Distribution Problem Hinders Local Beef in CA

The rise in consumer interest in local, sustainably raised meat has meant a world of difference for local ranchers and the restaurants and retailers that source from such operations. Many restaurants in the Bay Area, for example, proudly promote the farms and ranches they work with, and entire butcher shops have sprung up dedicated to the task of selling locally raised beef, pork, chicken, and more. Yet this is only half the story. Getting locally raised meats from the farm or ranch to the butcher shop or restaurant is a complicated logistical undertaking. Read more

Lessons from the Front Line: Building a Local Grain Economy

A couple of weeks ago, a farmer, a baker and a community grains maker gathered at Oliveto in Oakland, CA to give the Kitchen Table Talks audience the low down on local grains.  Doug Mosel of The Mendocino Grain Project, Craig Pondsford of Pondsford’s Place Bakery & Innovation Center and Bob Klein of Community Grains taught us about the industrial grain economy, the local alternatives and the current barriers to expansion.  Read more

This Little Piggy Went to Market: Paul Willis and the Niman Ranch Pork Program

The name Paul Willis is pretty much synonymous with sustainable pork production. In the mid-1990s, Willis teamed up with Bill Niman to develop the Niman Ranch Pork Program and bring flavorful, antibiotic-free pork to market. If you aren’t familiar with it, the program is actually quite different from the way most hogs are raised and sold in this country in that it sources from family farms, raising hogs on pasture or in deep-bedded systems.  I was fortunate enough to meet up with Paul for a pleasant conversation at the lovely 18 Reasons space in San Francisco’s Mission District to learn more about his farm, the Niman Ranch Pork Program and his recent trip to Capitol Hill. Read more

The Climate Benefits of Sustainable Ranching

I recently attended a ranch field day at TomKat Ranch in Pescadero, California, hosted by the California Climate and Agriculture Network.  The focus was on the climate benefits of sustainable ranching-an overview of how properly managed rangelands (grasslands where animals graze) can sequester carbon dioxide (CO2) in soils and help reduce greenhouse gas emission.  This is no easy task, and one that is the subject of much debate. Read more

Let Them Eat Grass

I was having a conversation with a friend the other night, debating the merits of grassfed beef. We talked over the specifics of feeding and finishing (whether the animal eats grain or grass for the last few months of its life), and the superior quality and flavor of meat produced from a grassfed a diet. But this wasn’t the first time I had discussed this information.

Grassfed beef is a “new” product in the marketplace and as with any new product, there is a great degree of variability. While the notion of bovines eating grass is as old as, well, bovines themselves, grassfed and grass-finished meat products are signposts of an emerging sustainable market. Read more

Have You Hugged Your Butcher Today?

In my last post I wrote about the importance of slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants within the local meat supply chain. While these facilities are a crucial factor if there is to be a systemic movement from large-scale industrial meat processing to a more localized practice, they don’t quite get steaks on plates. There is one more stop in our local meat story: the meat counter. Read more

Considering The T-Bone: How Does Local Meat End Up On Local Plates?

As supporters of sustainable food production, many of us know that finding an alternative to the industrial meat supply chain is difficult but by no means impossible.  For the typical sustainable meat buyer, when one thinks of local meat, he most likely pictures a ranch, and then a steak or pork chop.  Unless he is willing to do the work of slaughtering and processing the animal himself, his access to a local abattoir is as difficult to find as local beer without the brewery. This is the marketplace reality that many small-scale ranchers face today.

As the daughter of a former butcher, I recently asked myself how we got ourselves to large-scale meat processing and what our alternatives are. Read more