Stinky Cheese Week is actually a thing! To celebrate, L’Express and Cafe D’Alsace (and all restaurants within the ownership’s group) are offering a special menu of selections that feature various stinky cheeses.
Okay so I said something about free dessert up above… Well, here is the explanation: I was invited in to try some food in order to let my readers know all about Stinky Cheese Week. If you go into one of their restaurants and mention the words “say cheese” and my blog or instagram account, they will comp you with a free dessert! The participating restaurants are Cafe D’Alsace, Le Monde, L’Express, Nice Matin, French Roast (both uptown and downtown) and Marseille.
Below are my reviews for both L’Express and Cafe D’Alsace.
249 Park Ave S
New York, NY 10003
My wife and I shared the raclette cheese and salumi platter as an app. This was pretty great. The cheese was stretchy and warm, and the meats were good quality.
I had the rib eye steak frites for my entree. The fries were nice and crisp, and the steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare.
While the steak was thinly cut, this isn’t a bad deal for just $29. The cap was tender and there wasn’t much gristle on it. The roquefort cheese and onion sauce really kicked this thing up a notch too.
My wife had the stinky cheese plate for her entree. Some of these fuckers were really funky!
And for dessert, a stinky cheese panna cotta that had a jam topping. This would have been perfect on a bagel, as the panna cotta was thick and had a texture and flavor similar to cream cheese.
1695 2nd Ave
New York, NY 10128
I started with a glass of mint tea. This was a really nice way to start a cheese-centric meal.
A buddy and I shared the frisee salad with bacon and egg. Very nicely done, and I was impressed with the addition of pork rinds.
For my entree, I went with the hanger steak frites, of course.
It was topped with a melted morbier cheese, caramelized onions and a red wine sauce.
I liked this steak more than the rib eye from L’Express. It had a great texture and thickness to it, and it was cooked perfectly with a nice crust on the outside as well.
The fries were great! Very crisp and nicely seasoned.
My buddy ordered the duck l’orange. It was pretty good but the steak was definitely the winning dish for the entrees.
For dessert, we shared an apple tart with vanilla ice cream. Not only was this beautiful, but it was absolutely delicious. I highly recommend ordering this.
If you dine out often in this great city, you’ve no doubt seen the name Pat LaFrieda featured prominently, in bold or italics, beside some of the best beef offerings at the finest restaurants.
The name has become synonymous with top notch quality beef, along with other proteins like lamb, poultry, game and pork. Personally, I can vouch for this. Many of my favorite dry-aged, high end cuts of steak and delicious burger grinds come from LaFrieda. In fact, the best steak I’ve ever had in my life was a LaFrieda tomahawk from Osteria Morini, and I’ve eaten a lot of fucking steak!
Currently, the LaFrieda business is a 36,000 square foot processing facility in New Jersey that ultimately feeds 300,000 carnivores a day. But it wasn’t always like that. So, what happened, and what makes LaFrieda beef so great?
Like all great success stories, LaFrieda’s started with a vision. Or perhaps it was a lack of vision, to be precise. You see, in late 1800’s Naples, a young Anthony LaFrieda was popped in the face during a street fight, resulting in a black eye. A butcher came out of his shop from nearby and slapped a cold steak over Anthony’s eye to soothe the pain. But that butcher ended up giving Anthony a job, and that’s when the family business took root.
Anthony learned the art of butchery in Italy and brought it with him to the US in 1909. Eventually he opened a meat shop in Brooklyn, 1922. He ran it with his five sons, Pat (the first) being one of them. They began servicing restaurants in the 1950’s with a shop in Manhattan’s meatpacking district, and in 1964 Pat and his son (Pat the second) took ownership of the business, calling it Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors.
The business grew, and the shop changed locations a few times throughout the west village, eventually landing at Leroy Street for 30 years, starting in the 1980’s. It was there that Pat the third, age 12, began to learn his family’s trade, thereby carrying the business from great grandfather, to grandfather, to father, to son; a four generation meat dynasty!
The Business Today
Pat the third’s vision for the business was a bit different than his elders. He wanted to work directly with restaurants to provide them with the best product, trimmed and portioned exactly to their specifications. He even went so far as to begin creating custom burger blends for his customers. He wanted to help restaurants develop products that showcased their chef’s talents, and to treat restaurant customers as if they were also LaFrieda customers.
It worked. This concept made the Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors brand a highly sought after commodity among the NYC restaurant elite. But the meat isn’t only relegated to high-priced steakhouses and fancy “white table cloth” joints. You can find Pat LaFrieda custom burger blends and steaks all over the place, from bars to neighborhood mom and pop shops. The concept that Pat the third created allows for all kinds of budgets, since custom portioning and cutting is the specialty.
I mentioned earlier that the operation is now run out of Jersey in a large facility. Well, there, LaFrieda has a full aging room on site, with over 5,000 primals aging at any given time. LaFrieda supplies both choice and prime beef, and grinds upwards of 50 unique burger blends every day. In fact, LaFrieda grinds out 75,000 burger patties every day, in all different sizes, including all different proteins, and within all different niche markets (like organic, all natural, grass-finished, etc.). Amazing.
But LaFrieda beef isn’t only just for bars, restaurants and hotels. Pat the third stays true to his great grandfather Anthony’s original butcher shop business model, as you can order directly from their website for home delivery. In fact a friend of mine just recently ordered up and grilled a bunch of rib eyes for a party he hosted.
I did the same as well, actually. It was tremendous. Take a look HERE, as I documented the whole thing.
