Put Your Money Where Your Pork Is

What do you do when your brand message teeters fictional? Put Your Money Where Your Pork Is – which is exactly what Chipotle did last month when they discovered one of their pork suppliers failed to meet their highly branded loyalty to animal welfare.

Walk the TalkChipotle

It’s easy to say you “serve only the best”, but how willing are you actually to walk the talk? Chipotle devotes pages of their website to FWI – Food With Integrity. (BOLD, to say the least!) Their written devotion to FWI is so in depth, in fact, one could characterize their marketing mantra as bordering on the obsessive.

When you repeatedly advertise a commitment to finding the very best ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment, and farmers, you better be willing to back it up. Chipotle could have easily dealt with the supply chain fail on the QT but opted instead to address it publically – a definite walk the talk move on their part.

When a national chain opts for transparency over liquidity, it’s big (and refreshing) news. Chipotle pulled their pork carnitas from hundreds of their restaurants and posted a sign reading: Sorry, no carnitas. Due to supply constraints, we are currently unable to serve our responsibly raised pork. Trust us, we’re just as disappointed as you, and as soon as we get it back we’ll let the world know. Customer no carnitasloyalty and positive press prevailed pursuant.

Chain Reaction

Another point in Chipotle’s favor was the fact they refused to name the supplier who failed to meet their standards. In lieu of finger pointing, they chose to help bring the supplier’s “operations into compliance.” It was a class move by corporate standards, but not one void of potential other subsequent fallouts.

Whenever your customer takes a public eye hit, a trickle down chain reaction can occur. Such was the case for Niman Ranch, one of the most respected brands in the business and also Chipotle’s largest pork supplier. Was Niman negligent? Certainly not, but those, not in the know would certainly wonder.

Niman prudently followed Chipolte’s lead and spoke publically about it. What ensued was a highly publicized trail of what Niman was doing to help Chipotle get back up to speed in a real time demonstration of what a solid working relationship between merchant and supplier should look like.

NimanThe crux of this public relations issue is deeply attached to what makes meat natural – how animals are raised with respect to their environments if they’re free of growth hormones, antibiotics, etc. When you are committed to honoring sustainable practices, expediency is a non-issue – it takes more time to produce things naturally.

Unlike cows that bear one calf at a time over a 9 + month gestation period, it only takes 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days for a litter of pigs to be born. 114 days may not seem like a long time, but add to that the amount of time it takes to reach harvest maturity, and it becomes vividly clear how a supply chain gap can quickly sever fluid output.

Moral of the Story

Chipotle’s challenge was twofold: 1) tarnish brand perception by operating outside of message and 2) risk the loss of an ingratiated mass appeal. Offending Millennials, now the biggest consumer population in the U.S., who rank honesty as a top priority, and Chipotle almost just as high, wasn’t worth the risk. Anything but a celeritous and straightforward move could prove fatal for years to come.

The moral of this story is transparency trumps short term gain.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Why is it so hard to cut a thick steak these days?

With the bumper corn crop this year and record high cattle prices, feedlot operators are bulking up cattle to make more money. Great for them – not so much for restaurants.

buedel website steakWhile menu trends have “beefed up” in recent years, ‘bulking up’ makes it tough for restaurants that want nice thick steaks on plates while adhering to portion control sizes.

It’s important to know that restaurants don’t always have unilateral control over how thick steaks can be when cutting to a specific portion weight. This leaves many chefs wondering, Why can’t I get thicker cuts of my favorite rib eyes or strips in the portion sizes I want?

The Dilemma

Heavier cattle, also means larger muscles. Rib Eyes, for example, are commonly running over 16 pounds in size when in years past the average was 12 to 13 pounds. At the same time restaurants like to plate nice thick steaks, usually 1.5″ or thicker while keeping to the portion control weight that best controls their food costs.

The increased average size of cattle makes it harder and harder for restaurants to get the portion size they want in conjunction with the thickness they want. The dilemma leaves many to choose between serving thicker steaks that are higher in portion weight, or properly portion weighted steaks that end up very thin and wide making for a less than desirable plate presentation.

Why Size Matters

Let’s say your goal is to serve a 1.5” thick 14 oz portion cut steak. The size of the loin that you start with will largely determine if both your goals can be met.

