The Ethical Butcher at work!

Here's the short film that debuted at last night's Heritage Breed Supper Club.
It was a huge success and really great learning experience. I've got plenty of ideas on how to improve and enrich the next dinner, so keep your ears out for that announcement. Thank you to all who attended and everyone who had a part in this project coming to fruition! Film by Moira Morel.

The Ethical Butcher from Moira Morel on Vimeo.


Tantalizing Clarification

The last time I was interviewed, I noticed a pattern in some of the questions I was getting. I have been lucky enough to have folks around the country to support my bacon project sight unseen. People here in Portland have never tasted my bacon either, which will change after the Heritage Breed Supper Club. Thus far, only a fortunate circle of Brooklyn foodies have experienced this alchemy. As far as I know, and I've done some research, I am the only person testing the limits of meat curing this way. For this reason, the product itself is misunderstood. I'd like to quickly clear up some of these meaty misgivings.

My bacon is not the bacon you get in the store, even the 15 buck a pound stuff you find in specialty shops. That bacon is cured in a few ingredients and almost always smoked. My bacon is also not this finished product covered in different seasonings, or the caboose on the bacon train that has taken over food blogs. It is not smoked bacon covered in chocolate or infused in booze.

All those things are what my bacon is not. So you ask, what is my bacon?

My bacon starts from raw pork, is cured in many ingredients and roasted not smoked. Because I start every slab from scratch, I can do darn near any flavor you can think of. It is all physics and chemistry, as long as I keep certain elements in balance, I can really push the boundaries. For example, a slab of Mango-Chili bacon would start as a raw piece of belly. I would then slather it in a handmade sauce of chili peppers and mango, spices, and the most necessary part of curing-- salt. It would then sit in that mixture for a number of days before being oven-roasted. I use only kosher salt and never use nitrates/nitrites, even from natural sources. Not smoking my bacon makes that possible. Roasting as opposed to smoking also results in a much more nuanced, layered and delicate flavor profile. Someone even described it as tasting "clean". In contrast, smoking anything results in a deep, smoky flavor which is undeniably delicious, but not a friend of subtlety.

As my process is pretty unique and there are no patents on recipes, I have been and will remain pretty secretive about my exact methods. I just thought it would be good to clear up some of the confusion and to explain why this will be pretty much the best bacon you have ever tasted.
I really look forward to the 15 new flavors that will be developed as a result of the Kickstarter drive! Can't wait to share them!

There are still a few seats available for the Heritage Breed Supper Club at The Cleaners at Ace Hotel Portland! See previous post for info, hurry and reserve your seats today! This is a wonderful gift idea or holiday date night! See you there!

Why Red Wattle?

I have been saying for months that I would write a longer post focusing on heritage breeds. I admit I've been putting it off, the only reason being that it's such a big and important topic that I am concerned I will leave elements out. However, with my heritage bacon project having recently been successfully funded and the upcoming first Heritage Breed Supper Club close to selling out, I realize now is the time. I have to remind myself this is not a one-shot deal, I don't have to explain it all in one post. Keeping that in mind, I am finally able to sit down and do this.

We must begin by understanding what a heritage breed is and why they are threatened. Heritage breeds are the livestock version of heirloom varieties in produce. These are the foods our ancestors raised and ate until the introduction of and conversion to industrial farming methods. These are the breeds that took generation after generation of selective breeding to come into existence. Some were bred to withstand certain climates or geography, some for different qualities in their meat, some for milk production, some for their appearance, etc. While it did take humans to create these breeds, they were not at all like the scientifically manufactured breeds the meat industry relies on now. They ate a natural diet, whether that meant grass or kitchen scraps or bugs and worms. They produced few young and grew slowly. The meat and other products from these animals usually stayed nearby, bartered with neighbors and sold in the town market. Every one of these traits is anathema to industrial farming. As production sped up, it was quickly apparent that these breeds were not suited to the demand of the new market. Of course farmers are people, people who had families to support. The market had changed and it was only a matter of time before many would stop breeding heritage animals and concentrate on homogenizing breeds for speed of growth and life on the feedlot.