LaFrieda currently works with small farms and processors from all around the country to acquire the best meats from the best producers. As my “Meet Your Meat” series continues and develops, I will be featuring some of these farms in similar articles. My goal here is to provide you meat maniacs with a better understanding of where your food comes from, from feed to food, so to speak.
Interview with Pat
I had the pleasure of communicating with Pat via email before publishing this article, and it made for some interesting Q&A. Take a gander below:
Me: Okay, first, some more serious questions. I have this romanticized notion in my mind that you get to hang around beef and taste steak all day long while beautiful maidens fan you and feed you grapes. But deep down I know it can’t be beautiful and dreamy like that. So what is a typical work day like for you?
Pat: Johnny, that is a great question and one that is asked often. When I first joined the family business, my Dad began his day at 3am every morning. Although that sounds early, in order to grow and maintain the customers that we already had, I changed our start time a little earlier every so often. The way NYC works for a chef is a logistical nightmare. With storage space being so tight, chefs normally wait until after dinner service to place their order for the next morning, roughly at 10 pm. Most restaurants want their delivery before 9 am. In between the time that a chef orders and the time of delivery, the butcher needs to translate the order into a computerized system, custom portion whatever was ordered, weigh, package, load and invoice the restaurant before sending the order off in a delivery truck, into the Hell of NYC traffic. That all boils down to me beginning my day at 3pm, running the labyrinth I just described until 5am. Never wanting to disrespect my Dad, I never asked him to start his day any earlier so my last two hours at work are the most pleasurable, being that they overlap with his. A beautiful maiden offering grapes he is not, but funny he is.
Me: I’ve always joked that I must have been a butcher in a past life or something, given how fascinated I am with the art and skill of it. But I’ve actually heard that being a butcher is really difficult work with odd hours. I suppose like any career, there are challenges and rewards. While your current business is much different from the shop your great grandfather opened, what are some of the challenges and rewards you’ve experienced in your lifetime of butchery, processing and meat purveying?
Pat: Space, was always the biggest challenge and it came in more than one form. For storage and portioning meat, we were always tight for space. As our expansion increased from the mid-nineties, real estate prices began to soar so butchers had to operate within the space that we had. Growth was great, but it made our quality of life worse because there was nowhere to put our inventory after a short few years. The thought of leaving Manhattan was a nightmare, but when the city put a bicycle lane through our loading area, we knew it was time to build a new facility out of the city. Another form that space takes is the worst part of the meat business and that’s the time between when we need to pay our farmers and the time in which our customers pay us. The gap is so vast, it would put most out of business faster than we got parking tickets in the bus lane of our loading zone.
Me: I’m always trying to give my readers a better understanding of where their food comes from. What are some of the farms you deal with when sourcing the meat that you process? Anything local or big-name that us steak aficionados might know?
Pat: Long before the recent political campaign, we have always preached to buy domestic, yes, product that is raised and grazed in America. We have the safest meat supply in the world and since meat is one of our last natural resources, with manufacturing jobs plummeting, why would Americas not want to preserve that? I believe that “Local” is a gimmick however. In NYC for instance, NY State does not grow beef anywhere near as good as Kansas, so why would I want to pedal that garbage to prestigious NYC institutions that count on an amazing experience to survive. As for other meat, like rabbits, there is no place better than NY State to source them. That is how we base our sourcing, locating the best in class for each category as long as it’s domestic.
Me: How often do you interact with the farmers who actually raise the animals or run the feedlots?
Pat: We work very close with farmers for our sourcing. My cousin is in Dodge City right now as I write this, to ensure that our product is humanely handled, properly raised and finished.
Me: I’m a huge fan of dry-aging beef because the process concentrates flavor and increases tenderness, along with adding earthiness. Often we see steaks that were aged for 28-35 days on menus, but some places tout steaks that are aged upwards of 100 days like they are delicacies. Is 28-35 days a sweet spot for how long the beef should age, and is there any downside to aging for longer periods of time aside from the normal loss of weight that happens from the dry-aging process?
Pat: We age up to 120 days. As long as the humidity is controlled, the temperature is constant and the air circulation is vast, the meat will not rot. After 120 days, diminishing returns will begin to effect the product in that the funk of the dry age gets a bit bitter. 28 days is the young side of the range and is very universal whereas 120 days is the far end and is intended for those who have acquired the pallet for such.
Me: Okay now some fun stuff. There’s an old myth that a butcher’s favorite steak is the hanger, or “butcher’s steak,” as it is aptly called. Is there any truth to that, and what is your favorite cut? Dad’s, grandfather’s and great Grandfather’s favorite cuts?
Pat: Hanger was a butcher’s favorite because it is the only muscle in the animal that must get removed first before the animal is split. It is not symmetrical so before today’s practice of removing it first, the net result would be an ugly steak that only the butcher would eat because it was not appealing to the public back then. My family’s favorite cut has always been Outside Skirt steak.
Me: Are you like me, in that beef is your favorite meat protein? If not, which is your favorite?
Pat: Beef for sure because it is universal in cooking, with Lamb close behind.
Me: How often would you say that you eat red meat or beef?
Pat: I eat red meat daily. It is an amazing source of protein and crucial vitamins, it was intended by nature for us to eat and I happen to have a decent amount of it at any given time.
Me: Do you have a favorite steakhouse, or place to eat steak when not making your own?
Pat: I’m often asked to pick a favorite restaurant and from the bottom of my heart, I mean what I say when I answer that it truly depends on where I’m standing when I’m hungry, what my pallet is desiring at that moment and the friends that I’m with at that time. If you let that be your guide, you will have many favorites as I do.