14oz CutLineImagine you have two whole rib eye loins. One loin is smaller; one loin is larger. As you can see from the picture above, your cut line will be in a different place depending on the size of the loin to achieve a 14 oz portion. Consequently, the larger loin will yield a much thinner 14 oz steak, and the smaller loin will yield a much thicker 14 oz steak.

Price Buyers Beware

The obvious solution would be then to purchase smaller size loins, right? Technically yes, but smaller size loins, or “downs” as we call them in the meat industry, are getting harder to come by and thus, usually carry a higher price.

Price shoppers who buy the lowest cost boxed beef to cut their own steaks will likely be getting random sized loins. Lowest priced commodity boxed beef often comes with higher loin weights from the larger loins of heavier cattle as opposed to lighter loins harvested in years past.

The problem steakhouses then have in offering smaller (lower ounce) sized steaks like Rib Eyes and NY Strips, is that smaller sizes would look like pancakes on the plate because the muscles are so large. People are accustomed to large, thick and juicy steaks –thin cuts are just less impressive on the plate. Steakhouses would be embarrassed to serve steaks in this fashion.

Alternative Solutions

Hand Selecting

If you’re cutting your own steaks and want thicker steaks without giving away portion control, request that your meat supplier hand select lighter loins or pick lighter master case weights to fill your boxed beef orders.

RibEyeWhile hand selecting is sometimes impossible with large broad line distributors, specialized meat purveyors like Buedel Fine Meats can usually accommodate such requests. This helps you deal with the problem before your meat comes in the door.

You can also achieve a nice balance between price, steak thickness and lighter portion weights by being a bit creative with your trim specification and merchandising on your menu. Try using the Boston Cut.

Boston Cuts

You can take a large loin size, say 15+ lbs, and cut it in half lengthwise making two 7.5 lb pieces. From each half then you can cut a thick small portion weight steak.

Boston CutWe call them “Boston Cuts” and they make a beautiful plate presentation for smaller ounce steaks. Boston Cut steaks are becoming more popular for a la carte menus and banquets.

These cuts are trending now for several reasons. Diet conscious people who prefer eating in moderation can still enjoy a smaller portion size with the luxury of a hearty looking delicious steak. Chefs can enjoy consistent sizes and cooking times while having a more attractive way to serve smaller portion sized steaks.

Boston Cuts of Rib Eye and Sirloin Strip are also great alternatives to higher priced tenderloin filets for banquet menus and split plates.

ABF Natural Beef

Another way to battle record high beef prices is to retreat from commodity cattle weights – specifically those getting heavier due to the increased use of added growth hormones, antibiotics and beta-agonists in the feed. Consider purchasing beef that was raised without added growth hormones or antibiotics.

True All Natural Beef such as, Niman Ranch and Creekstone Farms Premium Angus, which come from cattle raised without added growth hormones or administered antibiotics and tend to be smaller in size.

Don’t be fooled by the USDA’s generic definition of “natural” [a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed] either. Pretty much all conventional beef fit this description today. Rather, look for brands that publish their handling protocols which specifically state never-ever policies.

The nation’s low cattle supply will portend the current state of all time high beef prices a few more years before things return to normal. Or, perhaps what is happening today may indeed be the new normal. The good news is, you do have options to get the thicker steaks you want.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Outpost Road Trip

Buedel’s Corporate Chef, Rlogouss Kramer, Master Butcher, Peter Heflin, and Logistics Manager, Michael Tibbs, took a road trip to Outpost Natural Foods recently to help celebrate Outpost’s fourth store opening in Mequon, Wisconsin.

Outpost is the fourth largest natural foods co-op (by sales) in the U.S. They are known for providing a unique, fun and educational shopping experience of fresh, local and natural foods, including hard to find items. They are a IMG_20140621_104539444_HDR“locally-owned cooperative” committed to sustainable living, fair trade, local growers and community. Outpost stores are “year-round farmers markets.”

When you send a bunch of meat guys out to celebrate something (anything, for that matter) you have to know there’ll be loads of high quality meat on hand. Russ, Peter and Michael spent the day “slow-smoking” Niman Ranch St. Louis Ribs. (Russ used his competition BBQ team’s glaze and sauce. They won a Grand Champion title at the Glen Ellyn Backyard BBQ photo 3last year – and don’t even think about asking him for the recipes.) The Buedel team prepared “split” ribs (cut in half for appetizer sized servings) for the event.

