Tuesday, July 31, 2012

NEWS FLASH! Chicken Options!

We are most pleased to offer our legendary chicken in a wide array of convenience-added forms: half chickens (MADE for the barbie); split bone-in breasts with 1, 2 or 3/ pkg; legs/thighs 2 or 3/pkg and wings 7-10/pkg. We've been getting a lot of requests to bring these options to you and we just got through the regulations and got the nod from both the USDA/Food Safety and Inspection Service and our MA Dept. of Public Health to use our hometown butcher shop to help us out. And for all my quiet frustration with government and regulations, I have to say that all the regulatory authorities I dealt with were great! Responsive, helpful and interested in helping us out. Thank you!!

We are especially proud to say that not only were these chickens raised locally on our clean, green pastures, but we used a lot of local resources to bring this to you. We use a USDA processor in VT, we bought our feed from a farmers' cooperative feed mill in CT and the cutting and packaging was done by our very helpful and capable full-service butcher shop and grocery store that is right here in Barre. We are indeed proud to be able to help keep our local economy healthy and churning!

Stop on by and see us in Waltham or Wayland, and we'll be coming out to Worcester, too. Tell us what you think. We fully expect this new addition will be well received; however marketing is a never-ending discipline and we need to know if something could be better/different. We are here because of- and for you!

Thank you!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Thoughts on food labeling

We've fielded many questions regarding additives or fillers in our products; and to my surprise, most people ASSUME there is more in their food than what the label shows! WOW! And another gasp- they are right! It is well known that GMOs and other addiitves are in our food and we don't know about it due to weak labeling regulations. A whopping 93% of people would like to see full disclosure on what is in their food. Where else do you see that much agreement on anything?

Getting back to what we add to our food........very little, and in the case of our sausages, ALL the ingredients are listed. You can decide if the food is appropriate for you because you will always enjoy full disclosure from us!

Not so in the wider marketplace. And the FDA is coming down on the side of consumers on labeling. WOW!

Learn more about food labeling from the Rodale Institute here.

And what the FDA is thinking about sunscreen, packaging and additives as seen on MS-NBC.com here.

We have a vested interest in your well-being!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Nose-To-Tail Retail Marketing & Pricing Realities

For those of you who also buy meat at the grocery store- we need not remind you that meat prices are WAY UP across the board! RECORD prices in fact. The recession has taken the wind out of domestic consumption and with droughts in the south and west, cattle supplies have dried up. Simple supply and demand. Also, commodity prices for common feed-stocks for livestock feed have been volatile and trending higher still. Developing countries are developing a taste for beef, while they don't have the infrastructure to supply it- hello export market demand!

We're a local producer, but nevertheless not insulated from the price swings in the market as we buy select feeder stock that is becoming pretty near and dear in the marketplace. We buy locally, but those prices are pegged to what the wider market is bearing- and why not? Farmers have had to munch on dry stale toast for years and what a chance to pay down debt, why not?! For the last 30+ years I've seen feeder prices hovering in the $0.50- $0.80/lb range for feeder cattle...that is until recently. Can you say ouch to a doubling to tripling of these prices!!! Our new prices have to reflect this reality.

How can we help you keep clean, local meat in your menus? Our imminently due price list update includes a modest adjustment to our lower end cuts while putting a premium on our higher end steaks- in keeping with our philosophy of acknowledging the reality of supply and demand (a mere 10-12% of the animal is premium steak), but we should be casting our imagination and menus toward the cornucopia of great tasting, lower end cuts. Those lower cuts have been relegated to the back burner for years during the booming years of only a few years ago. But alas- a new reality! Plus, we produce whole animals and we must market the whole animal. By pricing the higher end cuts appropriately, we all can eat great clean beef during this time of high prices.

We will be working hard to help you make the most of our lower end cuts- from recipes, special sales and promotions and tastings at markets! We really know how to make the most of all our cuts and we're happy to share our ideas and love of those great under-appreciated cuts!!!!

We'll marinade a great chuck steak for dinner!!

Peace and great eating!

Hope to see you at the markets starting 6/16 in Waltham!


Friday, March 16, 2012

Ground Beef and The Lean Trimmings Debate

No treated lean beef trimmings in our ground beef!
Talk about a firestorm of news around "pink slime"! The City of Boston is immediately pulling over 60,000 pounds of ground beef containing pink slime from their schools' cafeterias! But, they cannot find a replacement for it as only 30% of our country's ground beef is certified to be free of pink slime..... and the pink slime may even be in grocery stores! There is no requirement to state treated lean trimmings content on the label, too! Whoa!

The USDA strenuously states that ammonium hydroxide treated lean beef trimmings are safe- maybe they are somewhat right- maybe. How many umpteen-thousands of tons of beef has been consumed with apparent little ill-effect? Ok...point taken..however precariously.

But, what about the issue of not telling consumers what they are eating? Was it really tested for safety? Is there any residual ammonium hydroxide in the meat? What is a safe level? What else will be learned tomorrow?

What is pink slime? Well, when beef is processed into familiar retail cuts, there is a lot of trimming.....a lot! In the name of efficiency, this trim loss does contain protein- a very important and expensive commodity, so it is an opportunity to increase efficiency. But when you include trimmings from the outer layers of the animal into ground beef- this layer is often contaminated. Fat is then separated out from the lean and a gooey protein rich product remains and pathogens are killed with gaseous ammonium hydroxide. Then add this protein back into the ground beef and stretch it out. And decrease the waste stream. Efficiency taken to an exponential level! There is an excellent story on this from NPR here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/03/16/148740168/chances-are-pink-slime-is-in-grocery-store-beef-too

What happens when our farm's beef is processed? There is a lot trim loss and the outer layers are discarded and sold to renderers (pet food, cosmetics, other fillers). Trim pieces that are too small for cubed stew, kabob meat and other small cuts goes into ground beef and sausage. We take a lower carcass yield due to the trim that goes to the renderer. And pink slime is thankfully not an option in small-scale processing houses anyway. Along with us, our processor is committed to producing clean, safe, minimally processed and wholesome food!

So.....if you buy your food from a store it can be a puzzle to find out exactly what's in it and how it was produced. But there are moves toward greater transparency... a very good thing indeed!

AND, you should get to know your producer- whatever the product- meat, dairy, fruit, vegetables- as they'd be happy to tell you all the details of how your food was produced! And we all need to work toward consuming a lot less processed foods, too. Priceless information for a properly informed decision!!