Turkeygiving: Using the WHOLE bird

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, we decided to do a little experiment and see if we could use the whole turkey from our first fabulous feast until literally every thing was used. The reason for the experiment were twofold; 1. To see if it was possible, and 2. Demonstrate that although our birds are on the pricier side, you can get a LOT of meals out of them. Consider this our updated and more holiday specific version of How to Eat Healthy on a Budget (but not skip on the good stuff). For a quick overview of the different days, you can watch our Youtube video Turkeygiving: Using the WHOLE bird. Read on for recipes, notes, and a little bit of commentary.

Day 1: Test Run for Thanksgiving for 9 Guests

We started out with a 15 lbs Certified Humane Firefly Farms blast frozen turkey. We did the necessary defrosting and on the day we brined the turkey for 4.5 hours. Some people will brine their turkeys for up to a full day, but since we have had a little experience (and one disaster!) we have learned to keep the brining under 6 hours. Besides, we did not want to lose the amazing taste to over saltiness. Dried, rubbed, and stuffed (with onions), we put our turkey on our rotisserie attachment on our grill. We have used this for ducks, chickens, and now turkeys with amazing success!

Rotesserie Turkey 1First we seared the skin to get a nice golden glow and to help seal in the juices. Then we lowered the temperature and let it cook for the next 3 hours with periodic checks to make sure it was perfect. The husband informs me this was 14 minutes per pound… exactly. We know some people use an internal temperature to determine a level of doneness, but we hate using this method because it punches holes in the skin and lets the juices run out. We like to use the wing wiggle to determine if we are getting close and THEN use a thermometer only to confirm what we know. We shoot for the inner thigh at 165 F (USDA safety temp) and have never been disappointed.

We let the turkey sit for 20 minutes while getting all the sides out to accompany our golden centerpiece. When it came time to cut the turkey, the vultures arrived in the kitchen and the most hopeful of all was our 14 year old pup who KNOWS that Grandpa will always sneak her a few treats. She was joined by every single one of our guests attempting to get a sneak taste test of the bird. I know this because I was one of them.

We like to think that fresh is always best, but honestly, I am very happy to go with a blast frozen turkey if they all taste like this one. Moist and full of flavor. Every single person went back for a second helping and even when we were to the groaning stage, fingers kept picking at the carving board.

We strip as much of the meat off the bones as possible and put it in storage containers based on light or dark meat. SAVE THE BONES!!! The bones were put in a large Ziploc bag and put in our freezer to be used later. You may want to write what type of bones they are and the date depending on how long you may wait to use them.

Day 2: Turkey Sandwiches and Wraps for 2

Arguably one of the best reasons to have Thanksgiving is so that you can have leftover turkey sandwiches. A family favorite and one of the very few times I will let mayo get anywhere near a sandwich… it is allowed to waft and mingle with turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and lettuce. Everyone has their own preference on what goes on their turkey sandwich, but all of us look forward to them.

We paired ours with some kettle potato chips and homemade pickles. We had big enough pieces to make about four sandwiches which took care of two lunches.

Day 3: Fancy Mac N’ Cheese for 2

At a very young age, I can remember the switch from Kraft (and all its orange glory) to Annie’s with its more sedate white cheese, but healthier history. To this day, Mac N’ Cheese is one of our comfort foods and there is almost always a box or two on hand for those days when a little extra lovin’ is needed… or we cannot be bothered making a full dinner. Enter the fancy Mac N’ Cheese that contains whatever protein is on hand along with all the veggies in the crisper drawer.

We saute the veggies which in this case were mushrooms, peppers from our garden, zucchini/yellow squash, and in my case black olives. You can add broccoli, spinach, artichokes, tomatoes… the possibilities are only limited by your imagination or what’s in the fridge or pantry. The turkey was tossed in for long enough to warm up while we followed the directions on the Annie’s box. Mix all together and serve up!

Note: We make no claims about this being the healthiest of meals, but if you also happen to have some leftover cream from making whipped cream for the pumpkin and apple pies you had for dessert at the dinner party… you can always add that instead of milk and get a REALLY rich tasting sauce.

Additional Note: Depending on what size box you use, you may also have leftovers from this one.

 

Day 4 and 5: Turkey Pot Pie for 2

This is one of the meals my husband does incredibly well! By this point the pieces of turkey have gotten pretty small or they are not the most attractive slices. It does not make them any less tasty and they are going to taste AMAZING in Turkey Pot Pie. You can get as fancy as you want with the recipe, but my sweetie went with the first one in the search engine which was Pillsbury Chicken Pot Pie Recipe. The obvious change is that instead of chicken, he substituted our leftover turkey already cooked and ready to go. This recipe calls for broth and depending on what you may or may not have already done with your bones, it is possible you already have some turkey broth that you can also use. We had some broth from a previous stock making session and used this in the recipe. Again, feel free to tweak and add anything that you like in your Pot Pie.

The theory is that you should get at least two meals out of this… unless you are me and totally love Pot Pie. This time of year brings out my hibernation instinct and a desire to eat all the delicious food just in case I need an extra layer of blubber for the winter.

Note: You can make more than one! Put the uncooked one in the freezer for a later date when you are a little pressed for time.

Day 6 (or whenever is convenient): Making Stock from the Skin and Bones

I am popping this in as Day 6, but this can happen as soon as the day after your turkey dinner (this is my Dad’s approach) or you can freeze your bones and wait until you have a large amount and a weekend. We save all our bones whether they are pork, beef, chicken, turkey or duck and make them into broth. While bone broth has become ‘trendy’ some folks have found there are some benefits to consuming bone broth on a regular basis. Yeah for benefits, but personally I just like knowing where my broth is from and getting an additional use out of my bird.

Here is a link to a Firefly Farms video on Making Stock.

The short text version is that we grab all the frozen bones out of the fridge, smoosh as many of them into our two crockpots as humanly possible. We then cover the bones completely with water and put them outside on high for about 12 hours. We check on the pots to make sure that the water is boiling and to see how the broth/stock is coming along. When it reaches a rich golden brown color, we bring the pots in and pour off the broth into labeled storage containers making sure to keep the bones in the pot. Remember to leave enough headroom as the stock will expand as it freezes. While the stock cools on the counter top, we recover the bones with water and put them back outside for another 12 hours. We can typically get three boils out of our bones (some times more), but it is all about the color of the stock… once it is pale it is time to say it is done.

Once you have determined you have gotten all the goodness you can get out of the bones, let them cool until you can safely and easily handle them. This is where you discover all the additional meat that you never knew was still there. We divided it between meat for humans and all that other meaty stuff that would make a dog very happy. She gets all the skin, fat, and meat that just is a little odd with her dinner until it runs out.

Save the human consumption meat either in one of your stock containers or in a container all of its own. Save the bones still! Once you have cleaned them of all meat, rinse them off and either refreeze them or head to Day 8.

Note: Depending on when you are using the stock to make soup… you need to either refrigerate until use (within a week), or you can refrigerate until properly cooled and then place in your freezer for future use. We have found that this method reduces the number of ice crystals in the containers or danger of a popped top.

Day 7 or Future Day: Your Favorite Soup either for 2 or to share

We LOVE soups and stews! Some of our favorite ones can be found on the Firefly Farms’ website, but here are the direct links to two we use all the time. Use the stock from your epic stock making adventure to form the base for your soup.

Van Brown’s Oh So Simple Chicken Soup which is pretty much his version of Stone Soup and uses everything that you have on hand that tastes good in soup. This recipe includes potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, and celery, but again… feel free to personalize it.

Grandma Brown’s Corn Chowder while no relation to this Brown family, we are definitely making it a family tradition. During the summer, we buy a whole bushel of corn from the Davis Farm and freeze it for the winter… specifically for this soup. It is warm, it is filling, it is comforting, and it is SO incredibly good. Use Firefly Farms bacon for some extra awesomeness.

We like to make double batches of our soups so that we can enjoy now and freeze half (again write what it is and the date on the container) for later!

Day 8: Making bone meal from the bones: Your garden will thank you!

New to this experiment we are making bone meal to put in our garden! Here is one overview for making bone meal which is a lot like what we did, but we decided that with two cats and a dog that leaving bones out to dry would be problematic. Our work around was we put our bones on a baking tray in the oven so that every time we used the oven (which we do daily) we would slip the tray with the bones in while it cooled. Our bones got baked and dried at the same time without using extra electricity and nor did the animals get in trouble.

Bones

The bones get so brittle you can literally crumble them with your hands. It is highly therapeutic and easy to do. Once crumbled store them in an airtight bag or container until the spring when you are turning your garden. Mix the bone meal into the dirt to further enrich your garden. Enjoy your turkey one last time when you harvest your garden produce.

 

There you have it folks! How to get the most out of your whole bird and use ALL of your Firefly Farms Certified Humane bird. Nothing wasted and everything used. 

 

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Bringing Lard Back into F(l)avor

When writing the blog “The Culture of the “The Other White Meat”, I was impressed by the massive campaign put forth by the National Pork Board to convince the average meat eating American that pork should be lean and pale. They literally spent millions of dollars toting pork as the “Other White Meat”  and even developed pigs that have less body fat than a chicken. Just think about that, an animal that can easily reach 600 lbs or more has less body fat than a  6 lbs chicken. The National Pork Board was aided by support from a study that linked the consumption of red meat with heart disease.This study was then disproved in by a Harvard study in 2010. Turns out it isn’t fat that is the problem, but cholesterol and even THAT is a moving target.