The Huen Family, one of Niman Ranch’s family farms from Fulton, Illinois, was also on hand to talk to customers about the way they raise their hogs for Niman Ranch, and answer questions. (Buedel supplies Outpost with Niman Ranch products and organic poultry.) Peter says the Outpost people are just great to work with and are totally dedicated to keeping to their core vision. “The Outpost staff is behind the whole movement and their customer base is very supportive, giving a lot of feedback to all the departments about sustainability and humane practices.”

St. Louis Style Ribs were first pophoto 1pularized in the 1930′s by butchers in the St. Louis area. They are actually Spare Ribs with the rib tips cut off to dispose of cartilage and gristle with very little meat. St. Louis Ribs didn’t become an “official USDA standard” until the 1980’s. Both Spare and St. Louis Style Ribs are most commonly grilled and smoked in the southern regions of the U.S. For more info about ribs, check our Meat Up post on Ribs 101 for Summer Grilling. If you’d like to try some St. Louis Ribs in your own backyard, here’s a recipe from Russ:

St. Louis Spare Ribs at Home

Spread a light coating of yellow mustard and liberally sprinkle your favorite BBQ Spice/Rub on both sides of the ribs.

Bake ribs on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes until lightly brown. Transfer ribs to roasting pan with about an inch of water on the bottom, cover tightly and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour until meat is tender between the bones.

Preheat grill to a medium heat. Cook ribs until they are nice and brown on the outside. Brush your favorite BBQ sauce on both sides of ribs when they’re just about ready and let the sauce glaze.

Have a great Fourth of July everyone!

From the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Meat Picks | 6.26.14

Ed’s Fest

ED Debevic FlyerMake a note of this date: Saturday, July 26th. You’re all invited to a party at Ed Debevic’s from 11-5, for a luau-themed food and fun fest for the whole family. What makes this (fifth) annual event extra special this year, is Ed’s 30th Anniversary! Hard to believe it’s already been three decades since Debevic’s has been open.

For those of us around (way back in 1984), Ed Debevic’s was an immediate hit. Their shakes, burgers, retro diner setting and wildly entertaining wait staff exploded onto the casual dining scene. People just loved it – and they still do today. What’s not to love about a “cheap and deep” menu?

Don’t miss Ed’s 30th Anniversary on July 26th! A portion of the party proceeds goes to local charities too!

Best Burger in the Nation

1-kuma-flickr_RLeeThe Daily Meal expanded their annual perfect patty list from 40 to a whopping 101 Best Burgers in America earlier this month. The top slot went to Kuma’s Corner in Chicago for their signature Kuma Burger complete with: bacon, sharp cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion and a fried egg. As The Daily Meal put it, “It’s not as though there’s not enough flavor in the burger, but that egg… whoah.”

Gadget Giveaway

TailgaterTailgater Monthly is running a sweepstakes you might be interested in. They’re giving away $5,700 worth of outdoor tools, equipment and accessories you can use for barbeque and parties at home and on the go – everything from a compact portable generator to a floating cooler. Entry to the contest is free via online registration good through tomorrow, 6/27.

Fixin’ for the Fourth

carwfish boilLooking for something different to do on the 4th? How about a Crawfish Boil at Shaw’s? For $30, you can get an all-you-can-eat Louisiana style crawfish boil with potatoes, sausage and corn fixins’ from 12-9 on July 4th.

Find a complete list of July festivals and concerts at Time Out Chicago.

Post of the Week

Do you love this Facebook post from Niman Ranch as much as we do?

Post of the WeekFrom the desk of John Cecala || Website LinkedIn @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Meat Picks | 8.29.13

The Handwich is Here! 

BurkeBaconBar1Chef Rick Gresh first told us about the impending debut of the “Handwich” (a slider sized sandwich you can hold with one hand) in June. It officially arrived last week when Burke’s Bacon Bar opened for business directly adjacent to David Burke’s Primehouse in the James Hotel on Rush Street.

Niman Ranch pepper bacon, chicken liver bacon, Chinese bacon, bacon crumbs, bacon “kraut” and more, are staples to the new Handwich menu. There is a vegetarian version, to which bacon can be added, and as promised, Spam is on the menu because Spam is bacon, according to Chef Gresh.

Burke’s Bacon Bar, complete with a street side walk-up window, is open Sunday-Friday from 11-2 am and Saturdays till 3 am.

