allowing company employees to do the food safety inspections. In plants where they’ve been testing this, line speeds have been permitted to run as fast as 200 birds per minute,which is several times faster than other plants. Also, company employees who perform inspections are not properly trained to stop unsafe poultry products from leaving the plant. Continue reading →
In this week’s New Yorker, Bill Buford delivers, with his usual finger-licking enthusiasm, a digest of three new books about meat. Though varying in tones of hopeful agrarianism, tongue-in-cheek indulgence, and gritty slaughterhouse realism, these authors (each in his early 40s) all nod to a Greenhorns ethos: you and your butcher should be on a first name basis. Buford introduces the three authors the same way we want to introduce The Greenhorns:
“And yet, at a time when things could not seems worse, there is a generation of people (in their forties and younger) who are thinking hard and philosophically about their food and are prepared to declare: Enough! I’m a meat-eater and proud of it!” (Bill Buford)
Sub “meat-eater” for “young grower” and you’ve got our mission statement.
Check out Buford’s favorite of the lot, Hugh-Fearnley-Whittingstall, an unexpected British foodie celebrity who has not just gone back-to-land, but back to all the guts and gore of raising and cooking game. He discovered his passion for food in a restaurant kitchen where he learned how to turn each season’s bounty into a gastronomical adventure. HFW has since been articulating this adventure at the “great agrarian laboratory” River Cottage in the UK.
We’re pretty sure our friend and fellow film contributor Dewolf Emery (seen here gathering clams on Cumberland Island) is going to do something similar here in the US. Look out.