However, the campaign against pigs, pork, and lard started well before the 1980s. It began nearly 100 plus years before when William Procter (a candle maker) and James Gamble (a soap maker) formed a partnership. Both their products were heavily dependent on a steady supply of lard which worked well considering their base of operations was established in Cincinnati, Ohio aka Porkopolis. This was up until post-Civil War when there was more demand then supply for lard and Procter & Gamble realized that they needed to innovate and control their supply line. It was decided to faze out candle making as they could see that electricity was quickly being adopted and switched their focus completely on soap products.

This further increased their need to create a soap that rivaled the much lauded clean smelling white European soap. Instead it further spurred them to look for an oil that would create a similar look and feel, but without the cost. The answer arrived with the purchase of the Buckeye Cotton Oil Company. Cottonseed oil replaced lard as the key ingredient for soap making. All of this is simple and logical enough, a business requires materials to make a product, but when did the making of soap become a campaign against lard?

It happened by accident really. They were looking for an easier way to store the cottonseed oil and were approached by a German scientist, Edwin Kayser, who had found a way to make a solid from a liquid. We know this process as hydrogenation and P&G purchased the US patent so they could further their own experimentation. The end result was a white substance that looked remarkable like another white substance… lard. Only this was not lard, it was plant based and much easier to make since it bypassed the whole raising an animal to get the oil.

An Aside: It should be pointed out that at one point lard had become such a commodity that pigs were being raised solely for its production. Meat was considered to be an unfortunate by product.

Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil does not sound overly appealing, but after a few failed attempts to find a name that resonated with a consumer, they came up with Crisco. Are you having that ah ha moment?

Introducing the first of its kind, a vegetable based product that looked and cooked like lard. To make their product succeed, they needed to make sure it was purchased. This is where the campaign against lard began. In June of 1911, Crisco hit the market and oh boy did it hit the market. P&G put the marketing and advertising umph of J. Walter Thompson Agency on the job and the agency came up with a campaign like nothing anyone had seen before. Today we are used the massive advertising and marketing rigmarole right before a new product is rolled out, but that was not always the case and certainly not in 1911. This was the first time any company put so much into selling a single product. They tested various markets with a variety of strategies to see which one would be eventually rolled out. The winner was that with each purchase of a tub of Crisco the purchaser was the recipient of a cookbook. Each of the 650 recipes had one ingredient in common, Crisco.

In 1912, they sold 2.6 million pounds of the stuff and by year four they were up to 60 million pounds. They did not sit on their laurels, but continued to find ways of convincing housewives that Crisco was their very best option. They did this through advertisements showing women in white lab coats working in labs (it is modern and clean), cooking classes, updated cookbooks, and clever slogans. As a new century was getting underway, they tapped into the desire for modernity as exemplified by scientific advancement. “Clean food from a clean factory” was one of their advertising slogans from 1915.

“It’s a vegetable, it’s digestible” was another. Remember this is also when health claims did not have to be backed up by scientific data so they claimed that Crisco was healthier than lard. They could attribute all sorts of benefits to Crisco while saying that butter and lard were unhealthy. Touching strongly on purity and cleanliness, they implied that any mother cooking with lard was not being the best mother to her children as she was not providing them with the healthiest upbringing. Instead she should use Crisco to be the best caregiver. P&G was incredibly good at recognizing and targeting specific groups to maximize their marketing.

Crisco found unique champions in the Jewish community. Due to dietary restrictions, Jews are not allowed to eat anything coming from a pig which means absolutely no lard. Even using butter can be problematic since cooking with dairy (butter) and meat is strictly forbidden, too. Enter Crisco. It cooks like lard, but did not cross any food boundaries since it is plant based. Realizing they had tapped into a unique market, P&G made sure to tailor much of their marketing towards the Jewish community. They brought in rabbis to ensure that Crisco is kosher and had a seal of authenticity. They began advertising in Jewish publications in both Yiddish and Hebrew. They even released special edition of their cookbook in 1933 in which the recipes are in both Yiddish and English.

By the 1950s, Crisco was King.

Fast forward to today and the tables are starting to turn back in favor of lard. The fictional days of the “The Jungle” when men could fall into the rendering vats and be liquefied are blessedly behind us. The CAFOs are coming under scrutiny as consumers wonder why their pork chops are pale and tasteless. Today many more people are becoming aware of their food sources and making the choice to find animals, ingredients, recipes, and foods from the past. The words ‘traditional’, ‘heritage’, and ‘heirloom’ show up more and more regularly on menus and at farmer’s markets.

One ingredient that is starting to cast off the negative connotations of the past is lard. This has much to do with the discovery of trans fats and their contribution to health issues. Turns out when you add that hydrogen in during the hydrogenation process it alters the molecular structure. Yes, it is still edible, but it does not affect the body in the same way as the naturally occurring fat. There have been studies to show that it contributes to diabetes, obesity, blood pressure, and heart diseases. The findings have been so disturbing that in 2013, the World Health Organization stated that trans fats should make up only 1% of of a person’s diet. The average American consumes far more than that.

When looking for an alternative to hydrogenated oils, lard stands out. Unlike Crisco and its cousins, lard is 45.10% of monounsaturated fat, 11.20% of polyunsaturated fat, and 39.20% of saturated fat out of a total fat of 100 g. It has no trans fats. Added benefit is that because of the saturated fats, lard will not go rancid as quickly as most vegetable based oils. Turns out a lot of the vegetable oils we purchase at the grocery store have already turned even before arrival. Flax oil for example is usually only good for up to a month under very controlled conditions. I had a bit of an ‘ew’ moment when I found out that what we consider normal tasting olive oil is very different from freshly pressed olive oil because it has gone rancid in the time it took to get to my kitchen.

Hydrogenated oil has only been around for a little over 100 years whereas humans have been eating animal fat in its natural and rendered state for as long as we have been hunting. Our bodies are designed to get the most out of the fat. Not only do we get the right kind of fat, the right kind of cholesterol, we can also get a number of our vitamins too. Lard is the second highest food source for vitamin D next to cod live oil. One teaspoon of really good lard (lard from a pig who has been outside) can contain as much as 1,000 IUs of vitamin D. Since vitamin D is fat soluble, you are getting it in the perfect delivery method.

For those of us who really like good food and tasty is paramount… All those recipes included in P&G’s cookbook were not created by trail and error. They took recipes that had already been made for generations using lard and altered them to include Crisco. Do they act similarly in recipes? The answer is….yes… ish. They both get the job done, but for those who bake pastry, most will argue that you get a fluffier lighter pastry using lard. When it comes to frying, again, you can use both, but one of the wonderful things about lard is that has a high smoke point of 370 F in comparison to coconut oil (350 F) and olive oil (320 F). Your fried foods fry faster and less greasily. I have experience using it to bake pie crusts and biscuits and as much as I love using butter, I can honestly say that with lard, they were fluffier.

It may sound like the soap box is already being stood on, but up until this point it has pretty much been a history lesson. This is where my own personal views are a little stronger. Crisco is not longer made with cottonseed oil. “What was garbage in 1860 was fertilizer in 1870, cattle feed in 1880, and table food and many things else in 1890” (Popular Science magazine)  has been replaced by soy and palm oil. Most of the soy grown in the USA is genetically modified and has been heavily sprayed with pesticides. It is one of the many mono crops which are damaging the farming world. Take soy and multiple it by a thousand on the badness scale and you have my feelings on palm oil. Palm oil which is made by destroying orangutan habitat WHILE the orangutans are still in them. I look at product ingredients and if palm oil is listed it immediately is returned to the shelf no matter how much I might want whatever it is.

Lard on the other hand is sustainable. There is a reason that pigs were so popular as a meat and fat source. They do well in all sorts of climates. As omnivores, finding and consuming food is rarely an issue. They are good for the land as they clear out underbrush, rototill the soil, and introduce healthy fertilizer back into the ground. Unlike ruminants, they did not require pastureland and grasses to be sustained. Pigs like digging around roots and think a meal of acorns is the best. Even better is when they are able to live in exactly this manner. They soak up the sunshine which is converted into vitamin D. They enjoy a diet in trace minerals which are ingested into their bodies. Their meat is richer and darker. With longer life spans, the fat in their bodies becomes intramuscular rather than just an insulator. When you consume their meat and fat, you are receiving the same health benefits. Lard is paleo and gluten free, too!

As one parting note, this blog is not suggesting that you go and consume HUGE quantities of lard. Moderation is key to keeping happy and healthy. However, you may want to do a little more reading/research and consider if lard is perhaps some thing with which you want to experiment. The further caveat is to be very careful where and from whom you purchase your lard. Not all lard is made equal and some of it can be quite nasty based on how it is processed and the condition of the fat. Consider finding a source of fat back/leaf lard which is from pigs raised on pasture or woods and rendering your own lard. Find out the diet of the pig since that can also play into the quality of the lard. Best of all is if you happen to be near a farm that is Certified Humane and specializes in the rearing of heritage pigs. The quality of the animal’s life will be reflected in the quality of the lard.

Sources for both this blog and additional reading:

Crisco Advertisements at the Dawn of the 20th Century by Sukai Kato-Hopkins

Crisco and the Kosher Kitchen Culture by Sally Edelstein

Kosher Cooking with Crisco- Hanakah, 1911 by Library Blog (Yeshiva University)

How Vegetable Oils Replaced Animal Fats in the American Diet by Drew Ramsey and Tyler Grahm

Trans Fat  and Lard on Wikipedia

10 Reasons to Bring Lard Back by Lauren Geersten

10 Reasons You Should Be Cooking With Lard by Julie R. Thomson

If Vegetables Don’t Make Oil, What is Crisco? by Meghan Telpner

Lard by Denzil Green (lists the various types of lard)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Bit of Beef

Today’s blog is once again brought to you by our multi-talented farm manager, Dugan. 