Buzz-worthy Bun-dling 

SonicBunWe recently came upon our first sighting of branded buns at Fatpour Tap Works in Wicker Park. This week we heard that Sonic is jumping on the bun branding bandwagon in an effort to boost sagging sales with local flair via college logos.

USA Today reports, localized burger chains have used this buzz spurning concept before, but this is the first time a major chain has done so. Made with tapioca starch and food colorings, the logos are steamed onto the buns just before serving. Colleges also make out on the deal through licensing and royalty fees.

Labor Day Quiz 

Trivia is always fun at friend and family get together s – especially when you know the answers. Here are three bites of knowledge you can use this weekend in honor of Labor Day (answers below):

1)    What day of the week was the first Labor Day celebrated?

2)    What is ironic about the two men that were credited with starting the holiday?

3)    What is another name for Labor Day?

LadieTailorStrike#1: The very first Labor Day was organized by the Central Labor Union and celebrated on Tuesday, September 5th in New York City in 1882. #2: Their last names were almost identical; Peter McGuire and Matthew Macguire. #3: The “Workingmen’s Holiday”.

Read more about Labor Day at the Department of Labor’s web pages.

From the desk of  John Cecala   @BuedelFineMeats   Fan Page   Slideshare

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Rev Gen for Restaurants: Uptake the Upsell

shoppingcartIt seems as if we’re being upsold everywhere we turn today. Even supermarket checkers are doing it; Would you like to add the Gatorade 2 pack on special to your order today?

Restaurants are usually pretty good at upselling appetizers, drinks, desserts, etc. They are tableside masters, but not nearly in tune enough with the potential uptake.

Upsell is a verb, it means: actively trying to persuade a customer to buy more. Whether an item is a more expensive product or service, or, an add-on purchase related to an existing transaction, upsell means more.

Define & Conquer

Restaurants embrace gift certificates, reservations, orders, pick-up and delivery options extremely well online – locally – but few consider marketing their brand above and beyond that. Why not spread your customers’ love across the country?

The uptake is creating new revenue streams with e-commerce.

loumalnatidressingOne restaurant company that does a stellar job at this is Lou Malnati’s. You can ship a Chicago Style Lou’s to any destination across the country. On top of pizza, customers can also buy pizza pans, cookie pizzas and bottles of Malnati’s famous sweet vinaigrette dressing. I’m sure whoever came up with the idea to do all of that wasn’t taken seriously – at first.

Buedel works with companies such as, Williams Sonoma, Saks Fifth Avenue and Niman Ranch, to name a few, fulfilling their customers’ online orders for home delivery of fine meats. (No one expects you to execute all this stuff by yourself.) Your biggest challenge will be deciding how/if you can take any of your best sellers to this next level. Are there any new products you could create from that? Do you want to add gift and novelty items to the mix with your logo on them? The possibilities are endless.

Buedel Fulfillment Services BrochureWe just posted this fact sheet to our slide share account: Add more profits and build customer loyalty with fulfillment services. The title is a little long in the tooth, but the message is spot on. You can seriously expand your brand beyond city limits, grow customer loyalty, cross promote more than one location and develop new income streams with an uptake on e-commerce merchandising.

P.S.

Companies who provide fulfillment services are skilled at what they do. They’re used to fabricating, customizing, assembling, packaging, shipping, and managing online merchandise to best fit their customers’ needs. And, we can do it cost effectively too!

From the desk of John Cecala  Twitter @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook BuedelFanPage 

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Meat Picks | 4.5.13

Restaurant Social

There was an insightful article earlier this week posted on Sysomos about a Toronto area restaurant that works their digital marketing without an anchor website. Using Tumbler as their primary information resource, the FARMHOUSE Tavern, works the free social/blog platform as a base for their PR and promotional efforts across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

FARMHOUSE says they like these platforms not only because they are all free to use, but also because they feel the value of letting “people directly engage – be it through follows, tweets, likes and shares”, have allowed them to build a successful word of mouth network they couldn’t have achieved without them.

The Yoke’s on You

NRN recently reported the Egg White Delight McMuffin will make its national debut on April 22nd. This version of the iconic fast food breakfast will be made with a whole-grain English muffin, egg whites, Canadian bacon and a slice of white Cheddar for 260 calories. (A regular McMuffin has 300.) Egg white alternatives are also going to be made available for all of McD’s breakfast sandwiches.