Me: And finally, your Sophie’s Choice moment: If you could only have one for the rest of your life, would it be a burger or a steak?
Pat: I had to think long and hard on this one. In my lifetime, I could have answered this question differently every week depending on my last experience before being asked. A few days ago, I would have responded STEAK because I just had a great one at Benjamin’s, then our corporate chef made me a truffle burger yesterday that has had me hungry for another ever since, so because you are asking me today, it’s all about the BURGER.
I just got back from a trip to Italy, and, as you can imagine, the food was, on the whole, pretty fucking incredible. My wife and I did three stops: Rome, Venice and Milan.
This could get crazy long so I’m just going to jump right into my truncated reviews.
We hit this place for a quick lunch after touring the catacombs. Excellent pasta dishes, and this was technically our first meal in Italy. We only had two pasta dishes.
Tagliolini with porn cheek and artichokes:
This place had some amazing pasta. This was our first dinner in Rome, and it was a joint that was highly recommended by friends and family who had been here before.
We tried two pasta dishes; cacio e pepe, served in a bowl made of crisped cheese, and a chitarra pasta with shrimp and a ground pistachio pesto.
We also had a stuffed artichoke, and dessert…
This salume joint turned restaurant was highly recommended by friends and fellow foodies.
It was pretty crowded, so we sat at the bar. We kept it somewhat simple, with a plate of meats and cheeses, pasta and meatballs.
We also took in some dessert, because “when in Rome.”
Baladin (Local Brewery Bar)
This place had a great selection of local craft beers.
Anthony Bourdain featured this pizza joint on his layover show, so we had to check it out. It was pretty fantastic.
My favorite slices were the traditional and the onion with ham.
One thing you see a lot of in the cities of Italy are meat shops that offer amazing platters of salume for very good prices.
This is one of them. I was pretty much in heaven here, and I was annoyed that we had just eaten and couldn’t do a bigger platter.
Nestled on a small street near the river, this Trastevere staple was known for their fried artichoke (which was incredible) and their ox tail. We got both, of course, along with some lasagna.
I had to stop into this place just because I saw that they had “chocolate sausage” on the menu. I was thinking “Lexington Steele,” but what came out was like fudge and cake pressed into a delicious dessert log and then sliced up, served cold.
But look at the fried artichoke they had on display outside.
Gelato Shops: Giolitti and Fatamorgana
Giolitti was in the main part of Rome, and Fatamorgana was in the Trastevere neighborhood. Both served up some amazing pistachio gelato, and we even tried some Sicilian Cream flavors as well. So good. Giolitti was a full-on pastry shop as well, while Fatamorgana was just gelato.
Pasticcerie (Pastry Shops)
Pasticceria da Te is small Trastevere shop goes almost unnoticed, as there is no signage out front. We tried some chiacchiere or crostoli, which are crispy fried snacks that are often eaten when celebrating Carnivale.
At Forno Campo de Fiori, we tried some little doughnut balls and other patries, like sfoglie.
Un Mondo Vino
Happy hour is big in Venice. Wines are even cheaper than usual, and they serve up “chichetti” – which are pre-prepared savory snacks – to go with the wine.
We found this little hole in the wall, called “A World of Wine,” as we were walking around. It was filled with locals, so we knew we were in a good spot. We warmed up with some hot mulled spice wine, as it was below freezing and crazy windy that day.
Osteria Ai Promessi Sposi
This little joint, tucked away down a lonesome alley, was recommended by friends of ours as a great place to eat.
Venice is known for seafood, so that’s what we were after (though the steak on the menu was really tempting). We came here at 6pm, right when they opened, and it was still crowded. Usually people don’t eat dinner until about 8pm or 9pm. But now I know why it was so crowded – the food was amazing.
Super tender braised cuttlefish with a rich, buttery black ink sauce. Usually I hate ink sauces because they taste way too fishy. This was amazing. I was slurping it up.
My grilled calamari just didnt compare to that cuttlefish dish, but it was still excellent.
Starters were burrata and mixed seafood in broth.
We stopped in this joint when another restaurant nearby that we wanted to try was too crowded. This is Israeli Kosher food. I wasn’t overly impressed, but the artichoke heart dishes were delicious. One fried, one sauteed.
We also had some meze type dips, and a pappardelle pasta dish with mushrooms.
This joint sort of fell flat for us. The meat platter was expensive, although it was good quality and all hand cut. The seafood platter was nice too, but way overpriced. Perhaps they were trying to recoup some funds after their flood a few years back.
After meandering around Venice looking for a late night spot to eat, we stumbled across this corner joint. Ravioli with mushroom and truffle, and a scallop and shrimp dish.
What an amazing market. Fresh produce and fresh fish. And the artichoke hearts!
And all around the area are cheese vendors and butcher shops, too. My kind of spot!
Yeah – that’s horse salami.
Coffee & Pastries
These coffee shops could put Starbucks out of business if they were in the US.
And the frittelle in Venice are fucking outstanding. They’re like zeppoli, kind of, but they are often made with a flavored dough or filled with raisins, nuts, etc.
Cookies that look like fish.
A lot of these shops also sell savory items too, like pizza and panini sandwiches. Venice style pizza is more like NY thin crust.
So freaking good.
This was a quick lunch. We each ordered a mini pie and shared. The pizza styles are different in every city. Rome was like puffy square (what we would call Sicilian), Venice was circular and flat (like NYC style, as I mentioned above) and Milan was somewhere right in between: circular and slightly puffy.