This threat of extinction is difficult for many to grasp, if they are even aware of it at all. This is because these breeds are in danger not because of pollution, climate change, habitat loss or disease. These breeds are threatened simply because there is no market for them. We must keep in mind we are talking about domesticated animals. This is where animal husbandry comes in. Most domestic animals require some amount of help from humans to procreate. But until very recently, there wasn't much reason for a farmer to choose to breed say, Tamworth pigs over the common industrial White pig. A working farm is a business, not a wildlife refuge. Raising animals takes tons of dedication, year-round work at all hours of the day and significant financial investment. Farmers raise what they can sell.

This introduces the movement and concept called "Conservation by Consumption". By purchasing heritage breeds meats we directly influence and support the farmers who are striking out on their own, rejecting the industrial model and taking the risk that no one will buy the fruits of their labor. This is why I exclusively use heritage breed meat. The return of heritage breeds is a major component to the sustainable meat equation. There are so many reasons for this.

Every farm that is raising and selling heritage meats is one more that IS NOT a disgusting feedlot. As I stated earlier, the needs of these breeds make factory farming a non-option. They basically demand a farmer to revert to old methods, seasonality and bio-diversity. All of this requires respect, attentiveness and a connection to the earth and its cycles from the farmer. By raising far fewer animals, the problem of pollution from the waste products are greatly reduced. A natural diet lessens pressure to produce the corn and soy used in commercial feed, and therefore also lessens the amount of fossil fuels needed to transport these foods. All that waste only results in diseased animals.* Because heritage breeds eat good food, are given space to live their lives the way nature intended, and allowed to form familial bonds and have farmers deeply committed to their health, I can only imagine these animals are much happier than their industrial counterparts. At this point, most heritage breeds are raised on very small farms and so often become local products by default. Supporting these local farms bolsters local economies. It's like killing 10 birds with one stone. On a purely visceral level, it is not even worth comparing the flavor and texture of heritage breed meat to that of industrial breeds.

Currently, many heritage breeds are only available on a very limited basis, if at all. So I'd like to name a few for you to look for in your area, as well as great resources to keep up with new farmers making the switch to this more sustainable method of farming.

Pork: The main industrial breed is the White pig. Its gene pool is often supplemented by the two most commercially successful heritage breeds, the Duroc and Berkshire pig. The Tamworth, Gloucester Old Spot, Large Black, Yorkshire, Red Wattle, Choctaw, Guinea Hog, Mulefoot, Ossabaw Island and Hereford round out the rest of the heritage breeds.

Beef: There are nearly 20 breeds of heritage cattle breeds, but due to the varying climates and geography of habitats where cattle are farmed, many of these have been unintentionally preserved by the meat industry.The beef industry is one that had capitalized on specialized breeds despite using industrial methods. Breeds like Angus and Hereford are examples of this. Unfortunately the dairy industry did not do the same, it has relied almost solely on the Holstein for years, though the Jersey and Brown Swiss have benefited from recent demand for milk from grazed cows. Some other breeds are the Ayrshire, Guernsey, Galway and Milking Devon.

Lamb: There are over 20 heritage breeds of Lamb. As there are several very different uses for lamb: wool, meat and milk, so there are several breeds that have been relied upon and thus preserved. Also the fact that Americans don't eat much lamb compared to other red meats has helped as well. The Tunis, Katahdin, Navajo-Churro, Santa Cruz and St. Croix are just a few of the breeds you may be able to find.

Chicken: Like pigs, the main industrial breed is simply known as the White chicken. It's funny that one breed is so ubiquitous when there are over 50 heritage breeds to choose from! Sadly, almost half of those are listed as "critical" or "threatened" by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, the organization that tracks the numbers of heritage breeds in this country. While many families are not eating them, the trend of backyard chickens is doing a lot to help some of these breeds. The Delaware, Sussex, Buckeye and Jersey Giant are just a few.

There are heritage breeds of every livestock animal; geese, rabbit, duck, turkey, horses, goats and donkeys. They all need our help to recover population numbers before they are extinct.