Hands On Learning

My business partner Darren Benson and I recently attended a two day short course on Sustainable Agriculture at Colorado State University sponsored by Niman Ranch. We literally found ourselves back in school for an intense dose of actual curriculum taught by leading professors and scientists in the field.

One of many lessons learned: the best sustainable development practices plan ahead for seven future generations. Read on at: Sustainable Agriculture: The Short Course.

Bayless Beer

If you missed the recent news about Rick Bayless’ new deal with Crown Imports, check the full read here. Chicago’s own is set to partner with “the nation’s largest” beer importer (i.e. Corona, Modelo) to develop a new craft beer. Congratulations, Chef B.!

Taste On Its Way Out?

Last month Chicago Magazine published a piece entitled, 5 Reasons We Wouldn’t Be Sad To See Taste of Chicago End. Adding to the fact that the City lost over a million on the festival last year, editors added why they think the Taste just ain’t what it use to be sighting lack of food quality and diversity, among other things. Do you agree?

This year’s fest is scheduled for July 10-14.

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

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Sustainable Agriculture: The Short Course

I recently had the opportunity to escape the daily responsibilities of adult life and go back to college for a couple of days. My business partner Darren Benson and I attended a two day short course on Sustainable Agriculture at Colorado State University sponsored by Niman Ranch.

Sustainability is a buzzword in everything from company mission statements to t-shirts these days. When we first learned about the opportunity, we thought the trip would be a fun escape from our daily grind where we could learn more about a social topic that seems to be of growing importance in the meat business.

We expected the typical business event: show up, listen to presentations, gain a few pearls of wisdom, network over dinner and have some fun. Quite the opposite was true. For industry leader Niman Ranch, educating others on topic and how it directly relates to our businesses meant presenting an intensive two day Masters level program covering sustainability from the eco-system to animal production systems. We unequivocally felt like we were back in school!

Staffing UpColorado State

Topics were approached from an academic perspective, in collaboration with Kraig Peel, PhD., Professor Animal Sciences Department at CSU and director for the Western Center for Integrated Resource Management. Dr. Peel engaged experts from the CSU staff to develop the curriculum which included a combination of classroom lectures and hands-on lab experiences. Dr. Robert G. Woodmansee, Professor at the Department of Rangeland Ecosystem Science, Senior Scientist – Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Dr. Joe Brummer, a soil and crop sciences specialist and  Dr. Jay Parsons, an agricultural production economist and risk management specialist were all part of the teaching team.

We were also given homework in preparation for the event. Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World by Brian Walker and David Salt and numerous other pre-course white papers were assigned for reading.

Day One

The first day we learned about the scientific basis of sustainability which in essence revolves around interacting ecosystems made up of people and communities; land and water and plants and animals.

A group of parts that operate together for a common purpose or function is an ecosystem.  For example, a football team has many players each with a specific role that all must work together to win the game.

In agriculture, a farm is an ecosystem that provides a living to the farmer and her family.  In order for the farm to persist, the farmer must preserve the capability of the land he/she depends on to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  Ecosystems are all around us, from microbiology to the Earth itself.

We learned that many of the problems we have today with greenhouse gasses, global warming, extreme flooding and vaster wildfires are largely due to a lack of sustainable resilience thinking in historical ecosystems. We also learned these types of problems are all solvable. Desired sustainable ecosystems can be created through coordinated efforts between science, management and policies. In other words, getting people with diverse self-interests to talk to each other is key.

Governmental policies are often made to solve an immediate problem for society by politicians solely interested in re-election by that society. When these policies are made without regard for the larger societal landscape, undesired future problems can occur.

An example of this can be made on the water management policies in the Florida Everglades. While their policies were put in place with good intentions to solve one problem, they unexpectedly created a new problem of cattails taking over the natural flora, which ultimately harmed the wildlife and food chain several years later. Other examples include the Farm Bill and government subsidies designed to help one group of society yet negatively impacting other parts.

It will be interesting to see how the governmental polices related to Fracking will play out with regard to our needs for oil versus food. Hopefully, there will be earnest coordination between the political, governmental and social communities to develop sustainable and resilient policies with regard to fracking.

The best sustainable development practices plan ahead for seven future generations.

Day Two

The second day we went to the CSU Agricultural Research, Development and Education Center (ARDEC) to study animal production systems in the U.S. and how Risk Management strategies in agriculture are employed.