I was having a spirited online debate in early January on a topic I am rather passionate
about, on every American has an opinion about, and probably less than 1% are qualified to speak about. That topic is rearing beeves†. It really got my blood into full steam whistle boil by the end from a sucker punch thrown in as a parting shot from a lurker on the post. I want to bring people through this and one other conversation I just had at the pub about what cattle eat.

This will be a lot of fun, and I will fill it with quotes and citations so that I am not speaking
from my own brain, but from the mouths of those with letters to prove they know what they speak of versus a farmer. This is another peeve of mine too… when did farmers become portrayed as dumb?

The parting shot will be more than enough fuel for this paper or speech to take off and fly.
“Except actually, not really. There has been decades of research on this, and the only people who believe cows are actually good for the environment all just happen to be cattle farmers, go figure?” This was the parting shot. It made me pause. I wanted to post a scathing perfectly planned rebuttal when it struck me. This person is absolutely right. The strongest voices for cattle, are the ranchers. With a little more thought it becomes very clear why these folks support it, and why really besides a land grant college there are not many others who are qualified to speak on the topic. Per the 2009 Beef Board Industry fact sheet, there are 1 million cattle farms in the USA. That is 31%, and most of them have fewer than 50 head. There are 94 million beeves produced each year, so there are a few mega farms that make the remaining 44 million head. This is a very skewed data set, and rather than work with averages, we need to work with median.

Most everyone has forgotten about my favorite statistical tool, so here is another tangent and 30 seconds of review. Two college kids are in a room with Bill Gates. The average income of that gathering is about $1000 dollars an hour, where as the median might be $12. The beef industry data and statistics are being skewed in just the same way.

Back to the issue with the debate I had and what it was about, not just that farmers appear to be stupid in the eyes of the masses. It was an intriguing article about real meat being produced from a twin screw extruder. No animals involved, but real meat coming out. Meat for vegetarians. Yup, I did say that. Meat for those who won’t eat it. I will not go into the difficulty I have with that whole issue of creating something your body is screaming and craving for, but you refuse to eat. We crave nutrients. When you crave something you are deficient in it. Darn tangents again, this is why I will never write a book I have the symptoms of something the Egyptians calls PADD, or Papyrus Attention Deficit Disorder. Meat from a machine that uses edible food products and some magic to make what they claim is the perfect environmental solution due to the fact that plants don’t fart, breathe, or poop. Hooray for plants.

Clearly because plants create less methane we should make cows go extinct. Ruminants are bad for the environment. I had to bite my hand as I cruised through very long paper that was full of refutable “facts”. Here is what I wrote to open a window into the mind of my friend who was giddy about the machine meat. “I don’t even know where to begin. I love this concept, but when I started reading this, and realized that there is so little I can do to say how wrong most of this article gets farming. 36000 cals for beef sure (eaten calories for 1000 calories of meat). That is 36000 cals of inedible into edible. Peas are edible. What did we win? Livestock graze where plows dare not go, and PLANT agriculture is more responsible for erosion and aquifer depletion than cattle. He hits hard on grassfed beef, but fails to point out that grasslands sequester more carbon that trees. Trees SUCK at sequestration. Migration and Mob grazing can build more than 2 feet of topsoil with up to 11% organic material. Find me a forest, or a plowed field that can do that? Find me a pea field that can absorb 10 inches of rain an hour! Runoff is from residential lawns and ag fields (and pavement). NOT well managed livestock fields. Feed lots are not well managed. Cows were never meant to eat that crap. EVER. That was all spawned by subsidy systems, NOT by a real economy, and not by cattlemen. Maybe it is cool this has become an alternative protein source, but until the sources of plants can be harvested in a way that does better than what a well managed grassland can do there is about 60% BS in this article. Stay away from industrial, be it meat or vegetable. Veg is not environmentally friendly, and the numbers can lay that bare. Local no till veg can be awesome, but most is not.

Sorry to rant, but as a farmer some of this makes my blood boil. This is cool technology, but the article SUCKS. I hope these guys can pull this off. We need options!” My high school friend responded to my rant “Uh, wow. I had no idea. I just want people to stop eating as many animals but I guess it’s complicated! Dugan Tillman-Brown, why don’t you write an article about this?” A new fellow chimed in with a bit of help, “What Dugan said. This is yet more trying to industrialize our way out of an industrial problem. Our focus should be on reducing and eliminating petrochemically supported monocrop agriculture and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).” Still excited about it, I added a little more fuel. “I talk about this on almost every tour that I give on my farms. There are several good books on this, and we are compiling a series of photographs of how wasteland can be converted over a short span of time with simple techniques, and we are backing it up with soil analysis. Next fall I am on the hook to talk about nutrition of pigs and the occurrence of FPCs (flatulence producing compounds) in their food, and what a balanced ration is actually like. Methane and cows is very dependent on nutrition, and the glandular strength of the herds. Modern body types are deficient due to the penalties levied by the feedlots for easy fleshing cattle. Easy Keeper cattle with the right bodies “finish” in 60 days or less, where as the leggy things take 150 days.

The Lot makes money selling feed, so it is easy to see which ones they will allow in. This whole system is screwy. We are feeding food to animals that die from it because they were never meant to eat it and that food could have fed humans. The dying animal would have been fine eating what humans cannot. Feedlot cattle are timed to enter the slaughter house just before their liver craps out from all the junk in their diet that they cannot digest. Cattle are alkaline animals and grain makes them acidic. Ever wonder why the E.coli is now transferable when before it never was? Uggh. I wish more people cared about food. Thank you for your post and interest. Please keep learning! Grow a victory garden, or a square foot one if you live in the city! Happy New Year!”

Then came that goof with the parting blow. He even posted a dig at a man who has been
invited by countries, governments, universities, and concerned groups the world over to help them use their herds to restore the land. Allan Savoy of the Savoy Institute was the fellow who was offered to me as a quack. Allan has been watching the interaction of land and beast for years and began showing people how the environment could be saved by the same animals that had destroyed it. The difference was management. When we stopped animals from herding and migrating we stopped the environment that kept soil covered for the last few millions of years. Grass and cattle evolved at the same time, each one to assist the other. Cattle farmers are in decline because they are focused on only one thing and that is the cattle. Grass farmers are on the rise as they focus on the bottom of the pyramid, the grass, and have installed a well managed apex predator, the cow.

This is the crux. This is where we have come to the main hurdle for beef in America. Beef
herds are not often enough managed with the grass in mind, and the genetics of the herd are not managed for the thrifty gene, but for the big gene. Let’s look at the gene stock first. In our world bigger is better. Look at any competition for darn near everything, trucks, cars, veggies, cows, calves, ranches, the Guinness book, or the supermarket. Bigger is sought, but it comes at a cost, and it is one that we are not really able to pay. Imagine two cows, one is 10 lollymoozes tall, long, and wide, the other only 8 lollymooz. What is a lollymooz (LM)? No idea, I made it up so you wouldn’t try to compare it to the real world. The 10 lm cow is stunning to see! It is HUGE, it has a long stride, a 10 lolly mouth, it is awesome. The 8 lolly cow is not as awe inspiring is it. It is smaller in every way. It is 20% smaller in every way you can measure it with a tape, but there is something magical about the 8 lollymooz cow, and that comes when we do the math. A 10LM cow has a volume of 1000 cubic LM (10Lx10wx10h = 1000). The 8LM cow who does everything 20% smaller her stride, the bite of grass, the area she can range in a day all 20% reduced. We would expect her to be 800 cubic LM to follow suit, but she is not. She is 8wx8tx8h which is only 512 cubic LM. She has an almost 29% grazing advantage over the 10LM cow. She moves 80% as fast to feed half the body. It means she has the ability to cherry pick the cream of
the crop rather than just eat it all to just survive, it means the 30% extra harvest can go to her calf, or to weight gain, or to fat.

It seems plain that the smaller cow would be the go to animal, but the beef industry has followed the show ring, and everyone likes a pat on the back and to be the big man on campus, so the march in step, and make a cow that wins in the ring and the stud book, but that fails in the field. It is called EGO. This ego has crippled the industry because even cattlemen who don’t care about the ring, cannot really get access to the genes that will really thrive because they can become a laughing stock. Just picture it, poor old Joe getting laughed at for not being able to grow big calves, heck his cows only weigh 1000lbs. I’ve got tons that are 1600lbs. don’t you know how to farm Joe?

Managing the cattle and the grass are a pretty big paradigm shift not only for the growers,
but the seed stock producers, and for the market. There is too much for me to even touch on grass management, I have about 30 books on it that I have read cover to cover, seminars I have been too, and tons of time doing little else but watching the cattle eat grass. I would turn you to the books available through Stockman Grass Farmer as a great place to start, and much of the data I have used, and failed to cite comes from the works of Jim Gerrish, Ian Mitchell Innes, Greg Judy, Kit Pharro, Story Publications, Gerald Fry, and many many more. Dive into this rabbit hole, and see why I confidently claim that even the people who are researching this industry are often looking left when the meat is to the right. Oh, and a parting gift, learn about Dung Beetles.

† plural of beef

What do Cows REALLY eat?

Today’s blog is brought to you by Dugan, Firefly Farms farm manager, and one of our greatest educators. He knows more about some of the more unusual parts of farming than most of us and enjoys sharing tidbits. Here is one for you.

I was in the bar with a friend of mine who used to raise Highland Cattle. We were
talking about beef and the wonders and peculiarities of the animals. We strayed a little into the world of cattle nutrition when I dropped a bomb into the conversation. Instantly, I saw eyes from a fellow nearby bore into me and I knew we had an eavesdropper.The bomb I dropped was one of my best thought provoking statements to farmers. Cows don’t eat grass. They never have and never will. They get as much use from the stuff as we do when we chew on grass, which is to say little to none.

