by Sophie Mendelson
My grandfather likes to tell a story about a family gathering during my early childhood. It’s somebody’s birthday, and my extended family is gathered around a long table in the dim mid-afternoon light of a Baltimore tavern. The waitress comes to the table to take our orders. The adults ask for straightforward fare: hamburgers, club sandwiches, caesar salads. Then the waitress turns to four-year-old me and asks what I’d like. “And you, in your piping voice, say: the rack of lamb, please!” He chortles. “That waitress could hardly believe her ears!”
Growing up, I thought people ate beef because they couldn’t find any lamb. Why else, I figured, would someone choose a boring steak over the heat-crisped exterior, rosy interior—tender and juicy and with a flavor actually particular—of a lamb chop?
My parents weren’t from Greece or Lebanon or anywhere else known for its affinity for sheep meat, but somehow they had discovered lamb, and so we ate lamb. We ordered it at restaurants. We served it to guests. It wasn’t a mundane meal for us, still a treat, but not an unusual one.
As it turns out, this is not the typical American relationship with lamb. (more…)
Nichki Carangelo, of the delightful Hudson Valley-based, cooperative Letterbox Farm Collective, has just finished a publication on the commercial production of pasture rabbits. Funded by a SARE grant, “Pasture Rabbit for Profit” is an easily digestible, practical resource for farmers intended to guide readers through the start-up phase of their own pasture-based rabbitry. It includes a full enterprise budget along with housing plans, sample breeding schedules, feed guidelines and other rabbit husbandry basics. And it’s available for free download here!
The following cross-post comes from Field Notes from Maggie’s Farm, the blog from the Learn to Farm Program at the Farm School, and serves as an announcement of an exciting ongoing future partnership between this program and the Greenhorns Blog. Today, Farm School student Sophie Mendelson gives us a compelling run-down of the current quiet bottleneck crisis in sustainable meat– and what to do about it.
Now in its 28th year, the Farm School in Athol, MA provides comprehensive educational programming in agriculture for youth, visiting schools, and adults. (Read more on their programming here!) Watch for more original posts on this blog from Sophie Mendelson, a student in their Learn to Farm Program, talented writer, and past and future farmer.
Know Your Abattoir: How to Keep Sustainable Meat Sustainable
by Sophie Mendelson
If consumers want local meat, they need to go to bat for local slaughterhouses.
At Adams Farm Slaughterhouse in Athol, MA, they play classical music on the kill floor. Cattle carcasses—seemingly as big as dinosaurs—hang by the hock from metal hooks fitted to a track in the ceiling that winds around the perimeter of the cathedral-like room. As the carcasses move along the track, they are divested of their blood, their skins, their internal organs, their heads, their hooves, and ultimately their integrity as a saw divides the animals neatly down their line of symmetry. This is how a “side” of beef is made.
The door to the holding pen opens and there is a great rattling as a cow enters the first segment of the indoor chute. A worker steps forward to urge the animal into the final compartment of the stunning pen, but this is a smaller cow, and instead of proceeding smoothly through the Temple Grandin-designed system, it begins to turn in the chute—an option not available to a larger animal. The worker attempts to redirect by prodding the cow from behind; metal clangs as the animal presses against the bars in resistance. The worker prods again, with little luck.
Noticing the commotion, another worker makes his way over to the chute. Instead of pushing from the rear, this man approaches the cow’s head. He reaches through the bars and strokes the cow’s chin. The animal stills. The man leans forward and appears to whisper something to the cow. Then, gently, he takes the cow by the ear and guides it into the stunning pen.
Farms Not Factories is a small UK-based nonprofit that advocates for ethical farming practices and meat consumption. With 15 days to go, they hope to raise £10,000 “to create and publicise a series of short films featuring celebrity chefs making a delicious pork dish while explaining why serving high welfare meat is so important.” Farmers who provide the pork explain how they raise their happy and healthy pigs. Donate to their campaign here!
Seriously, we really want to know, and so do these film makers. Specifically, they’re focussing on the chicken industry, asking, if chicken is America’s favorite meat, generating more than $30 billion a year in revenue, but who benefits from this multi-billion dollar industry?
Spoiler alert! It’s not the farmers. This is a story that we hadn’t heard yet of the greed of large industrial ag companies, and it’s absolutely repulsive.
Man! We’re always asking the same question! Seriously though, this is a great episode, both for those looking for a good primer on the subject and a fascinating case study for those who already know a lot about it. The podcast delves into the soya market in Argentina, global ag subsidies as a whole, and, as a bit of a non-sequador, on lab-grown meat for human consumption.
Attention Northeastern meat eaters! These beautiful farmers, and our friends, over at Cairncrest sell sustainably-raised, small-scale, hand-processed pork (raised on forages, local non-GMO grains, and whey from yogurt manufacturing) and 100% grass fed beef at locations in NY, PA, and VT. Highest quality meat from caring and skilled farmers. Order what you want online and choose a pick-up location!
They are also looking for individuals or groups who might be interested in setting up buyers clubs in the Hudson Valley. So if you are a passionate foodie go-getter in the that area, contact the farm!
BeefJam is a 3-day event that takes young producers and consumers on a crash course of the Australian beef supply chain and gives them 48hrs to reshape the way we grow, buy and eat our red meat.
Check out more about BeefJam and Youth Food Movement Australia here!