Salsamenteria di Parma
This is another one of those wine and meat shops I mentioned above. This one was incredible. We got so much food for $20, along with free amaro afterwards. I want to go back right now.
Osteria di Brera
For our last meal in Italy, we had to try the osso buco in Milan, which is supposed to be one of the region’s specialties. It was pretty tender and flavorful! Also hit some pasta as well.
Pasticcerie (Pastry Shops)
We did a lot of browsing in these hops. I think we had a bite at one spot but I can’t remember what or where.
Like all over Italy, the bakeries also sell savory breads.
Italy is absolutely amazing. On our next trip, we plan to hit six more distinct locations: Amalfi coast, Sicily, Tuscany, Florence, Lake Como and Capri.
You animals may have seen my post about Charcuterie Masters a week or two ago. If not, go read some more about it at that link I just dropped. This post is dedicated to the incredible shit we tried at the 2017 event.
Jacuterie was showing off some incredible dried salami with regional flavoring inspirations:
Elevation got my chip for the vote though. These flavors were amazing, and every chub was worth buying.
Breakfast (maple whisky).
Chocolate stout mole:
I also tried some pastrami flavored BBQ short rib, which was sickeningly delicious. Unbelievable.
Smoking Goose came through with some incredible game-based meats. Terrines, head cheese, you name it – all great.
Yeah you are reading that correctly – lamb soppressata.
The rabbit and pork cheek terrine was my favorite.
They had some “rust belt” salami too.
On the subject of head cheese, Dickson was on point as well:
That was a duck mortadella (round one) and the pretty one had lots of duck tongue in it.
The garlic sausage from Heather Ridge Farm was a nice bite, but their root beer syrup concentrate stole the show.
Gaseiro e Bom had 5-year aged prosciutto for $800 a pound. Or you could just eat the free samples all night, like I did.
Ends Meat had some great items. In addition to the pork they even had a little beef salumi as well.
They had a nice nduja too.
I enjoyed the pate a lot at the Trois Petits Cochons table.
I signed up for a chance to win 50lbs of bacon from Ribs Within:
Refreshments – I liked the “kinda dry” one better than the bone dry.
Smoke Show was apparently smoking a whole hog on the premesis. I knew something was up when I saw the sign and cleaver.
We heard something was going on out back, so we investigated. Turns out that Smoke Show really did put on a show:
The classic Pat’s / Geno’s rivalry has been done to death, so I’m not going to write a treatise here. I’m gonna tell you how it is plainly: Both are highly overrated, but they’re worth hitting at least once just to do it.
My wife and I tried one sandwich from each place, the same exact way: cheesesteak with wiz. No onions, no mushrooms, no other cheeses. Why? I wanted to test the meats out. $10 each.
Pat’s gives you more meat and more cheese on a superior bread.
However, that meat is riddled with chewy wads of fat. I’m a champion of rib eye fat, but this was no bueno. We spit pieces out several times throughout the process of eating our respective halves. Also, the quality of the meat seemed a bit shitty. You can just taste it. I think they also cook too much at once, because it had a steamed, rubbery texture as opposed to a nice griddled crisp.
Geno’s has the better ambiance, if such a thing can even be assessed.
Geno’s also had better meat quality, although that quality was still sub par on the whole. On the other hand, Geno’s didn’t give enough cheese on the sandwich. Lame.
So each had a benefit and each had a negative, but both were overrated. I think these places suffer from too much business. They make so much quantity so far ahead of time to deal with crowds, that they lose quality in the process.
In the quest for cheesesteaks, I suggest hitting Shorty’s or Wogies here in NYC. They’re better than these two joints by far. A buddy who grew up outside of Philly tells me that the better cheesesteaks are found in local pizza shops anyway down there, and that Shorty’s and 99 Miles to Philly are apparently pretty close to the real thing here in NYC.
They are a Catskill Mountains-based producer of premiere farm-to-table food and wine festivals and educational programs. They pair the agricultural bounty (including grass-fed beef, organic produce, artisan cheeses, smoked fish, and wines from the region’s lush mountain valleys and fresh water streams) with New York City’s most innovative chefs and the culinary community.
Their goals include creating jobs, driving economic development by assisting family farmers and local artisans, and fostering culinary and agricultural tourism in the Catskill-Delaware New York City Watershed. This exposes everyone – from chefs to culinary professionals to foodies to gourmets – to delicious, fresh, sustainable and healthful foods.
Charcuterie Masters is the first ever competition of its kind and brings together more than 20 professional and amateur makers of artisanal charcuterie from across the U.S and Canada, including Rodrigo Duarte (Caseiro E Bom, Newark, N.J.); John Harkness (Prime Meats, Brooklyn, N.Y.); Chad Nelan (Elevation Charcuterie & Artisan Meats, Denver); Stewart Taylor (Babelfish Bistro, Guelph, Ontario, Canada); and Giuseppe Viterale (Ornella Trattoria, Astoria, N.Y.).
Charcuterie Masters 2017 is so much more than a national competition, it’s a celebration of Meaty Times where guests will be able to sample exquisite cured meats and salumi — including hams, bacons, pates, sausages and much more.
Participating chefs for Charcuterie Masters 2017 are:
Hugue Dufour (M. Wells Steakhouse)
Will Horowitz (Ducks Eatery, Harry & Ida’s Meat and Supply Co.)