This is where the other fellow really started to pay attention and my friend just sat back to listen as she knew I had a hook set, and well, I do love to talk. I talk a lot, probably too much. Let me bring you up to speed on what I mean when I say that cattle don’t eat grass. It is not that I mean they do not chew it, swallow it, and have a nose to figure out what grass is denser in nutrients that the rest. They have a nose and palate that are wonderful in eking out the best grass, but they do not get much out of it. There is juice in grass, some sugar in that juice, some amino acids, and some minerals and protein, but it is minimal. That is all a cow gets from grass if it gets that at all. What cows really eat is bacteria, lots and lots of bacteria. The four chambers of the stomach in a cow are fermentation vats. Only the last chamber, the abomasums, is much like our stomach. That is the one that “eats” in our common conception. The other chambers are all preparatory for digestion. That is where the raw materials are fermented in the first and massaged by starfish feet that have tons of surface area to house and protect the first round of cellulosic digestive and fermentation bacteria. Those guys soften and begin to break the structural sugars down. Some of the sugar feed them and some of it is turned into alcohol which is absorbed through the walls. The grass then passes along and it wrung out in the next chamber. I admit I don’t know where the fluids go, perhaps back to the rumen to inoculate the new grass matter. The second chamber ejects the cud for the cow to chew a second time. This mechanically breaks the grass again into smaller pieces so the bacteria can get at all the rest. The cud is swallowed down to chamber three where it is rehydrated and stirred up for a final fermentation. It then proceeds to the fourth and digestion looks much more like humans. Except it isn’t, it is grass, bacteria, and booze. A bacterium in the cow stomach is a fast multiplying and short lived creature. There are billions of them and they die a lot. They have a very simple body that has a standard lipid cell wall and the dead bodies are loaded with all sorts of goodies. Goodies that are easy to digest. They are what the cow eats. All that preparation was really a way of growing a great big soup of bacteria for the cow to eat. They walk around with a food factory; the cow grows its own food.

This is where many people begin to disagree with me and that fellow at the bar sure did. It
is akin to saying which hill makes the strongest locomotive. There are tons of steps between A and B, to the point where it looks like a non sequitur. What you missed was that under the hill was a formation of crude that could be drilled into, extracted, refined, pipeline distributed, and finally put into the train. This is much like saying that grass makes good cows. Only when you look at every step that went on in between and acknowledge that there was a whole other food chain involved before the energy ever got to the cow does it begin to make sense. Quit focusing on feeding cows, you will get enormously frustrated because A does not lead to B. Instead, work on how to make the fermentation vat they carry really hum along at full efficiency. Only then will you be manufacturing the quantity and quality of dead bacterial food that the cow needs to really grow.

We agreed to disagree, even though my statement is not exclusive of his views. His believing that cows eat grass is not wrong; the cow ingested it, processed it, and pooped it. But the grass was not for the cow and that is where my thoughts expand upon his belief. His system will still work, just like a car works for people who think that what makes a car run is the ignition key. Not wrong, just missing the whole picture. I believe that we parted as friends, I went away trying to codify what I was thinking better, and him thinking I was crazy as a loon, but I think we both enjoyed the debate. Here is a toast to you Sir wherever you may be, it was great to meet you, and fun to disagree!

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget (but not skip on the good stuff)

Most people balk at the idea of spending anywhere between $25- $35 dollars on a pasture raised broiler chicken since they know they can get a bird at the grocery for less than $5. If you are on an extremely tight budget, you can use that store bought bird, but there are some rather unsavory reasons why that bird costs as little as it does. A pasture raised chicken has had a good life filled with sunshine, company, and anything it has scratched up for its own dinner resulting in a healthier animal with healthier more nutrient packed flesh. Allowed to access a natural diet, pasture raised chickens are richer in beta carotene, retinol, and omega-3 fatty acids than their factory-farmed $3.99 counterparts. The point of this blog is to show you how your more expensive meat can be stretched to include at least four meals with a variety of recipes. In our first case we’ll talk about the chicken first. Just doing some quick math, $35/bird divided by 4 people eating four meals is $ 2.18/meat/meal.

To give you an idea of how the chicken can be used in an effective fashion, I am going to walk you through your meal plan that will use ALL the chicken.

Meal 1: Roast that Chicken! Our favorite recipe is the Sticky Rotisserie Chicken which bakes in the oven at low temps for a long time. Included in the recipe are onions which are put in the body cavity, but we have also used other veggies such as carrots, potatoes, and parsnips. Root vegetables are great and hearty side dish. To further stretch the meal and fill our bellies, we usually add a green salad or rice too. Carve up the breast and the legs for dinner and make sure to have plenty of side dishes. Remember that the US recommended protein serving size is 3 – 5 oz, but most of us often eat three to four times that recommendation. Leftover larger pieces are perfect for sandwiches the next day. MOST people declare the chicken done after one meal, but in our humble opinion they are missing out on some of the best to come.

Meal 2: Chicken Sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and whole wheat bread.

Meal 3: Strip the chicken body of the rest of the large pieces of meat. One woman recommends making a chicken salad, but our favorite first leftover is to chop up all the pieces of chicken that are too small to make it into a sandwich use them in a stir fry. LOTS of veg and rice make this a filling and quick dish on a busy work night.

Meal 4 (and more): Put the bones and remaining meat into either your crock pot or in a pot on the stove and simmer it until everything falls away from the bones. Let it cool until you are no longer in danger of hurting yourself by touching the contents of the pot. You will be able to skim off the fat (if you have a pup they will love this stirred into their kibble) and then go to work removing all the remaining meat from the bones. You would be amazed how much meat there is still is even at this point. Much of it is on the back where we do not usually carve and is often forgotten altogether. You can keep reusing the bones and cartilage in your crock pot to make more bone broth or you can call it quits at this point. Depending on the week, we will continue to the use bones to make broth until there is nothing left. Use the shredded meat you picked from the bones and your first round of broth to make our “Oh So Simple Chicken Soup”. What is great about this is if you have any leftover roasted veggies from the first meal this is an excellent place to finish them up by putting them in the soup.

Another suggestion is to use the leftover chicken and vegetables to make a perennial favorite, chicken pot pie. Many of us would be happy just having that for our dinner, but you can make it last for serval meals if you have a salad or some additional steamed veggies as your side.

You should always be thinking 1. How much of this is healthy for me? And 2. How many meals do I want to enjoy this dish?

You could argue that in the case of the chicken pot pie, the cream used to make the gravy is not healthy for you, but you also need to stop and consider that if you ate the whole pie that is very true. However all things in moderation can work to maintain a healthy diet. The adage “Less is more” works perfectly in this situation since the smaller your portions the longer you will be able to enjoy your efforts.

A Side Note on the Benefits of Bone Broth: We have all had chicken soup when we sick and it turns out there is something to be said for the healing properties of the broth! It has been proven to help boost the immune system, help with joint health and even help with leaky gut syndrome. This is all thanks to the calcium, amino acids, and compounds that come from the breaking down of the animal bone and cartilage.

Shopping list:

ShopRite Bread – Whole Wheat $1.99

ShopRite Natural Mild Provolone Cheese Slices $3.29

ShopRite Rice – Long Grain Enriched $1.29

Fresh Grape Tomatoes $2.99

Red Leaf Lettuce 5 oz (avg.) $2.49/lb $0.78

ShopRite Baby Bella Mushrooms $3.99

Fresh Russet Potatoes 5lb bag $0.99

Fresh Onions – 3 lb Bag $0.99

ShopRite Baby Carrots 16 oz $0.09/oz 2 for $3.00

Estimated Subtotal $19.31

This grocery list includes almost everything you will need to make these meals possible (everyone has different opinions on what to put in their stir fry), but this shows how inexpensively you can shop and still have lots vegetables and goodies to work for multiple meals. If you have a membership at Costco or BJs you can purchase many of these items in large quantities for greater saving. My husband and I have been known to make huge batches of soup and then freeze them for a winter’s day.

Admittedly the price of your shopping list will go up when you begin shopping for all organic food, but one way to lower that cost is to shop year round and get to know your local farmers. This means purchasing and freezing food when they are at their most bountiful (and therefore cheapest) and storing them until unseasonal months. We have done this with a large amount of our fruit and veggies and it cuts down on year round food costs. By getting to know your farmers, you can ask them about their farming practices. Many farmers are farming organically, but have opted not to get their certification due to the expense and hoops they need to jump through to prove that everything IS organic. One thing farmers never seem to have enough of is time. However, you can benefit from their practices without paying for the cost of organic food that has been shipped to your grocery store.

Perhaps you are not interested in eating chicken on a weekly basis, but would prefer to have a rotation of meat options. Next up is the bone in ham. One bone in ham can happily take care of a family for an entire week without everyone getting totally sick of it. You do this by having a bunch of different dishes that have ham either as a center piece or “as an addition”.

Meal 1: Roast your ham for Sunday dinner with some rosemary potatoes and a large salad to share. You can also make a batch of cornbread whose leftovers will pair nicely with soup and act as the bread for your breakfast ham sandwich. As you are carving you will find that you are able to get bigger and smaller pieces depending on the cuts around the bone. Use the big pieces for the meal, but save the smaller pieces for either…

Meal 2: Ham sandwiches. These sandwiches can be made up of leftover cornbread and a fried egg for breakfast or your standard cheese, lettuce, and tomato on whole wheat bread. Or….

