Dollars & Cents vs. Dollars & Sense

Let’s compare and contrast two stories in the recent news about pork production.  One is a story of dollars and cents, and one is a story of dollars and sense.

Dollars & Cents

3D chrome Dollar symbolLast September, Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer sold itself to the Chinese for $4.7B. Smithfield raises about 15M pigs per year producing over 6B pounds of pork sold under popular brand names including Farmland, Armour, Cook’s Ham, Krakus Ham, Patrick Cudahy and John Morrell. When the sale to Chinese went through, Smithfield’s CEO stated: “This is a great transaction for all Smithfield stakeholders, as well as for American farmers and U.S. agriculture. The partnership is all about growth, and about doing more business at home and abroad. It will remain business as usual — only better — at Smithfield.”

‘Business as usual’ is a telling comment. Smithfield is notorious for factory farming; incorporating the use of inhumane gestation crates, confined animal feeding operations and environmental pollution.

To quell some of the220px-Gestation_crates_3 negative press, Smithfield is “recommending that its contract growers phase out the practice of keeping female hogs in small metal crates while pregnant.” This is quite the bold move for a factory farmer where disease, pollution and animal confinement are standard practice.

On 1/21/14 more news broke: Problems Persist After Smithfield Sells Out to Shuanghui; Future Remains Uncertain.  The Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation and Waterkeeper Alliance issued a Notice of Intent to sue the current and former owners and operators of a Smithfield owned feeding operation, located in North Carolina, to stop pollution caused by illegal waste disposal.

Dollars & Sense

Ironically, one day earlier, the NY Times posted this story: Demand Grows for Hogs That Are Raised Humanely Outdoors.

Consumer awareness and c7960787444_a1b4b8476d_ooncern about the use of antibiotics, humane animal treatment and the environment is growing. More chefs and restaurateurs are featuring pasture raised, all natural pork on their menus. The popularity of “farm-to-fork” and “nose-to-tail dishes” is growing.

Opposite to the Smithfield mass production model, pigs raised by family farmers who use sustainable production methods which preserve the land and its resources for future generations, is fast becoming en vogue. The pigs are happy, the farmers are happy, and consumers are happy eating a better product.

pigsinsnow-300x224Pigs raised outdoors using traditional farming and animal husbandry methods cost more because it costs more to raise them this way.  However, the Times article also points out that as much as consumers say they want their meat to come from humanely raised animals, they still resist paying higher prices for pasture-raised pork.

This resistance is what continues to drive companies like Smithfield to keep producing cheap pork, and the consequences that go along with it.

Finding Middle Ground

The situation becomes one of trade-offs. Which is worse: Paying less for cheap pork thereby supporting the issues associated with pervasive factory farming, or paying more for pork thereby supporting the issues associated with humane, natural and sustainable farming? In my opinion, one will never fully replace the other, but both can improve.

As a consumer, I prefeMenusr to spend a little more to eat healthier and better tasting naturally raised pork. I also feel good that a by-product of my preference, is supporting the family farmer.

On the other side of the fence, I see the daily dilemma Buedel Fine Meats customers face between their desire to avoid offering commodity pork and trying to manage their food costs. Many chefs and restaurateurs are simply unable to absorb the higher cost of all natural pasture raised pork and maintain their desired profits.  They too are voting with their dollars.

Perhaps there is a middle ground.

A movement to change the status quo can be ignited by slowly adding pasture raised pork items to meals and menus. Start with one or two items, promote them and educate the consumer on the value. My guess is that a few will stick, and then maybe a few more.

If we all do this, we can begin to deliver a subtle message to the Smithfield’s of the world in a language they understand – money.  Soon they’ll listen because they have to return profits to their shareholders.  When the factory farmers see more dollars being spent for pasture raised pork, they’ll want to capture some of the growing segment – then someday perhaps, most of it, and we’ll all be better off.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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Meat Picks | 9.21.12

Fall Reflections

Have you ever wondered why most Oktoberfest events are always in September? There are numerous schools of thought on the matter ranging from the need for better weather to having to drink beer before it spoils. All accounts agree, the first “official” fest was held on October 12, 1810, marking the royal marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese in Munich, Germany.

If you want to try and still make it to an Oktoberfest this year, there are suburban events running this weekend and in the City next weekend at St. Alfonsos Church in Lakeview.