Pitmaster Josh Bowen (John Brown Smokehouse)
Alfonso Zhicay (Casa del Chef Bistro)
Guests will have an opportunity to savor charcuterie, learn from the makers as well participate in a people’s choice vote of the ‘best-of-the-evening’ charcuterie. Pairings will include top-rated wines, craft beers, and farmstead ciders. Guests will also have the opportunity to purchase charcuterie directly at the event.
A $60 general admission ticket entitles guests to explore unlimited tasting and sampling of all food and beverages.
Additionally, there will be $100 VIP tickets sold, which will allow access to a special hour from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. enabling VIP guests to enjoy early access to the entire festival.
I recently had dinner with a friend of mine who had just gotten an angioplasty. If you don’t know what that is, it’s when surgeons open up blocked arteries and restore normal blood flow to the heart. If your arteries stay clogged, you can have a heart attack and die. Duh.
My friend’s doctor obviously cautioned him to avoid saturated fats and bad cholesterol. That doesn’t mean he can’t have a steak once in a while, and that’s exactly what he wanted for dinner on the night we hung out. I have that effect on people…
So there were two steaks on the menu; a NY strip and a skirt. My buddy asked the waitress, “which one is more fatty?” She said the strip, which, all things equal in terms of grade and cooking prep, is completely false. I informed my buddy why she was wrong after she stepped away, so as not to embarrass her. But I figured I would share that knowledge here with you guys, too. Here’s why she was wrong:
NY strip steak is a strip loin cut of beef, which is the most prized part of the sirloin. Sirloin is considered a lean cut of beef. In fact, any time you see the word “loin” in describing a cut of beef, that means it’s lean. The one caveat I’ll give is that fat content also depends on the grade of beef, not just the location of the cut. Prime has more intra-muscular fat (marbling) than choice, for example, and something like Kobe has more than prime.
The term “lean” means that the beef has 4.5g or less of saturated fat per serving, and 10g or less total fat per serving. About 66% of beef cuts are considered lean cuts. That’s pretty fucking good!
Skirt hails from the “plate” or diaphragm muscle of the bovine anatomy. It’s not listed above because it isn’t within the definition of lean. It has more fat content than a strip steak, especially after a strip is trimmed by a restaurant. Most of the fat on a sirloin lies on the outside of the muscle, as opposed to the inside marbling (which, by the way, contains “good fats,” like olive oil and avocados do). But when external fat is trimmed away, you’re down to low fat content.
The real question, then, becomes: How is the steak prepared? Does it come with a cream sauce? Is it cooked with tons of butter? Is it simply seasoned and grilled? All of this matters tremendously in terms of calculating the total fat content of a particular dish.
Why do I mention this? Because the method of cooking could flip these fat levels very easily. If the strip is being cooked in a pan filled with butter and then smothered in a cream sauce, while the skirt is simply seasoned and grilled, then maybe it’s best to get the skirt if you’re trying to be mindful of overall fat content. It all depends, like adult diapers.
My advice: don’t ruin good beef with a sauce. I love the flavor of beef, so I don’t like to mask it with sauces of any kind. Simply season and fire it up. If you live by those rules, then you can take the fat content of lean cuts at face value and be confident that you’re eating a low fat, lean beef meal that’s both nutritious and delicious.
I hesitate to even use the word “industry” when talking about beef in the USA. Perhaps “Sustainability in US Beef Production” is a better title for this post. “Industry” makes people think of the “factory farming” bullshit myth, which I already debunked HERE.
In any case, Happy New Year!!! As usual, this post is designed to do away with yet another set of myths about US beef. Apparently some false ideas have spread that beef production in America is vicious to the environment, emits far too many “greenhouse gases,” is responsible for “global warming” (or whatever people call it these days), is wasteful, and is generally not a sustainable practice. Lies. Every one of them.
Grasslands involved in beef production account for nearly 75% of US natural wildlife, and cattle spend a majority of their lives feeding on these natural grasslands. Up to 85% of grassland in the US is actually not suitable for crop farming due to soil characteristics, topography or rainfall. Cattle grazing is a good use of the otherwise inarable land, and it even helps prevent wildfires. Also, cattle can eat shit that almost nothing else can. Bovine digestive systems are made to convert inedible plants into protein that we can eat.
That’s all wonderful, and you may have read a little about that on here before. But what I’m going to do now is introduce you to the concept of “diversified farming” practices.
What the fuck is a diversified farm? Essentially it’s when a farm produces a variety of crops or animals, usually both, with the crops feeding the animals that they raise, in an effort to create a self-sustained farm with little waste or reliance upon other operations.
You may recall that Walbridge Farm is like this as well, where they grow sunflowers and raise cattle. The sunflowers are used to produce cold pressed sunflower oil, which they sell at their market.
The hulls, shells and ground up sunflower byproduct from that oil-making process is then used to create cattle feed. Pretty brilliant, if you ask me. Not only is this a good idea from a business standpoint, since you are becoming more self-reliant and utilizing more of what you make, but it is also responsible environmental stewardship.
Speaking of environmental stewardship, many diversified farm operations also catch water runoff from their feed yards to be processed and rendered inert before being reclaimed by the land. In fact, water management is an area of the industry that has seen great improvement in recent years. In addition, almost all diversified farms collect cow dung as well, which is then used as fertilizer for their crops. Even waste is not wasted!
But aside from diversified farming efforts, cattle are natural recyclers. They kick so much ass at recycling that you can literally feed them the waste from other industries.