Meal 3: Dice up some of the smaller pieces of ham with mushroom, onion, and leftover potato to make a Frittata. This wonderful dish can work for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

Meal 4: Ham, Beans and Rice. Go for this filling dish that is perfect for a winter’s night. You do not need a lot of ham for this dish since there is a lot of protein in the beans and the rice is nice and starchy. This slows down your digestion giving your body more time to burn the calories.

Meal 5: Put the ham bone and any last pieces of ham into the stew pot and STEW! Lentil Stew with Ham and Greens and substitute the pork broth for the chicken broth in the recipe. Another good one is Split Pea Soup with Ham.

You can also invest in a Boston Butt and do wonderful things like pulled pork which can be used in a ton of dishes. You can use if for Carnitas, Burritos, Sliders, Pulled Pork and Rice, and Tacos… you are getting the idea. This is fantastic with rice, beans, some veggies, and can be made either made to suit Mexican, Southern, Mediterranean, or Asian cuisine. One of our most popular recipes for our pork shoulder is Bo Ssam which can be used to feed an army. Each night you can have a different recipe from another part of the world for your dinner.

Your shopping list for your ham/Boston butt/shoulder week will look very similar to your chicken shopping list depending on what recipes you choose to stretch your food.

When it comes to beef, I am relying on the online food bloggers since they have far more experience than me. (I am allergic to beef) Part of what you need to remember in all of this is that the meat starts of as the star of the meal and then becomes more and more a team player with all the other ingredients. As a result the larger cuts evolve from roast, to sandwiches, to ingredients in a meal, and finish off soup. This is the best way to get bang for your buck.

This means you will be paying more up front, but it will also stretch further. Most people who are trying to make their dollars stretch are going to be interested in these cuts:

  1. Chuck: From the front portion of the animal; look for chuck roast, shoulder steak, boneless chuck roast, chuck shoulder pot roast, chuck seven-bone pot roast, or beef chuck arm.
  2. Brisket: From the breast or lower chest with long strands of meat; the flat cut is leaner, and the point cut has more fat; brisket is best sliced against the grain of the meat for maximum tenderness.
  3. Round: From the rear leg area of the animal; look for rump roast or bottom round.

It has been our experience that most people get excited about the steaks and filet mignon, but we have come to the conclusion that any part of the cow can be delicious if you learn how to cook it well. In the case of these cuts, the proven method to get the most flavor from your meat is to cook is slow and steady for a long time. The easiest way to do this is pull out your trusty slow cooker or crock pot and put it to work. We do recommend though that you familiarize yourself with the difference of cooking grassfed vs. commercial beef. Videos and explanations can be found online.

Meal 1: Slow Cooker Pot Roast is one recipe that comes highly recommended and starts with a 5 lbs roast. That is a lot of meat!!! Remember your daily recommendations for meat are about 3-5 oz, but even if you splurge, you will still have oodles leftover for more tasty creations. Enjoy with traditional fare of a mashed potatoes, gravy, and some kind of steam veggies like broccoli.

Meal 2: Beef Pot Pie: Use some of the leftover shredded beef, 1 bag of frozen mixed veggies, and leftover gravy.  Pour into a premade or homemade pie crust and bake until golden. Remember these dishes were created by people for people who were working in the fields and needed to replace a lot of calories. Moderation and lots of veggies are what make this a healthy option.

Meal 3: We can’t forget the sandwiches! Roast beef hoagies: Sauté some onions and bell pepper to put on top your shredded beef. Top hoagie rolls with provolone cheese, beef and onion pepper mixture. Voila.

Meal 4: Using your leftover broccoli and beef you can make a fantastic stir fry. Toss in some of the onion and red pepper from your hoagies. Serve over white rice and enjoy!

Meal 5: Towards this point you should be getting pretty low on beef, but there is still enough for a fantastic breakfast of Roast Beef Hash! Chop up your leftover roast.  Dice some potatoes.  Fry the potatoes and fry on a hot griddle (like hash browns) or in a sauce pan in a little vegetable oil.  Add in leftover beef and continue to cook until warm.  Pour over some leftover gravy in and cook a minute longer.  Serve it up with fried eggs and toast for a breakfast that should keep you going all day.

Meal 6: The final stage of any good roast is stew. Put everything that remains; roast, gravy, and potatoes in a crock pot with water, veggies, and any seasonings that you prefer and let it slow cook to death. Let it cool and remove any bones and bay leaves that might be in the pot and eat this hearty stew until the very last drop is gone.

I have shown you how you can make your expensive meat stretch over the course of the week and become cost effective ingredient to your diet, but how can you still get the most from your money?

  1. Pay attention to your grocery store:
    1. Check when things go on sale. Some days will be more deeply discounted than others and depending on the store they might have a section for produce or other products that are perfectly ripe or fine, but are nearing their time to be cycled out. So much of what is at the store ends up in a dumpster, but is still perfectly good. Snag what you can find on clearance. Try to time your shopping for the days of deepest discounts.
    2. Watch the sales. You can get a lot of your staples such as rice, beans, flour, sugar (limit your intake), pasta etc. when they go on sale and store them for down the road. The wonderful thing about them is they have a long shelf life.
    3. Buy in bulk. As crazy as it sounds sometimes buying MORE of something is the most cost effective method. Just remember that you need to have space to store it.
    4. Clip Coupons. I am not suggesting that you go overboard like some people, but you would be amazed at what has a coupon for it. When you are counting your pennies and trying to eat healthily, it is nice some times to have a little variety so a $1 off on 4 avocadoes can really change your nibbles for a week.
    5. Purchase Store Brands when you can. A lot of people shop for easily recognizable names and pay more money for that name recognition. The reality is that in many cases the same manufacturers are producing both the name and store brands. However, the name brand needs to charge more for its flash marketing. Cereal is one example and another is milk. Caveat: If you are fortunate enough to live near a dairy, get your milk there if possible since a lot of people who normally have milk intolerance have found that they are able to digest raw milk. Another option is to find a goat dairy as goat milk is typically easier to digest. When you are saving pennies elsewhere, local dairy is a good place to put your money as smaller dairies take far better care of their cows and goats.
  2. Build a Pantry: If you are going to be purchasing items in bulk, you will need a place to store them, so make sure you have enough room in your freezer and cupboards. It is incredibly helpful to have things on hand such as rice or pasta to fill out a meal

Things to include:

  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Rice (Brown is healthier but it does take time to cook)
  • Old Fashioned Oats (Fantastic for breakfast or add it to your muffins)
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Spices
  • Dried pastas
  1. Plan Your Meals:
    1. When you plan out your meals for the week you are less likely to do impulse shopping and can also choose ingredients that can be used in more than one meal. Not only will you not have that moment of “What are we having for dinner” you can also make sure that you won’t have anything spoil in your fridge before it is used.
    2. This also means that you can shop more effectively for seasonal fruit and veg. If you have the storage for it buy things when they are cheap and either freeze it or can it for later.
    3. One way to make sure that you stay on budget and do not succumb the quick and easy take-out is to make larger quantities of your food. You can portion them out and put them in your fridge for a quick reheat on nights with limited time. There are those who use one day of their weekend to make all their meals and then put them in containers for the rest of the week.
  2. Leave the Soda and Sugary Juices on the Shelf: Although most people do not consider soda or juice to be overly expensive, think of it as an expense towards your long term health. Check out the ingredients and the sugar content of both and you will shocked at how much sugar is crammed into those bottles. If you still want to have a beverage aside from water (drink more of this) select fruit or vegetable juices that do not have any additional sugar aside from the natural fructose.
  3. Consider Your Fruit, Veggies and Starch: Consider shopping for fruits, vegetables, and starches that have a longer shelf life and store them properly. Instead of purchasing those delicate berries that seem to cost an arm and leg and fuzz right after you bought them, consider instead getting oranges, apples, and pears that store more easily and for longer. Bananas are pretty inexpensive, but always have a backup plan for them such as pancakes or banana bread so they do not spoil. When it comes to veggies, look to the chard, kale, cabbage, and spinach for greens that pack a punch. I had one cabbage that managed to survive in my fridge for six months and even began sprouting. Carrots, potatoes, and celery are inexpensive and are fantastic with roasts and soups. Sweet potatoes and yams are also quite filling and store for an incredibly long time.
  4. DO NOT SHOP WHEN YOU ARE HUNGRY: This is something that is repeated over and over. If you are hungry, the grocery store can be a mecca of choices, but it also means that you will find yourself making more impulse purchases and straying from your grocery list. To stop yourself from doing this make sure you’ve had a snack or meal before heading to the store.
  5. Do your homework: With a little bit of time and cruising the internet, you can find a lot of amazing resources about how to eat more healthily AND how to do it on a budget. Figure out for yourself the areas that are really important for you to purchase the highest quality products (we recommend spending your pennies on good meat and vegetables) and those other areas where you can save by purchasing generics.
  6. Make Time: This might be an odd one to have on the list, but it works for a number of reason. In order to reduce your food budget and stay healthy, you need to have time to; research recipes, plan your shopping, cook your meals AND take the time to actually enjoy what you are eating. Just slowing down and chewing your food will help you reduce how much food you need to feel full. Too many of us are guilty of giving ourselves a tiny amount of time to consume our meals and this means our body does not have the time to recognize it has been fed and keeps sending the “FEED ME” signal past the point of being sated. Drinking a glass of water before eating will help the process of getting the stomach to stop sending hangry signals sooner.
  7. Lastly consider having a small kitchen garden and learning how to can: Even those of us who do not have green thumbs can find at least one varietal we can grow well. My husband is wonderful with peppers from the mild wax pepper to the world’s hottest pepper, the Carolina Reaper. I can grow heirloom tomato jungles and do quite well when it comes to herbs. Our small permanent herb garden produces sage, oregano, two types of thyme, lemon balm, tarragon, and in the summer basil and parsley. These are dried and put into our ever expanding spice cabinet. Additionally, I have scouted out patches of wild raspberries and black berries, apple trees, and pear trees that have been forgotten. All of those I harvested when the time was right and either canned, dehydrated, or froze them. Canning is a fantastic way to save perishable food and is a skill worth having.