Fall, which officially starts tomorrow if you haven’t heard, also marks the unofficial start of comfort food season.

Several winners from the annual Time Out Chicago Eat Out Awards announced last April, also stand to become fall favorites this season: Coziest Place to Hibernate, Miko’s Flipside Café, Best New Burger Joint, Butcher and the Burger, and Most Legitimate Farm-to-Table Restaurant, Pleasant House Bakery. (PHB was also ranked Cheap Eatery of the Year by readers.) See the full list of this year’s winners here.

Last Chance to get in on Farm to Fork tomorrow!

McDonald Farm’s inaugural Farm to Fork dinner will take place Naperville tomorrow. Guests will get to tour the farm before dinner and have the opportunity to sample veggies straight from the fields, learn about sustainable agriculture and organic farming and actively engage in conservation conversation.

Don’t miss out on this harvest fresh six course meal planned by Farm to Fork’s Executive Chef Valerie Bulon, of Top Chef fame. Early reservations are still available! Buy tickets off the link on the top right corner of the Farm to Fork home page.


The 7th annual Chicago Culinary Museum fundraising dinner and Chef Hall of Fame awards held at the Hilton last Wednesday night was a huge success.

Culinary schools from the French Pastry School, Kendall College, Le Cordon Blue, College of DuPage, Elgin Community College, Joliet Junior College and the Washburne Culinary Institute, provided a progressive meal for the event – their presentations were excellent. Chef Graham Elliot and Pastry Chef, Jacquy Pfeiffer, were inducted to the Chef Hall of Fame and funds were raised for the building of the future Chicago Culinary Arts Museum. A great time for a worthy cause was had by all.  Photo album from the event is posted on our Facebook page.

The mission of the Chicago Culinary Museum and Chefs Hall of Fame is to promote and celebrate Chicago as a Culinary Mecca. The organization will take a leadership role with the entire industry to create a culinary environment that fosters education, awareness, and growth.


From the desk of  John Cecala  Twitter @Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

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Farm to Fork | One Part Food, Two Parts Community

Farm to Fork, (aka Farm to Table) is one of the hottest trends around. What makes this food movement so trés chic is its passionate attachment to community.

Rutgers defines Farm to Fork as a “community food system” in which:  food production, processing, distribution and consumption are integrated to enhance the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of a particular place.

One of the success leaders in Farm to Fork integration is the Niman Ranch. A network of over 700 independent farmers and ranchers, Niman members adhere to strict guidelines and quality standards set forth by their organized leadership and followed within each of their own communities.

The Niman Experience

Earlier this month, the Niman “Annual Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner” was hosted by Paul Willis. Willis, who started the hog farming network in 1995 with Bill Niman, holds the annual event at his Iowa farm (Niman Ranch #1) to pay homage to hog farmers, promote industry awareness and raise money for agricultural education.

To date, more than $140,000 in scholarships has been awarded by the Niman “Next Generation Scholarship Fund” to rural students wishing to study sustainable and environmental practices.

Niman started the education fund in 2006 with the help of industry partners and supporters. Chipolte Mexican Grill, Whole Foods and Buedel Fine Meats, among other food vendors and purveyors, contributed to this year’s scholarship distributions.

Chefs from around the country also participate every year by donating their time and talents to creating incredible fresh harvest and pork rich meals throughout the weekend festivities.

Commitment Personified

Now in its 14th year, the annual event has become an industry poster child for Farm to Fork learning. Having personally attended the ‘Appreciation Dinner’ last year, I’ve seen firsthand how Niman Ranch farmers embody a Farm to Fork community. Several Buedel team members made the pilgrimage to Iowa this year and came back more than overwhelmed by the experience:

The dedication of the [farm] families was amazing – they all have the same ideology. We have never seen the type of passion these people have for what they do, from generation to generation. They told us, “We know we’re doing the right thing”. When you think about it, people want to do the right thing, and to be honest, factory farmers, just don’t express these types of sentiments simply because even if they wanted to, they can’t.

Farm to Fork is sustainability – ethical treatment of the land, animals and workers, profitability and community development. It is a working partnership of agricultural and food system practices.