Do you enjoy bourbon? Of course you do, because you’re a man with balls and a dick swinging between your legs. You’re a red-blooded fucking American, and nothing is more American than bourbon, except for maybe jazz or steak. Do you know how bourbon is made? With corn! Good: You’re not an idiot. Corn mash, to be more accurate. That gets fermented and turned into booze. But what happens with the mash after the fermentation and distillation process? You guessed it: it often gets turned into cattle feed.
You all know how much I love Martin’s Potato Buns, right? The reason I love them so much is because their buns are always fresh, supple and soft; perfect for constructing a burger. I recently learned why that is the case. They pull their bread from shelves a little earlier than most, to ensure freshness to the consumer. Know what they do with the buns after they get pulled from the shelves? Rather than going to the garbage heap, they get re-purposed and turned into cattle feed.
That’s just two examples of other industries and businesses that contribute their unused byproducts to the beef production cycle, thereby reducing and re-purposing waste. The ethanol fuel industry is another big one, but many others contribute as well.
So what about greenhouse gases? We’ve all heard how cow farts are supposedly destroying the planet, right? Come on…
According to numbers from the EPA, cattle production is not even a top contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
Here’s some recent data:
Agriculture: 6.9% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Livestock: 3.1% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Livestock Methane: 2.8% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Beef Cattle Methane: 1.5% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
What about other industries?
Electricity Generation: 33% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Transportation: 26% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Industrial Use: 11% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Residential/Commercial: 8% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s really pretty simple though: Cattle are not the major cause of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. And as far as the US is concerned, we do a pretty damn good job at containing the impact that beef production has on the environment. The US is actually one of the most efficient nations in terms of lowering greenhouse gases and environmental concerns that stem from beef production. Click the image below to see a larger version:
Furthermore, a “Lifecycle Assessment” of the beef industry was recently conducted. What that means is that everything and anything that touches the production cycle was examined. Use of farm equipment, water, machines, everything – not just the cattle themselves or the land use.
Take a look at this nifty graphic that encapsulates the findings of the life cycle assessment (click for a larger version):
It turns out that the beef production cycle scored much better than car emissions from the auto industry. Why mention emissions and the auto industry? Because they promoted a poor emissions study and leveled some wild accusations at the beef industry.
Better still: the emissions study didn’t focus on the entire auto industry lifecycle in the way that the beef study did. Had they conducted a full lifecycle study, they would have had to include assessments of things like power plants and such. Once those things are factored in, the beef industry becomes squeaky clean in a direct comparison with the auto industry in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
For more information about the improvements made in the beef production lifecycle, go HERE.
Niche Market Beef
A lot of hulabaloo has been going on around the discussion of grain finished vs grass finished beef. People seem to think that grass finished beef is somehow more natural and environmentally friendly. Yet we know it takes about 226 more days for grass-finished cattle to reach market weight than grain-finished cattle. More days on grass may mean greater environmental impact.
Let’s look at the difference. Each pound of grain-finished beef requires:
45 percent less land;
76 percent less water; and
49 percent less feed;
51 percent less manure; and
42 percent fewer carbon emissions.
So it would seem to me that grain finishing is more environmentally sound. For more on that, click HERE.
Just the idea of it makes me cringe. What would possess someone to avoid meat just because of alliteration? Why not increase beef intake and call it Meaty Monday? Because some fool out there thought it would be healthy and better for the environment to cut meat from your diet just one day a week. Were they right? Of course not. Let’s examine the idea:
As for the environment, “Meatless Monday” would have a very small impact even if every American followed it. One meatless day per week would account for less than one half of one percent of the U.S. carbon footprint. For more on that, check out THIS LINK.
Nose to Tail
Are we, as a society, wasting any part of the animal? Not really.
First, you’ve all noticed some of the shit I’ve been eating lately at fine dining establishments: Oxtail stew, blood sausage, bone marrow, tripe, and all sorts of offal or “variety meats.”
There is a readily identifiable trend in the food biz where chefs want to use the entire animal, from nose to tail, to reduce waste and elevate their cuisine by offering on their menus the proteins that used to be relegated to the impoverished.
Offal and “variety cuts” were always cheap and within the budgets of the poor, especially outside of the US. You know what I’m talking about: stews, cured meats, slow and low cooked meals, etc. Now, restaurants are taking inspiration from some of those humble dishes and featuring them on their menus.
But even outside of human consumption, the carcass is utilized across a wide spectrum of modern society. Take a look at this diagram, courtesy of Facts About Beef:
I also liked this one from Snopes, mainly for the conclusion at the bottom of the image:
I haven’t independently verified all uses claimed on the Snopes chart, but the Facts About Beef chart is 100% legit and it looks like whoever made the Snopes pic just grabbed the same list from the BeefUSA graphic. The overall point is that beef byproducts are in a lot of things we use every day. It’s not like we just kill cows, cut the meat off and fling the carcass into a ditch on the side of the road. There’s really no waste.
I guess I should cut this baby off here. There’s a lot to talk about as far as sustainability is concerned, and if I tried to tackle everything, this would be a book as opposed to an article.
Just remember that America’s cattle ranchers have a vested interest in sustainable environmental practices. After all, the beef community thrives on multi-generational family farms. Cattle farmers have an average of 13 different practices in place to accomplish environmental goals.
But after getting that MBA, a friend at the New York Beef Council contacted me and encouraged me to apply for the Top of the Class program, which is essentially like the PhD level of beef advocacy training.
I submitted my application and was accepted! It was wild. Two days of intense training, beef information workshops, on-camera cooking demos, on-camera interviews facing tough questions, engaging lectures and helpful blogging tips.