Locavores, 5 ways to keep it local during the winter!

Locavore: A person who endeavors to eat only locally produced foods

How you define ‘local’ is depends on you. Most people consider local to be grown and consumed within 100 miles of where they live, but others think of local on more of a regional level depending on the ease to acquire food. Some of us are incredibly fortunate to have a large number of farms within 50 miles of us, but others might have to include 400 miles to garner the same number of farms and variety.

Heading into winter months, we say goodbye to all the wonderful produce easily found at the various farmer’s markets within an hour’s drive and say hello to the supermarket. The strawberries of June, the kale of July, the peaches of August (I make myself sick yearly), and the tomatoes of September are becoming nothing more than a distant memory. It may seem that winter leaves us with no options other than iceberg lettuce, Granny Smith apples, and California oranges, but wait… there is still hope.

Yes, it is much easier being a locavore during the warmer months since there is an overabundance of choices, BUT there are still goodies to be found on the off season if you are willing to adjust your diet a little and do some research and planning.

  1. Purchase Your Favorites During the Spring/Summer/Fall: We have a chest freezer that we use for our long term storage and throughout the summer we purchase some of our perennial favorites such as blueberries and corn. These are purchased at their peak, washed, dried and then put into freezer bags so that we have corn chowder created with corn from the Davis family in Jamuary. Blueberries make their way into our muffins, pies, and freezer jams. There are a number of online sites such as Freezing Vegetables from your Garden to help you get the most from your produce. We even cook and freeze our Halloween pumpkins so we can have pumpkin treats throughout the winter.
  2. Canning: This year we had a ridiculous number of tomato and pepper plants which meant that there was a LOT of them all at once. As much as I love both there is a point where just the smell of them is enough to make me long for any… other… vegetable. Thanks to a wonderful birthday gift, we were able to dive into the canning world and save all the tomatoes and peppers we could not consume or give away. The Ball’s canning book is fantastic, but if you are not ready to invest in the book you can visit their Preserving Recipes page to get started. Canning sounds scary, but it is actually pretty easy if you are willing to invest in the time. During the summer, seek out some canning classes if you would like to have a pro on stand by while you take your first steps.
  3. Winter Farmer’s Markets and Farm Stands: More and more farming is a year round adventure and although the outdoor farmer’s markets have fled with the cooler temps, you can still find places to purchase directly from your local farmers. I am going to list some local options for those in the Groton/New London area, but if you are outside our area, take heart there are places!!
    1. Connecticut Farm Fresh Express: Currently working with 49 farms scattered throughout CT, you are able to view the most current listings for those farms, put your order in online, and then wait while they deliver it to your door. You can still get green tomatoes, herbs, meat, cheese, milk, root vegetables, and a whole lot more.
    2. Conventry Farmer’s Market , Fiddleheads Coop, and Stonington Winter Market  : All are having winter markets!!!
    3. Farm Stands: Ask your favorite farms if they have a year round farm stand located at their farms. Our farm stand operates year round since we are not dependent on a growing season, but even more and more vegetable producers are using heated greenhouses to extend their growing season.
  4. Your Local Supermarket: Believe it or not, but a lot of grocery stores are trying to include local farms. Look for the ‘Locally Produced’ signs which should also include the name of the farm. This will not fill up your shopping cart, but it will help.
  5. Pick What to Keep Local: During the summer it is easier to keep things local so during the winter be kind to yourself and do not make yourself crazy trying to keep every thing local. Pick a few things to keep local and do not limit your options. Find a local bakery that bakes daily. Most dairies run year round so you can add cheese, yogurt, butter, and milk to your list. Any farm that focuses on meat will continue to have a supply throughout the winter (we will and do!). Seafood is another local option for protein.

We wish you the best of luck in keeping it local and hope that we will see you at one of the winter farmer’s markets!!!

What does it mean to eat responsibly? 10 ways you can do it!

In this day and in age, we are blessed that in the dead of winter we can still buy fruit and vegetables for our meals. Meat is abundant and varied. If you want to have a cheese from France while sipping a California white wine with grapes from Spain, that is possible. We have it all right there at the grocery store for the taking and oh boy, do we take. Yet some of us are uncomfortable with this bounty and the toll it takes not only on our bodies, but on the environment. So rather than telling you what you are doing wrong, here are some ways you can do a little right when you fill your fridge.

  1. Eat Local: That might sound difficult especially as we head into the chillier months, but there are farmer’s markets that run year round so you can get some hearty winter vegetables along with bread, meat, and dairy. (If you are in CT, check out Farm Fresh Express) If you are lucky and have freezer space, you can plan ahead and do some canning and freezing of local food so you can have a summer feast in January.

Ideally your consumables should come from within 100 miles of you to greatly reduce your carbon foot print AND increase the potency of your produce since it starts loosing nutritional value the minute it is picked. Fuel and car emissions are not great for the environment.

By eating locally, you are encouraging and supporting your farmers to increase their production safe in the knowledge that they have a consumer market for their goods. More money in their pockets gets funneled right back into other parts of the local economy.

2. Seasonal: I don’t know about you, but around June I start craving strawberries, August for tomatoes, and the minute the air gets the crisp whiff of autumn, I want all things pumpkin. This is because even as far as humans have removed themselves from the job of finding food, our bodies remember thousands of years of evolution when certain foods came at certain times of year. They still gear up for the seasonal harvest.

Also getting seasonal food means that you are getting food that it is at its ideal ripeness and perfection. There is a reason that a tomatoes purchased in February are mealy and mushy… it is not the time for tomatoes.

3. Organic: We would all love to eat more organic food, but some times the cost is just a little too much for most food budgets. I understand that, but what a lot of people miss are the hidden costs to their bodies and their environment. The USDA guidelines stipulate that organic plants be raised without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. For animals this means no hormones or antibiotics AND that the animals have to be raised on feed that is certified as organic. The fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, and constant use of antibiotics have longer term effects causing things like birth defects, antibiotic resistant bacteria, and dead spots in the Gulf of Mexico.

I know… but how do you eat your daily recommended amount of fruit and veggies when you do not have an organic alternative? There is a list commonly referred to as the “Dirty Dozen” which are the fruits and vegetables that require the greatest amount of both fertilizer and pesticides. Of course some of my favorite foods to eat are the biggest culprits; strawberries, grapes, spinach, and cherry tomatoes. However, there is another list known as the “Clean Fifteen” which list things like avocados and mango as good choices.

4. More Fruit and Veg: This should be a no brainer given the food pyramid that we learned in grade school, but most of us (I am guilty of this) do not even come close to eating our recommended daily allowance. We save our selves for steak and eclairs. Not only do we do damage to our bodies, but we are creating a greater drain on our natural resources.

We at Firefly Farms are obviously hoping that the world doesn’t all go vegetarian because then we and our animals would be out of a job. However, we do think that HOW the animals are raised and what they eat has a huge impact overall. Animals raised on the correct diet and on rotational grazing add nutrients back into the soil. Our pigs have been helping remove all the scrub bush that has been choking out native species and leading to a stunted forest. Cows and goats have been used restore areas destroyed by desertification.

The same cannot be said of animals raised in CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) which are fed corn and soy so emit a ton of gas while consuming feed that is terrible agriculturally. (Read on…)

5. Eat Grass Fed Beef: Once upon a time in the US, we had HUGE herds of grazing animals. The bison and elk (to name two) covered the grasslands and migrated to where the grass was greenest. Along the way they would break up sod, ingest the seeds, defecate, and reintroduce the seeds back into the turned ground. It was a well organized system of destruction, rejuvenation, and growth. We wiped out those herds and introduced cattle, but instead of allowing them to roam, they are fenced in, and in some case not even allowed on grass.

In the CAFOs, cows are kept in HUGE sheds on concrete slabs. They are fed a mixture of corn and soy to maximize their growth to market weight without consideration that no wild bovine ever ate those foods. Since the cows are feeling rotten most of the time, they are pumped full of preventative antibiotics so they will not sick.

Even if you are not one to worry about the plight of the cattle (you should, really you should) it comes down to the simple matter of taste and looks. What do you want to eat? Most people immediately choose the grass fed when given the option.

The difference in the meats

6. Eat Less Fish: Our poor oceans have been pillaged to the point where whole types of fish have been nearly wiped out  and limits have been set in an attempt to keep enough breeding stock for fisherman. So again, limit your intake, purchase wild, and locally caught fish. The fish farms sound like a great idea, but they are notorious for adding pollutants into the water.

Another word of caution is that most fish are concentrators and do not eliminate heavy metals from their bodies. This means that when they eat other fish, they store the metals in their bodies right up the food chain. In Japan back in the 90s, they started to notice a greater number of people suffering from mercury poisoning and it was because the heavily fish oriented diet of the Japanese was literally poisoning them. In the dark meat of the fish are huge number of poisons.

7. Eat unprocessed foods: Each step that is added between the start of your food and it eventually finding its way into your stomach is opportunity to lose nutrients and add waste. If you look a the packaging and cannot pronounce or identify half the ingredients on the label, put it back and find some thing else to eat. Your body will thank you!

Also be aware of how much packaging comes with processed foods. I have had packages where there was an outer box, sleeves of 25, and then the individual item was wrapped. It is nuts! Once you have all your groceries and head to the check out, more packaging is added in the form of paper or plastic bags. You can further help out by bringing your own reusable cloth bags.