Some informative sites about heritage breeds:

American Livestock Breed Conservancy-http://albc-usa.org/- Information about heritage breeds in U.S. specifically, non-profit membership organisation working to advocate for preservation of heritage breeds.

Local Harvest-http://www.localharvest.org/- Information about farms raising heritage breeds, one can search by animal or location and get a list of farms to contact for products.

Heritage Foods USA-http://www.heritagefoodsusa.com/index.html- Much like Local Harvest site, though it also works to connect chefs and other industry professionals to farmers. Offers online shopping as well.

*Be aware that USDA-Organic certification requires animals be given "organic" feed. No government official certifies bugs and worms, the natural diet of chickens, or grasses for cattle, or kitchen slop for piggies, as organic. In the case of meat, "USDA-Organic" equals "Feed manufactured and controlled by humans", this is why you are not likely to ever see me selling it.


Proverbial Bacon Brought Home.

As of today, I have reached, actually surpassed my Kickstarter fundraising goal! I still have 3 weeks to accept pledges, and obviously when starting a new business, there's no shortage of use for extra funds. Thanks so much to all who have supported by pledging or sharing the project with friends and family.

Check the post below for the link to reserve your seat at the first Heritage Breed Supper Club, December 21st at The Cleaners at Ace Hotel Portland. Seats for this private event are $45/person and make an excellent gift idea or special night out with loved ones. There are only a few left, request your invite today!!

I'd also like to thank Tressa Yellig of Salt, Fire and Time and Abby Fammartino of Abby's Table for sharing their amazing kitchen!! Support these great local and sustainable food businesses!


You're invited to dinner with the Heritage Breed Supper Club!

I am incredibly excited to announce an event I've been working on for months has finally been confirmed! The first Heritage Breed Supper Club will meet on the evening of December 21st. I will be preparing and hosting a dinner and discussion, focusing on the Red Wattle pig. The Cleaners at Ace Hotel Portland has graciously donated their space, and I am grateful beyond words. I will be using a suckling pig from Heritage Farms Northwest, the farm I visited back in September(see earlier post). Jim and Wendy Parker plan to attend and will be sharing their experience as the only farmers in the state raising this rare breed of pig. With their population numbered in the hundreds worldwide, this is not a breed you will see in your grocery store or even the best restaurants for years to come. The meat of the Red Wattle is prized for its lean, meaty flavor and this will be a chance to taste the compelling argument for bringing heritage breeds back from the brink of extinction. I will be butchering the pig and preparing the entire menu with the help of a few volunteers. A short film documenting this process will be presented at the beginning of the event. This is a very special and unique opportunity that will have VERY limited seating. If you are interested, please do not hesitate to request an invite. Invitations are $45 per person and will sell out quickly. There is a secure paypal link below to request an invite to this private event. Once payment is received, you will receive an email notification with a numbered invitation. You may print this out and bring it with you to the event, but I will also have a list with each attendant's name, so it is not necessary. The menu is a mouthwatering secret until that night, but will include appetizers, a main course with sides and dessert.
I will say that those who attend will get to taste that bacon I've been talking about...

I have been overwhelmed and encouraged with the positive responses I have gotten to this blog, my bacon project and my general philosophy toward food and specifically meat. This will be the first in a series of dinners spotlighting local heritage breeds and the farmers who raise them. I hope that all who are able will attend so that I may meet some of you!
Check out The Cleaners http://acehotel.com/portland/events/cleaners and super awesomely swank Ace Hotel http://acehotel.com/portland for information about the space or to book a nice stay-cation after your feast!


Getting close...

Sorry I haven't been posting as much lately, my days have been full of planning. The Kickstarter fundraising drive is going extremely well. Currently at $1710, I am only a couple hundred bucks away from my goal! The drive closes New Year's Eve, please continue your support by sharing my project with friends. A personalized bacon flavor (the $50 pledge level) is a great holiday gift idea!

I am also working on a very exciting and unique event that I will be announcing later this week, so check back very soon for details...

until then...