The facility provides a wealth of opportunity to conduct investigations on agricultural problems using a coordinated and integrated approach of multi-disciplinary expertise. Such problems may include the entire system of agriculture from inputs (land, water, genetic materials) through production, to value added processing.

CSU's ARDEC

On site at ARDEC

ARDEC provides faculty, staff, students, agricultural producers, processors, agribusiness representatives, natural resource managers, governmental agencies and others with the opportunity to participate in work conducted on-site with live systems. We toured live animal operations and learned about the ways family ranchers can employ the sustainable thinking concepts on their own family farms.

Our program concluded with the Risk Navigator simulator – it was like a flight simulator for farming. We broke up into groups, and each group had to run a simulated farm for five years. We made simulated production decisions and then saw the impacts of our decisions extremely quickly on the ecosystem, animals and ultimately, the bottom line.  We had to raise cattle, grow hay, corn and other crops, practice crop rotation to preserve the soil, and cow/calf operations to preserve the herd. The simulator also threw us unexpected curve balls like drought, too much rain and disease throughout our simulation period.

It was just like being in a flight simulator. Some of us crashed and burned our farms, making fast money in the beginning but ultimately losing money or going bust in the long run by consuming the natural resources to fast. Others did exceptionally well by taking advantage of sustainable concepts and risk management strategies.

I’m proud to say that my group’s simulated farm survived and made a small profit, but I think it was mostly by accident. I personally gained a new appreciation for farmers’ life work, and just how hard they have to work make a living and preserve the farm for future generations.

Final Exam

Going back to college made me realize several things. First, how much I miss it! (How great would it be to have the priorities of a twenty year old again – just going to class and parties?) I also realized how much we take our natural resources for granted in today’s world of immediate gratification, quarterly earnings and politics.

I wish everyone could have the opportunity to fully understand the scope of sustainability and see it for more than just a buzzword.

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

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Trend | Why Local is Hot

Local, Natural, Pasture Raised and Humane are some of the hottest buzz words used these days by the media, chefs, purveyors and consumers. Few discussions about healthy eating, the environment and social responsibility take place without them.

The team at Buedel Fine Meats & Provisions spends a lot of time discussing these trends with customers – local, natural, pasture raised and humane – they are all mutually exclusive topics which overlap. In a recent post, we wrote about What Makes Meat “Natural”?, but what does ‘Local’ mean when it comes to all foods?

Locality vs. Reality

Speaking in a geographical sense, there is no standard definition of local. Some define local as a food source within 250 miles of your proximity. Others say a local food source is within a day’s drive away, and yet other schools of thought say it depends on the types of food and that local can also be “regional” – like blueberries from Michigan to Chicago. This can get confusing, to say the least.

The whole notion of “local”, when it comes to food, in reality is more about healthy eating, supporting family farmers, sustainable agriculture, humane animal treatment, care for the environment, and fresher food, than it is about the exact distance from a food source to your door.

Historical Look

Part of the post World War II economic boom in our country was within agriculture. There was money to be made by feeding the masses with livestock and seed farmed commodities both domestically and overseas.

Large companies such as Cargill were out to feed the world and industrial farming grew at the expense of the independent family farmer. By the 1960’s the rural economy began struggling and many independents were losing their farms.

“The American farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything he buys at retail, sells everything he sells at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.” – John F. Kennedy

The use of newly developed chemical pesticides, growth hormones and genetic modification science proliferated to increase yields and speed time to market and profit grew over time. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) were developed to bring more livestock to market faster in order to, quite literally, feed the demands for food and financial profits for commodities traders and industrial farming companies.

The by-products of these industrialized farming methods were water and air pollution. Inorganic fertilizers deteriorate soil, toxic ground water runoff affects rivers and lakes, increases in green-house gasses affect air quality and ozone.

Many of these issues are regulated much better today than they had been in the past, but still exist.

How Local Re-Evolved

In the mid 1980’s forward thinking food retailers like Whole Foods and Wild Oats Market began to emerge touting natural foods which were “better for you” and the environment.

Farmer’s Markets in urban areas soon began to grow in popularity where small farmers brought their harvest into urban communities for direct purchase by the consumer. Their food was produced naturally; it was fresher, better tasting, and healthier for consumers. The urban platform also provided an income for small farmers.

