Last week, I was invited to attend a special dinner at Urban Farmer, along with a few other bloggers. I gladly accepted the invitation, and was thrilled at the prospect of a really great steak dinner.
While the food was nothing short of amazing, it was the educational component of the evening that really stuck with me. I was floored by the purchasing philosophy, the butchery, and the dedication to quality and sustainability. Let me stop right there and rant for a moment: sustainability is a trendy and oft misused term in our society. The word sustainable actually means: “of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.” And yet, the word is so often used in marketing and and advertising for companies who are far from sustainable, which is why I find it so damn refreshing to come across people who are actually practicing true sustainability.
Which brings me back to Urban Farmer.
Take, for example, Urban Farmer’s whole animal butchery program: when they purchase a whole cow, they make sure to use every single part of the animal. They use the bones to make stock. They use all the trimmings off the steaks (and other cuts) to make ground beef and burgers. Oh, and Chef Matt Christianson uses the beef fat to make his own soap (!!!). (Fun fact: most of the candles on the tables at Urban Farmer are made from beef fat.) And, it should go without saying, that Urban Farmer sources their animals from the best purveyors who practice sustainable farming.
Really, the dinner at Urban Farmer just got me thinking about meat. I love meat, I really do, but I wrestle with consuming it. I am constantly shocked and disgusted by what I read about factory farming and its averse effects on humans and animals. Every day we are bombarded with news about our broken food system: e.coli outbreaks, antibiotics, Mad Cow disease, horse meat scandals, and the fact that Taco Bell’s “meat” isn’t really meat at all. It’s all very horrifying and unappetizing. But I truly believe that this is one issue where I can make a difference. By purchasing meat from farmers and producers who raise animals with care and respect, I am voting with my dollars. Sustainable farming isn’t just good for the animal, it is good for the environment and for public health.
As you may have noticed, I don’t cook a lot of meat. Most of my recipes are vegetarian, with the occasional meaty offering. Frankly, it’s because I can’t afford to cook a lot of meat. Good meat is expensive, because it costs a lot of money to raise animals on real food in real pastures. But good meat is worth the price.
That being said, it’s not all bad news. There are ways to purchase sustainable meat without breaking the bank. I highly recommend joining a food buying club (I am a proud member the Montavilla Food Buying Club) or buying a whole animal from a local farm or butcher. If you can’t afford a whole animal, see if you can split one with friends (or other interested buyers). I just bought 1/8 of a pig from Proletariat Meat and it was shockingly affordable. (The funny thing is, I now have a freezer full of pork and Orthodox Lent starts next week. The pork will have to wait until after Easter, I suppose!)
I’ll close out my meaty rant with a link to a recipe for Luce’s Pork and Beef Ragu. My husband made it for me for dinner this week, and it was phenomenal. I’m a lucky lady.