On The Ground and In The Kitchen

With our winter operations in place and maintenance of that system our only chore, February provides a good time to step back and speak to a bigger issue that arises from time to time with you, our customers, and with others who did not become customers because they wanted to pick and choose among our meats. So we combine the regular two sections of our newsletter - on the ground and in the kitchen into one this month, since the subject encompasses both. The issue is, why won’t we pack “custom” boxes for our customers who would like to choose a different variety of meats than those that we provide? Seems simple enough, right. But appearances are deceiving.

Our first reason is a philosophical one: our mission is to offer what we believe to be the secret of good eating and nutritional habits - our contribution to a complete and diverse diet of Real Food that supplies the body with all of the many nutrients that are available in our natural world. No one food type, be it meat, fish, vegetable or fruit, will supply the same type, quality or quantity of nutrients as you will get by eating all that nature offers. Hence our mantra “Eat like TJ” (Thomas Jefferson), who espoused the laudable thesis that our dinner plate should contain 5 items in approximately equal volumes - a meat or fish, 3 fresh vegetables and one fresh fruit, all of a different color because color is nature’s way of guiding us to diversity. Michael Pollan has modernized TJ’s advice with his slogan “Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants.”

A subset of our mission is to encourage a new wave of home cooking and understanding of meat cuts that have fallen out of our lexicon. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Pork belly, which comes from the flank of the pig, has exclusively been used for making smoked, cured bacon for most of our lifetimes. And who doesn’t like bacon? But the fact is that taking a fresh pork belly to the bbq grill or the hot cast iron skillet, searing it over a high heat, then turning down the temperature to allow it to cook throughout, makes for one of the finest entrees to be found anywhere. I have seen pork belly on menus at the equivalent of $88 per lb. You get it in our deliveries regularly.
  • Another is calf’s liver, a food that should not be eaten daily or even weekly, but one that should be eaten with some regularity because of its magnificent mineral and vitamin content. Especially good for the ladies in the house. If liver’s taste turns you off, try ours. It is much milder than you have ever eaten, and is made even more so if brined for 90 minutes before cooking. Dust it in a whole wheat flour for the nutty flavor that it adds, fry it in the skillet using our pig lard, and you will re-discover a delectable food that our grandparents consumed on a monthly basis.

By encouraging new cooking and eating habits, we assure that all of the cuts of our carefully grown meats are used, not wasted, and we believe you and the planet are the beneficiaries of that approach.

The last “mission” reason to provide the three meats is soil health. We work hard to coordinate the grazing of our different animals over the various pastures at the farm because like the food we need, our soils also benefit from the variety of nutrients supplied by the different animals. A sustainable soil life does not happen without the same kind of diversity of nutrients that we also encourage for your body. The animals set the table for that wide range of soil nutrients, along with the wildlife that has been attracted back to the farm. Doesn’t that make sense - that is where the term “whole food” comes from and it is true for the soil as it is for the body.

Our others reasons are both logistical and financial. Logistical because:

  • We take what nature gives us each month. Maybe it is more pork than beef than chicken, as the case may be from one month to the other - we take what nature gives us, and it will differ from month to month;
  • The process of trying to pack a hundred boxes of meats of different selections by each customer adds time, labor and equipment costs. We would inevitably encounter a lack of the more popular cuts, thereby disappointing some of you by being unable to fill your order, and would accumulate cuts that are not as popular which would result in unacceptable waste of a perfectly good cut of meat.

Financial because there are significant costs associated with the logistical issues of custom-packing that would cause 1 of 2 negative results - either our already narrow profit margin would be exhausted or we would have to raise our cost to you. Either result could lead to a loss of the financial sustainability of our farm and its demise, an unacceptable result for us and we hope you would feel the same sadness about such an end. We are trying to build something for our children and yours, and for the earth’s creatures and the very planet we all have, but have to share.

And finally, we know you have shattered a myth - the myth that only the “wealthy” can afford to eat Real Food because it is too expensive to be eaten by the massive middle class. I invite those mis-led souls to look at our customer base - solidly middle class. What we have learned about our market is that it has nothing to do with the wealthy but instead it has to do with the informed, folks who understand that it takes very little adjustment in their budget to afford the incremental cost of Real Food over processed, drug and chemical-laden, tax-subsidized food. Food at the store is cheap for a reason - it is not worth much. And don’t get me started on the real cost of cheap food - the cost in our taxes, the cost to our environment, our medical bills, and its inhumanity to our animals. What do you get for that incremental food outlay - a new and better world of cooking, eating and family bonding at the kitchen table as you
enrich both body and soul. Too expensive? Compared to what?

JVF