Today’s Local

Better food retailers have steadily increased consumer awareness of the benefits of natural foods and demand for them across the board.  Many consumers today are willing to pay higher prices for these foods because of the health and socioeconomic benefits attached to them.

According to the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot in 2012 Survey, the top two hottest restaurant trends are: 1) Locally sourced meats and seafood. 2) Locally grown produce.

Why?

More of today’s consumers want to know where their food comes from and how healthy it is. Chefs and Restaurateurs want to meet the increasing demand for fresher and natural foods while supporting their local communities.

The locally sourced movement creates a symbiotic relationship between farmers, businesses and consumers, while helping the local economy and environment with transparency into the way the food was produced.

Local farmers that raise their crops without harmful toxins and practice livestock-pasture/seed-crop rotation each year are sustaining the environment. They have a market for their harvest with local buyers such as retailers, chef and restaurateurs.

Local retailers, chefs and restaurateurs get transparency from the local farmers into how these foods have been farmed. They purchase them for their freshness and healthfulness for the betterment of their local business thus helping the local Farmer and offering more to their customers.

Local consumers seeking the benefits of healthier, environmentally friendly food patronize these local retailers and restaurants helping the local businesses. It is through this continuing cycle of economics and demand where everyone benefits.

This is Local when it comes to food: Healthy Eating, Supporting Family Farmers, Sustainable Agriculture, Care for the Environment, Fresher food.

Local is Near and Far

Depending on where you live it may not be possible or desirable to have locally farmed foods. You may not find or desire locally farmed blueberries in Nebraska as much as you would in Michigan, nor seek or want locally farmed beef in Michigan as much as you would in Nebraska. However, in both cases you can support Family Farms and the ecosystem of local farming even though they may not be physically “local” to your own proximity.

For example, Niman Ranch, a cooperative of over 750 family farmers across the country, requires their family farmers to raise livestock without hormones or antibiotics using humane and sustainable farming practices. In return, Niman Ranch guarantees to purchase 100% of their herds allowing these small family farmers to maintain a living and preserve their farms for future generations.

Educated buyers understand the importance of local based alliances such as Niman. They get that while you may not be able to buy local lobster in Illinois, you can choose to purchase seafood from a purveyor who works with family fisheries.

By supporting “local” food producers we can enhance the social, economic and environmental interrelationships of a community. And that’s stellar.

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

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Meat Picks | 9.27.12

Ambience Award

Mon Ami Gabi, Shaw’s Crab House LEYE restaurants, Macy’s Walnut Room and The Pump Room are just some of the restaurants that made the Chicago Eater list of “Chicago’s Most Iconic Dining Rooms” this week. Shots of all the (gorgeous) dining rooms here.

Pork Report

Early this week the Trib posted an article about a pork and bacon shortage which seems to be happening  in Europe. Fortunately, reports for the U.S. pork market were just the opposite.

Pork production soared in August as more animals were brought to market totaling 2 billion pounds, up 6 percent from the previous year. Hog slaughter totaled 9.94 million head, up 4 percent from August 2011. The average live weight was up 3 pounds from the previous year, at 269 pounds.

There is no doubt however, the impact of our drought will be felt by the commodity pork industry which will face higher costs for feed that will be passed on to the consumer at some point.

Responsible producers like Niman Ranch, who practice sustainable farming, tend to ride their own market albeit at prices typically higher than the commodity pork market.  We may in fact see supply and prices from these types of “boutique” producers remain steady.

New Merlot in Town

A third Chicago area Eddie Merlot’s (the first in Burr Ridge and second in Warrenville) is tentatively set to open next week in Lincolnshire.  For those unfamiliar with this restaurant group, they aim for the “WOW factor” – delivering one-of-a-kind service.

Last July Eddie Merlot’s took a booth at the Taste of Lincolnshire and received close to 1,000 new email subscribers as a result, according to the local press. How many restaurants enjoy that kind of pre-opening interest months in advance?

The Lincolnshire location is set to open at 4 p.m. daily in the lounge; dining room hours begin at 5. Special holiday season lunch hours are currently being planned. For more info, check out Merlot’s blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts.

P.S.

Both routes (Knife and Fork) of the Wicker Park Bucktown Dinner Crawl are sold out! There is a waiting list you can try your luck with by emailing your name, phone number and route choice to: Info@WickerParkBucktown.com

 

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From the desk of John Cecala   Twitter @BuedelFineMeats   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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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