The first half of day one involved group sessions with topics on nutrition, beef research, food photography, blogging, beef advocacy, animal care, sustainability and beef quality assurance. We also received tips on how to give effective presentations and how to conduct media interviews (on topics we are passionate about, and then some harder questioning about the beef industry).
In the afternoon and on day two we had individual break-out sessions. Two fun break-outs involved me getting in front of a camera, rather than working behind it like I normally do.
The first was a simulated TV interview with a PR and media training specialist, in which he asked me a bunch of questions about aged beef, and then threw in a few zingers about beef safety and the myth we know as “factory farming.” I was prepared to answer given my previous training! I’m trying to get my hands on those videos for you to see how I performed.
The second fun break-out was a cooking demo, where I prepared “planned-overs:” A crispy Cuban shredded beef stir-fry dish made from the leftovers of a “Sunday roast.” This was filmed as a simulation as well: I was the cooking guest on a morning news TV show, with a host who asked me questions and helped me prepare the food. During the shoot, the goal was to work in some messaging about beef nutrition, and about re-purposing leftovers to help reduce food waste. I’m trying to get my hands on these videos as well. They were pretty cool.
Other break-out sessions were about finding a message, a niche and a goal for both my blogging endeavors and my social media accounts. I think it’s safe to say I’ve found my niche! There were also some sessions regarding how to engage and advocate about beef on social media and elsewhere.
Each Top of the Class program has five students, and I think they’ve only done a handful of programs to date. The other students in the program were highly diversified, and I thought it would be cool to introduce them to you.
Dr. Lindsay Chichester
Lindsay has a blog called “Agricultural With Dr. Lindsay.” Her aim is to bring her readers stories about agriculture and introduce them to the people who grow and produce our food.
She shares agricultural practices, meat selection, cooking and storage tips, and will answer any questions you may have. With a Master of Science in Animal Science, a Master of Art in Speech Communications, and a PhD in Systems Agriculture from West Texas A&M University, you can be confident that Dr. Lindsay will have highly knowledgeable answers for you.
She’s truly a force to be reckoned with. Lindsay grew up on a cattle and sheep ranch in northern CA. She was a 10 year 4-H member, received a formal education in agricultural systems, and worked a variety of jobs in the agricultural industry (meat packing, feed yards, managing cattle herds, collecting research, etc.).
She was also an Extension Educator with University of Nebraska-Lincoln for six years focusing on livestock, agriculture, food systems, and 4-H, working with both adults and youth. In January 2016 she began a new career with Nevada Cooperative Extension.
If you’re wondering what some of that stuff means, I will explain it to you as best as I can. And yes, I was clueless about it too.
The Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Cooperative Extension provides non-formal education and learning activities to farmers, residents of rural communities, and people in urban areas throughout the country.
The country’s more than 100 land-grant colleges and universities have a critical mission: extension. Through extension, they bring vital, practical information to agricultural producers, small business owners, consumers, families and kids.
That’s where 4-H comes into play. 4‑H is a youth development program delivered by Cooperative Extension. You probably remember the commercials that used to air in the 80’s, like this one:
Kids complete hands-on projects in areas like health, science, agriculture and citizenship. They receive guidance from adult mentors and are encouraged to take on proactive leadership roles. 4‑H touches every area of the country via in-school and after-school programs, community clubs and camps.
Cassidy has a blog called Cow Country Blog. With it, she shows readers the very human and family-oriented aspects of ranching, as well as the hard work and joy behind what it means to produce cattle for the US beef market. You can see exactly the kind of love and attention that it takes to raise both cattle and a growing family.
Cassidy worked on a ranch as part of her research for her collegiate honors thesis about ranching and environmentalism. After graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in Environmental Studies, she went to work on that same ranch.
While researching, she met her cowboy husband, Robert, and they’ve been together ever since. Cowgirl meets cowboy; it doesn’t get any more classic Americana than that! Together they have worked on three cattle ranches in two different states. They currently live in Colorado and work for one of the largest ranches in the country.
Kita “Girl Carnivore” Roberts
Like me, Kita is a photographer as well as a food blogger. In fact she has two blogs: one is meat-centric, called Girl Carnivore, and the other is called Pass the Sushi (recipes, travel, photo tips, blogging tips). Her primary location of operation is out of Delaware, but she gets to travel around pretty often due to her photography and blogging endeavors.
With her blogs, she shares tons of really awesome recipes that she developed on her own. I mean, I know how hard it is to develop a recipe and come up with something unique, and then photograph it in such a way as to get readers to run out and buy the ingredients. Kita makes it look easy.
As you might expect, food photographers tend to share a wealth of really great foodporn via Instagram and social media. Kita is no exception:
As her moniker and the above photo suggests, the “Girl Carnivore” is not limited to beef. Her site has recipes broken down by protein right on the front page for easy navigation: beef, lamb, poultry and pork. You can find amazing stuff there for entrees, side dishes, what to do with leftovers… everything.
Michaela writes a blog called Cowgirl Boots & Running Shoes. On her blog, she shares healthy recipes, meal planning pointers, nutrition and dieting tips, fitness motivation, and an inside look at what family farming life is like. One of my favorite posts from her blog is about why she incorporates beef into her diet. Finally! More people talking about how great beef is for nutritional purposes.
After nearly burning out from working crazy shift hours as an ultrasound tech, Michaela and her husband Matt moved themselves and their two kids back to Matt’s family farm.