8. Waste: We mostly notice this when we are lugging our garbage out to the curb. I know that in our household most of what you find in our garbage is plastic. This is because no matter how much we try, we just can’t eliminate it all. This is in a house where we have old coffee canisters labeled with “Chickens”, “Pigs”, “Worms” and “Compost” and we put our scraps in accordingly. Even our occasional water/Gatorade bottle has a second step as dog toy before being retired to the recycling bin. Recycling happens weekly.

Part of our problem is purchasing more food that can get consumed prior to expiration. At least we have back up consumers, but the average American household throws away 14% of their purchased food. Not only are the nutrients less likely to find their way back into the ecosystem, but there is the wasted fuel, packaging, water, energy, etc that went into the making of the food. It is a huge chain effect with the end result that we have ever increasing landfills. As the food breaks down you get methane entering the atmosphere and adding to climate change.

9. Grow your own! Even if you have a postage stamp of a yard or balcony as your sole outdoor space, it is amazing what you can do with concentrated growing or planters. Not only are your producing the most local food available, there is some thing incredibly gratifying about saying, “I grew that!”

I recommend that in planning your garden, you consider your growing season, veggie preferences, and how much time you can devote to your garden (plants need watering!). Once you have that figured out, your best bet for healthy veggies is to grow them from heirloom seeds. These are the non GMO/hybridized seeds that can date back centuries and have their own unique flavors.

If you are lucky enough to have a large backyard, you can get a little more adventurous in your planting. We have a fairly large garden which benefits greatly from the fact that my husband also raises bees. Those little gals make sure that every thing is properly pollinated. So much so that we have been canning and freezing since August!

10. Finally…. Purchase meat that is; organic, humane certified, heritage breed, locally raised, and from farms where the animals lives are held precious and not just a commodity to be bought and sold. We feel incredibly strongly that animals should have a life before they come to our plates and thoroughly committed ourselves to that ideal. Do not support the CAFOs by buying the cheapest meat available. Even just switching to organic means improvements in animals lives. If you are lucky enough to live near a farm that is Humane Certified, you can feel good knowing that you are supporting farms that make sure their animals have great lives. Even if your meat isn’t all these things… just buying local gives you a chance to see if the animals see the sun. Small changes and including just one of these adjectives can make a huge long term impact.

No worries if you cannot rearrange your lifestyle with a wave of a wand (wouldn’t that be nice?), but even if you adopt only a few of these you will be helping out greatly. So give yourself a huge pat on the back if you are already doing these things too!

The APCs of ‘What is Wrong with my Chicken Dinner?’

Today’s blog starts to touch on some of the reasons that people are turning way from the chicken found at the grocery store and seeking out alternative sources. Many consumers have health concerns based on what the animals are eating. Others might have concerns about the various additives in their chicken. A very large number are concerned about the life the chicken lives prior to its death. All of these are excellent reasons to do a little research regarding what is going into your chicken and where you can get a healthier happier chicken for your dinner plate.

So today, we are going to give a quick overview of some of the reasons you may want to look into buying your chicken from a trusted local farmer.

Let’s start with the As (It’s a very good place to start):

  • Arsenic: If you are an old movie buff, you would be familiar with Arsenic and Old Lace and how well that worked out for the lonely gentleman who came to tea. Anyone who has taken biology will remember that arsenic is a poison to much of the animal kingdom and can be carcinogenic. There are two variations: Organic and Inorganic. Inorganic arsenic is arsenic in its pure form. Organic is arsenic that has bonded with carbon. This is a dummy down version, I know, but it gets the point across. Pfizer came up with a great little additive by the name of Roxarsone which is this organic arsenic back in 1944. They then sold it as a supplement and chicken feed was the most popular item for its inclusion. Fast forward to 2011 and again in 2015,  the FDA announced that in a study of chickens treated with Roxarsone they found that the organic arsenic had become inorganic arsenic and could be found in the commonly eaten parts. This was contrary to the belief that the organic arsenic would remain organic throughout its digestion and be eliminated by natural means.

Yes, arsenic is naturally occurring but do you intentionally want to increase your exposure? That’s like saying that cyanide is naturally occurring in apple seeds and then deliberately eating a whole bunch of seeds. (FYI: You would need some thing like 2 cups of seeds (about 100 apples REALLY fast) to die of cyanide poisoning.)

So what was the perceived benefit of adding organic arsenic into chicken feed? As a grower of chickens, one thing we all worry about is the chance of our chicks getting coccidiosis and dying. There are a number of preventatives, but the best is making sure that the chicks are on CLEAN bedding that is constantly being changed so they do not get bored and start eating each others poop. (There is a reason they are call ‘Fowl’) Many chicken raisers use medicated feed for their babies, but stop after about the first 6 weeks since that is usually when they start going on grass. It is ALSO approved for weight gain, feed efficiency, and pigmentation. You are getting that pretty pink color thanks to arsenic. I say that sarcastically, but it is not far from the truth.

The sad truth is that through better living conditions the number one reason for using Roxarsone would become moot. Coccidiosis thrives in poorly ventilated, damp, dirty, and overcrowded situations. If food, water, and bedding are not changed regularly and repeatedly they become breeding grounds for the bacteria. If chickens are raised in a healthy environment, they really do not need animal drugs.

Lots of small chicken raising farms get specially milled food for their chickens that do not contain arsenic. They also use chicken tractors which allow chickens to move to new grass once or twice a day greatly decreasing their chances of eating their own feces. Coccidiosis averted.

  • Antibiotics: No one likes the idea that that the animal they eat could have been sick so we want sick birds to be treated. Where the commercial chicken world crosses the line is when they use antibiotics for the entire flock as part of their growth regime rather than to stave off illness.This is called sub-therapeutic use.

Why use antibiotics? Well, chickens are given low levels of antibiotics throughout their short lives they will gain up to 3% more weight than an untreated chicken. That makes a huge difference when you are trying to get your chickens to market weight as fast as possible. The problem is that the bacteria in their bodies becomes so used to the low dose of antibiotics that it becomes resistant. The humans who then eat the chicken ingest the antibiotic resistant bacteria and become infected themselves. This means that the antibiotics designed to kill the bug no longer are effective.

The use of sub-therapeutic use has been drawing fire for a long time. Concerns grew to such a level that both Canada and the European Union have banned its use. However, the USA still continues the practice citing that to remove it from the regime would too greatly increase the possibility of disease in the chickens AND increase the purchase price. Goodness knows we would not want to pay more for our chicken since what are the chances of us needing to get treated for salmonella?

This is why it is SO important to purchase chicken that is antibiotic free. Your body will certainly thank you for it later and your grandchildren will thank you when the antibiotics they need still do the trick.

The P:

  • Plumpling: Most of us think of ‘plump’ as an adjective and not a verb, but the chicken industry is constantly inventing new things. Plumping is the act of injecting saline, chicken stock, or other additives into a chicken carcass to make it look bigger and juicer. There can be so much plumping done that it can increase the body weight by up to 30%. That means that lovely roaster you just bought for your Sunday dinner…? 1/3 of what you paid for is nothing more than salt water. That eventually adds up over the year.

Below is a video of chickens being plumped.

If you are someone who has to watch their sodium intake, just an FYI, those injections can increase the sodium content of your chicken to upwards of 500%. As with the pink slime, they can still label your chicken as 100% natural since there is no standardize legal definition of ‘natural’. So as long as the things injected are technically natural, so is the chicken. Think back to the arsenic above. It is natural too.

You may ask yourself, why not just grow a plumper juicer chicken? That is because that would require more time and chicken feed to grow a fatter bigger chicken. Most of the chickens you eat are between 6-12 weeks old. That is not a lot of time to take a little fluff ball to dinner size. The faster the chicken gets to weight (even if that requires a little plumping), the faster the chicken business can get in another round of chicks.

This is why some people have a hard time going to their local farmers to buy chicken. The chickens do not appear as big or plump. That is because there is a balancing act between getting the chickens to a nice size and harvesting them for they start to get stringy and tough. However, even if it takes a little longer to reach a desirable weight, the difference in taste is well worth it.

The C:

  • CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feed Operations): The C actually comes with a few other letters attached. CAFOs were briefly touched on in The Culture of the Other White Meat, but the focus was mainly on the pork rather than the actual operation. CAFOs are interested in one thing. Raising the largest number of animals for the greatest possible profit. Remember real estate is money so most chicken operations are housed in HUGE sheds with as many chickens crammed in as possible. Most sheds contain any where between 20,000 – 30,000 chickens. This leaves an adult chicken with about 1 sq foot to live in IF they are lucky. These birds do not get outside. They do not see the sunshine. Fresh air? What’s that?

This is very different from the coop recommendations given for large birds who are allowed to forage during the day. They recommend that each bird should have a minimum of 4 sq feet which means a 4 x 8 foot coop is good for about 8 birds. If you are going to raise strictly indoor birds, the recommendation increases to at least 10 sq feet per bird and a 5 x 10 foot coop should only house 5 birds. These are just recommended minimums and like most animals, chickens are always happier with more space to roam.

One thing that is expressed over and over by experience chicken raisers is that you have to keep the bedding, food, and water clean. This means swishing out their water once a day, checking food levels, and when the coop gets even the slightest bit whiffy you need to throw in more pine shavings until it has that pine fresh scent. Chickens in CAFOs never get clean bedding in the 7 weeks they are packed in their sheds which is why you need animal drugs to prevent coccidiosis. People who go into the areas to do the daily check for dead birds have to wear respirators because the smell of ammonia can overwhelm a person and make them pass out. If the ventilation fans malfunction, the birds can all all die from asphyxiation.