From the desk of  John Cecala  Twitter @Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page








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Meat Picks | 9.14.12

Chicago Culinary Museum Fundraiser & Chef Hall of Fame Dinner

Next Wednesday marks the 7th annual Chicago Culinary Museum fundraising dinner and Chef Hall of Fame awards. This year’s event will be held at the Hilton Towers on South Michigan Avenue.

The CCM is a non-profit org in the process of raising funds to build a museum earmarked to house an interactive learning center for children, artifacts and a library dedicated to the hospitality industry. A silent auction is slated to raise funds at this year’s event. Sponsorships are also available and donations, are always welcome. For more info, call Carmella Anello, Museum Board Secretary, at 630-290-7008 or  email:

This year’s inductees to the Hall of Fame are, French Pastry School Dean at City Colleges of Chicago, Pastry Chef, Jacquy Pfeiffer and Chef of the Year honoree, Chef Graham Elliot, renown Chicago Restaurateur and Master Chef co-host on FOX.

Tickets are still available online! Buy at:


Just How Pricey Can Restaurant Steak Really Get?

There was a great article in Time Out Chicago yesterday on how some cuts of steak can cost upwards and beyond $100 per order. While on the surface that may resonate as shocking, an examination of the facts behind this kind of Cadillac pricing proves quite the opposite. Dry aging, cut of meat and cuisine all play a role in pricing. Read more…


Dine & Learn on a Real Farm

The first Farm to Fork dinner will take place at the McDonald Farm in Naperville, on Saturday, September 22nd.

A six course meal is planned by Farm to Fork’s Executive Chef Valerie Bulon, of Top Chef fame, in the following types of categories: amuse bouche, soup, entrée, greens, main and dessert.

The inaugural event also includes a tour of the farm and comingling with local craftsmen. Guests will be able to taste veggies straight from the fields, (from bok choi to rutabagas, there are over 40 herbs and vegetables grown there), learn about sustainable agriculture, gain insight to organic farming and actively engage in conservation conversation.

The 6 p.m. seating is sold out! Earlier reservations are still available through the Farm to Fork website.


From the desk of  John Cecala  Twitter @Buedel Fine Meats  Facebook  Buedel Fan Page

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Farm to Fork | Farm Fresh, Food Beautiful

Farm to Fork is a premier event experience dedicated to celebrating food and embracing education – farm fresh and food beautiful on the McDonald Farm in Naperville, Illinois.

Down on the Farm

The 60 acre property houses wetlands, historic buildings, a prairie plant nursery and 49 tillable acres of currently sustainable farmed USDA certified organic crops. From Bok Choi to rutabagas, there are over 40 different herbs and vegetables grown there by the Green Earth Institute, an organic farming operation.

Run by The Conversation Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to environmental preservation and cultivation, the farm was donated to the Foundation in 1992 by the McDonald family matriarch to insure its preservation. To date, the Foundation’s recently completed water conservation and renewable energy project has become a “showcase of conservation in action”.

Harvest Spotlight

Born from a steady and ongoing public interest in the farm, the “farm-to-fork-dinner” concept was developed to share weekly harvests in a down-to-earth yet elegant setting. The first Farm to Fork dinner  will make its debut on Saturday, September 22nd.

Part of this unique experience will include a tour of the farm and connecting with local craftsmen. Guests will be able to taste veggies straight from the fields, learn about sustainable agriculture, gain insight to organic farming and actively engage in conservation conversation.

The 9/22 dinner menu will be developed by Farm to Fork’s Executive Chef, Valerie Bolon, a former Top Chef contestant and Chicago native. Chef Valerie is acclaimed with an expertise for “blending traditional and contemporary cuisine” and has worked in numerous prestige kitchens such as, Gordon, MK and Emeril’s [Lagasse] in New Orleans.

The value of seasonal and “the freshest of” ingredients will play a big role throughout the Farm to Fork menu. A six course meal is currently expected across the following types of categories: amuse bouche, soup, entrée, greens, main and dessert.

Farm to Fork tickets can be purchased from their website at: The cost is $95 per seat. Alcohol-pairing can be added to your reservation for an additional $35.

Buedel Fine Meats is proud to be part of the team of event partners lending further support in making this event a one of a kind culinary stand out!

From the Desk of John Cecala

      Twitter: @buedelfinemeats Facebook: buedelfinemeats


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