She does ultrasound part time now, but she also became a health and fitness coach and a certified PiYo Live fitness class instructor. She’s also an accredited La Leche League Leader and runs a support group for pregnant and breastfeeding moms.
To be honest, I felt a little intimidated. I just really love steak and writing about meat! Some of these other folks had way more hands-on experience in the beef industry than me, especially when it came to knowing about farms and how beef is produced. I guess the folks in charge of the program’s admissions thought there was some value in what I was doing here, at the consumer level.
But all of us are bloggers of some sort, if you hadn’t noticed. And all of us were somehow touching the beef industry, if not purely focused on it. It was a great group, and we all learned a lot from one another.
The instructors were impressive, too. There were registered dietitians, food scientists, public relations specialists, sustainability gurus, feed lot operators, and media and communications experts. I actually already did a spotlight post on one of the instructors, Ann Burkholder.
I hope to spotlight a few more, in time.
The NCBA offices are quite impressive. The walls are lined with nice framed photos of past leaders of the industry, and really cool cattle brands from various producers around the country, old and new.
They have a state of the art test kitchen with both gas and electric piped in to play around with various ways of cooking beef. In fact this is where they create various recipes, and even study, discover, or market cuts of beef (like they did with the flatiron steak). They even innovate new products, like when they helped come up with Schmacon (beef bacon). I was impressed big time!
They also have a media monitoring control room. It was like something from a science fiction movie or a spy movie. Basically, any time beef is mentioned on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or anywhere else for that matter, someone at NCBA will know about it and be able to respond, engage, or just simply watch.
As I mentioned above, I was on camera a few times. That’s because the NCBA has a fully functioning TV studio on site, and they even have a show that airs regularly called Cattlemen to Cattlemen. They can also broadcast live and link up with various TV news agencies who may want their media spokespeople for interviews.
I was blown away by the facilities. They’re truly amazing, and cattle farmers and ranchers can rest assured that their Beef Checkoff dollars are being put to very good use. But the experience as a whole really acted to sling-shot my motivation here. I’ll be doing some interesting things in the future, and posting some new and interesting content. Keep an eye out!
Meet Your Meat posts are a new way for me to introduce my readers to the people responsible for raising and producing our food. Farmers, ranchers, processors, butchers, etc. You get enough chef info in my restaurant reviews, but it’s high time that I start focusing on the people who actually supply restaurants with their delicious beef proteins.
That experience is the subject of a whole other post, so I won’t get too deep into it here, but the point in mentioning it is to anchor your understanding of why I’m choosing Anne Burkholder to be the first person that I spotlight in this new “Meet Your Meat” endeavor. Anne was an instructor at the Top of the Class, and over the course of the two day training program, I got to know her and was inspired to write about her journey.
Since I and most of my readers are from the NYC metro area, many of us don’t know a lot about farming, or we take it for granted. Most of us are probably still in the dark about what it takes to bring beef to our plates every week. We just don’t get exposed to the process often enough.
Anne represents all of us urbanites and suburbanites. She grew up in urban Palm Beach County, Florida. While anything “Florida” may sound like a sprawling paradise to us NYC folks, urban Palm Beach is certainly not a farming community; it’s a city!
Smart as a whip and with incredible athletic pedigrees in both cross country running and swimming, Anne attended an ivy league college. She met her husband Matt there, and they later moved back to Matt’s home town in Nebraska.
Matt’s family owned and operated a diversified farm business. What is a diversified farm? Essentially it’s when a farm produces a variety of crops or animals, usually both, with the crops feeding the animals that they raise, in an effort to create a self-sustained farm with little waste or reliance upon other operations. You may recall that Walbridge Farm is like this as well, where they grow sunflowers and raise cattle, with the sunflowers being used to produce both sunflower oil and cattle feed.
Okay so back to Anne. Soon after graduating cum laude at Dartmouth, she was putting on boots and blue jeans to work at her and her husband’s cattle feed yard, Will Feed, Inc. This is where cattle get fattened up, so to speak, before going off to market. Check out this short video that explains what she does:
See how much space these animals have? Just goes to show you how bogus those myths are about “factory farming.” But anyway, I digress…
Nearly 20 years have passed since Anne moved out to the country, and she still loves what she does. Apparently the beef community loves what she does as well:
In 2009, she was awarded the Beef Quality Assurance Producer of the Year Award for her volunteer work in beef farmer education concerning animal welfare and food safety. In 2013 she was voted to Vance Publishing’s 40 under 40 in Agriculture, and in 2014 she was awarded Beef Magazine’s Trail Blazer Award. Both awards were given for her work in consumer outreach through her blog, Feed Yard Foodie.
She’s a member of the Tyson Fresh Meats Animal Well-being Committee for Farm Check, the National Beef Quality Assurance Advisory Committee, a Director of the Nebraska State Beef Council, and an avid advocate for the cattle industry. She’s constantly and actively improving cattle welfare and beef safety. She is an irreplaceable asset.
The best part is that Anne’s operation is a family farm, and she loves the personal responsibility that her three daughters learn from taking care of their land and animals. So not only is Anne working to improve all-things-beefy, but she is setting a great example so that the next generation can do so as well.
In addition to running cattle on grass in the spring and summer, Anne is soon to start a new job with Beef Marketing Group and Innovative Livestock Services. Her role will be in communications, and she will also be helping take on various animal welfare projects for four Nebraska feed yards. She’s looking forward to implementing her animal care ideas to impact a larger number of animals.
I encourage you all to follow her blog and check out her insightful posts. She’s a wonderful person and an inspiration.