Nothing about chicken CAFOs is healthy. Chickens there are overcrowded, fed feed and water that are laced with antibiotics and organic arsenic, and in conditions that humans cannot stand for more than a minute. Their very short lives are ones of misery.

Before you give up on ever eating chicken again consider looking for alternative options. Obviously we would love if everyone decided they wanted to have chicken from Firefly Farms since we are pretty proud of what we produce. After all, our birds are raised in chicken tractors, Humane Certified, fed organic feed that is soy free, and live happy chicken lives chasing bugs and scratching dirt. We realize that is not possible for everyone, but recommend that you do look for “Air Chilled”, “Organic”, and “Antibiotic Free” when you head to your grocery store. They will be more expensive, but think about the overall effect on your own health. You will be eating a better bird and having the direct benefit of its life. It might also shift the thinking of the CAFOs if they realize people are willing to pay a little more for a bird that lives a little more.

Pink Slime: No longer found just in Ghostbusters

Remember in Ghostbusters II the pink slime that is flowing underground in New York City? The mood slime which gets stronger with negative energy and threatens to bring back an evil warlock? “It’s the stuff… it is like pure concentrated evil” according to Ray Stanz (played by Dan Aykroyd). It is the stuff of nightmares and was truly terrifying for my much younger self.

Pure Concentrated Evil- Ghostbusters

Imagine my horror at finding that Pink Slime really does exist and is no longer the thing of my favorite campy ghost movie. Instead of running through the old transit system of New York City, it is now running through the meat grinders of the US. By March of 2012, it could be found in over 70 percent of all ground beef. So unless you are having your beef ground right in front of you or go to a farm that makes sure no pink slime makes it into their products, there is a good chance that you have consumed pink slime at one point in your life. (Never in my life have I been so grateful for having a beef allergy as I am right now)

Aside from its truly unappetizing name, what is pink slime and why should I worry? If you Google “Pink Slime” this what you get.

Pink slime. Above: ground beef, from a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) image of a beef-grinding operation. “Pink slime” is a dysphemism for a meat-based product the meat industry calls “lean finely textured beef” (LFTB), “finely textured beef“, and “boneless lean beef trimmings” (BLBT).

Now that still does not sound too bad if you are someone who likes a good breakfast sausage now and then, but if it were just another form of ground beef, would I be writing about it? The answer is a resounding “NO!”

Pink Slime is made up all the stuff that cannot got into the various cuts of meat we are familiar with such a steaks loin, shoulder, etc. It is the fat, the gristle, the trimmings, and the connective tissue (various producers of Pink Slime swear that no connective tissue goes into their slime, but when studies were conducted on random products, guess what was found… you guessed right.). All of this would normally be rendered and sent off for animal food or cooking oil. Instead, it was decided that this could still have use for humans. It is put in a centrifuge to separate all the bits out, but most importantly the fat. It is then flash frozen before being exposed to either citric acid or gaseous ammonia. Citric acid, not so bad. Ammonia… the stuff that is toxic and has to be stored safely away from children and pets? Why? To kill the E. coli and salmonella throughout the meat and make it “safe”. This is again flash frozen before being shipped out to be used as an additive in beef products. The kicker… because it is beef (97-99%), it can be used in your 100% ground beef because pink slime is still beef. No labeling required.

Jaimie Oliver did a video on pink slime during one of his shows the rightfully horrified anyone who was watching. He dramatized what happens in the creation of pink slime to a group of families and it was broadcast. ABC picked up the story and ran this segment.

This video more clearly states the process and that even USDA folks were against its inclusion in beef. Whistle blowers can only be called such when there is an actual whistle to blow. For running the story, ABC was hit with a defamation suit because consumers did not like what they were hearing and responded by not purchasing ground beef.

Due to this, there was a huge consumer backlash against the producers of pink slime and any Big Business that used ground beef with pink slime. For a while, it looked like it was going to be phased out and that products including pink slime would have a label that reflected all the ingredients. McDonalds lead the revolution when they said they would not use it. Cargill (a producer) even said they would label it. All of this was a move in the right direction.

That was until recently. Americans love their beef. The hamburger is the quintessential food of the US. With beef prices on the rise, consumers want the price of their patties to stay the same so pink slime is being being reintroduced back into ground beef. Labeling products with pink slime is still voluntary. The USDA says that pink slime is safe and there is no reason not to use it.

Here is the catch. Yes it might be ‘safe’ because all of the dangerous microbes have been killed, but shouldn’t I have a choice in what I put into my body? What if the sound of eating some thing that is nicknamed ‘pink slime’ is nauseating? If I am paying for 100 % beef, shouldn’t that be what is in the package sans filler? The answer is ‘Yes’ to every single one of these questions. IF someone decides they want to have a burger that could be upwards of 25 % pink slime that is their choice. If someone chooses not to have it there should be a label directing them to the slime free alternative. Transparency and choice are the heart of the matter. Again, the American public needs to put their money where it counts and let the beef industry know their wishes.

Personally, I think pink slime should ooze its way back to the movie industry so I know who to call.

How do you save critically endangered breeds? You eat them.

Back from an unexpected hiatus due to a death in the family. It is my sincere hope that we will be back to our usual schedule bringing you lots of farm related tidbits. Again, apologies for the lack of blogging.

Now that might sound like some kind of weird joke, but we could not be more serious. After all we are a farm that specializes in the conservation of rare heritage breeds in the form of Randall Linebacks, Mulefoot Hogs, Guinea Hogs, and Dorking chickens.

To give you an idea of how endangered some of our animals are, let us look at the Randall Linebacks who number 500 which is shockingly small when you think about the 9 million Holsteins in the US. Faced with those numbers, most people wonder why we would have ANY of our Randall Linebacks culled for their dinner plates. Why are we not keeping every single one of them to continue our breeding program?

One of the answers is an easy one. We cannot have 20-30 bulls on our property. Same goes for boars. We have two roosters for our flock of 20 girls. Too many boys leads to chaos. Continuing with the cattle theme, the chance of having a bull vs a cow is 1.06 to one. That means there is a slightly higher likelihood that for every calf born, it will be male. In the farming world being male is kind of a curse… it means you can be head honcho or you get castrated. Admittedly, they still live a good and much longer life than most males, but there is only one future that awaits them. It is hard enough getting the chosen bulls far enough away from the girls so that we do not have break outs and unplanned pregnancies.

The more complicated answer has every thing to do with our breeds’ histories. They are good all round animals. However, they do not get to weight in 6 months. They need space or they go nuts. They are not HUGE animals when fully grown. They fell out of favor for the more common Big Ag breeds because they need more time to reach their level of perfection. Mulefoots and Guinea Hogs are known for their gorgeously marbled meat that is bright red which goes against the “fat is bad” era. Dorkings might have been the food of Romans, but Big Ag want birds that grow to weight in 3 months rather than 9. For Randall Linebacks, unless you want Rose Veal, you need to let them grow for upwards of 1-2 years. Anyone who is farming for a quick turnaround will not use these breeds even if their meat is superior and they are better suited for outdoor environments.

That is why it is so important that small farms help bring these breeds back. Now you can go into a farm-to-table restaurant and look at a menu and see Berkshire Pork. These days there is a greater chance that will mean some thing to the hungry patron BECAUSE so many places are trying to serve heritage food. Often there will be a little footnote with the name of the farm which is fantastic. The next time they go to another restaurant, they can ask the chef what kind of pork it is and from where it was sourced. The chef takes note of the trend and begins looking for farms that sell not only Berkshires, but other varieties of heritage breeds. The farms start getting more calls asking for their meat which means they need to increase their breeding programs to accommodate the new demand. The numbers of the breed increase. They may even decide that since they are having so much success with one heritage breed that they will take on more thus protecting and conserving others.

That is our current mindset. We started with one type of heritage animal and have branched out into three. If our farm manager has his way eventually there will be rabbits and ducks too. Those are a lot of animals and every single one of them is valuable not only for their breed, but for what they can do for their breed. Consumers are starting to get very savvy about what they are eating and are demanding a higher level of excellence regarding what they consume. That is great for us since we believe our meat IS superior to what is on offer at the grocery store.

A fine example of how this has worked is Joe Henderson, owner of Chapel Hill Farm in Berryville, VA. He began breeding Randall Linebacks when they found safe haven at his farm while on the travels of their savior, Cynthia Creech. She sold him a couple dozen head and he began stringently breeding and building their numbers. He realized that in order for any critically endangered breed to survive it had to have purpose. Being pretty, cute, and all round good animal was not going to cut it. He said, “And this animal’s job is [being] 520 lbs of meat to some of the greatest chefs in the world and ending up on your plate.” To do that he was incredibly picky about who he sold his animals to and made sure that the chefs were going to use the WHOLE animal rather than only parts. (For more about his herd: To Save This Endangered Breed, Eat It) He believes that there needs to be more satellite herds to feed the different markets of Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. The more people who come in contact with the meat, especially in trend oriented cities, the greater future demand.

The Randall Linebacks are a good example of what is already happening with one specific breed and what we are hoping to have happen for the rest of our breeds. Up until recently most people in our area had never heard of a Randall Lineback, Mulefoot, or Dorking. Now people are coming to the farm to see the animals and talking to other people about them. We have guests from all over the world who have stopped by and tried our meat. Most of them are incredibly disappointed they cannot find it back home, but have found other farms who carry other breeds. The restaurants that carry our meat are some of the best in the area! The trickle down effect is AMAZING.

So again, why do we eat our animals? Because we need to make sure that people know their breed names and want to purchase their meat. That will help them regain their former popularity and save them from extinction. Like most of us in this post-2008 world, they need a job and we are giving them one. After all, we do not want them to go the way of the dodo.