Author: Patty Lee


Columbian Wyandotte

ColumbianWyandotteHen

We are about to begin our Heritage Rare Breed Chicken Tour here at Heritage Foods USA and could not be more excited about working with preeminent poultry farmer Frank Reese to revive these breeds. In the coming weeks we will post more info, recipes, stories, and videos about the project, but we wanted to start with an introduction to our inaugural breed: the Columbian Wyandotte.

This very old American breed of chicken was first exhibited in 1890 at the Columbian World’s Fair in Chicago. Wyandottes are hearty birds that can stand up to cold temperatures and are know for their good disposition in flocks. The Columbian Wyandotte is a medium sized bird with a white feather body and contrasting black and silver neck and tail plumage. There are currently fewer than four breeders in America who raise the Columbian Wyandotte to the true old standards, and most have less than 25 hens.

Columbian Wyandottes are good for frying and are sought after for their fine texture, taste, and healthy lipid fine yellow fat. Like all heritage poultry that are pasture raised, they have well developed legs and wings that respond best to slow cooking at a low temperature.

Stay tuned for more info and recipes!

Chinese Buyouts and American Pork

By Janani Lee

The American pork company Smithfield is in talks to be bought out by Chinese corporation Shuanghui International. Shuanghui’s purchase would open the Chinese market to American pork, likely leading to increased domestic production for export. This news has raised concerns about food safety, pollution, American farmers, animal welfare, international corporations, and the American and Chinese economies. These are all legitimate worries since they are all facets of the same broken food system and the merger between America’s largest pork producer and a huge Chinese meat company shines a light on just how broken it is.

Smithfield (like many American and international meat producers) is a vertically integrated company that controls all aspects of their pigs, from genetics to feed to slaughter to distribution. The emphasis is on efficiency and profit – breeding the fastest growing pigs at the lowest cost. These savings are passed on to consumers, but so are detrimental effects like massive lagoons of waste outside of feedlots and antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are allowed to thrive with the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics. Does the benefit of cheap animal protein really outweigh the cost of damage to our environment and health? It is not a stretch to speculate that increased pork production for the Chinese market will only make these problems worse.

What hasn’t really been talked about yet is the effect something like this will have on the farmers and animals we work with here at Heritage Foods. The farmers we work with are independent – they make their own decisions about what breeds to grow, how much time outdoors their pigs get, and when to bring them in for processing. The breeds our farmers work with have not been bred for efficiency and profit, but have instead been farmed for their flavor and their cultural value. Breeds like Red Wattle, Berkshire, and Duroc have long histories that are part of American agricultural history. Heritage breeds are also vital if we want to maintain a genetic diversity in our food supply, which is key to long-term food security.

When large pork producers become even larger and open up to new markets they can continue to drop their prices lower and lower. This means that smaller farms with motives other than pure profit continue to get squeezed and the vital work they do to preserve our culture and environment becomes a rarer and rarer thing. This is something that all meat-eaters and all Americans should be worried about.

What You Need To Know About ANTIBIOTICS

By Katy Keiffer
At the National Food Policy Conference in Washington DC in May 2012, a panel was convened to discuss the use of antibiotics in animal feed, a longstanding practice in industrial livestock production. For reasons that are still not clearly understood, the use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics in animal production spurs accelerated growth, a highly desirable outcome that saves on feed and husbandry costs. But going back as far as 1977, there have been concerns about this particular use of antibiotics and its impact on human health.
Cut to the 21st century, and lo and behold, a raft of antibiotic resistant strains of common bacteria in livestock production have emerged, to the great consternation and concern of the scientific and public health communities.
After literally years of pressure from groups such as Concerned Scientists in the Public Interest, National Resources Defense Council, and others, the FDA has finally come out with “voluntary” guidelines on antibiotic use in animal feed. These were explained at the conference by Bill Flynn, Deputy director for Science Policy at FDA center for Veterinary Medicine.
The focus of these voluntary guidelines is on antibiotics present in medicated feed and water used for growth promotion. Use in feed delivers antibiotics at lower doses and for longer durations, a practice which has more of an impact on growing disease-resistant microbes.
The FDA is seeking pharmaceutical industry compliance in phasing these medications out of animal feed, and implementing a requirement for veterinary oversight in the use of all drugs. Currently when farmers use medicated feed, its called “off-label” usage, and does not require a vet to write a prescription, or monitor levels. The FDA is giving the animal ag industry and the pharmaceutical industry three years to phase in these guidelines. Three years, people!
Flynn’s presentation was rebutted by Caroline de Waal, Director of Concerned Scientists in the Public Interest , who made the obvious points: (1) there are no requirements for the pharmaceutical industry to do their job in altering the drugs (currently the same ones we take) that they sell into veterinary medicines. (2) The industry will transition from using antibiotics as a growth promotant to using antibiotics for “prevention”, thus continuing the abuse of the drugs and a further reduction in their efficacy in treating human illness.
So much for voluntary guidelines. Contact your congressman or the FDA and let them know you want “sub-therapeutic” or “preventive” antibiotic use banned altogether.
Heritage Foods USA does not accept meat from animals treated sub-therapeutically with antibiotics.

Post originally appeared in Heritage Foods USA’s June 2012 Newsletter

Craig Good’s Great Livestock

So you’ve enjoyed a grilled heritage Angus steak and have savored the buttery flavor of our Old Spot bacon, but now you want to know more about the origin of these finger-licking cuts? You may already know that Heritage Foods USA works with independent family farmers across the U.S. who serve as the foundation of Heritage Foods USA’s mail order division and supply America’s top restaurants with premium cuts of pork and beef- but who are the masterminds responsible for prolonging the blood lines of the exclusive breeds Heritage Foods promotes? Wonder no more! Introducing one of our hog and beef farmers: Craig Good.

Craig and Amy Good
Craig and Amy Good of Good Farms

For more than 50 years, Craig Good has worked with livestock at Good Farms, located on the northern edge of the Kansas Flint Hills in Olsburg, Kansas. Historically, this area was known as the last vestige of the Tall Grass Prairie- a fertile strip of grasslands that supported untold numbers of bison in our country’s formative years. Given its history, Craig’s father, Don, bought the farm in 1961. Don quickly became a nationally recognized authority on beef cattle – an honor that has been passed down to Craig through hard work and close attention to genetic refinement. Early on, Craig took an interest in the family business, and after graduating with a degree in Animal Science from Kansas State in 1975, he began working for a pure-bred swine breeder. In 1981, Craig and his wife, Amy, decided to move back to his childhood home to carry on the legacy of his family’s farm.

The Good Farm is very diverse – raising various crops, 100% Angus cattle, and several heritage breeds of hogs. The farm’s modest size allows the couple to focus on quality, rather than quantity,  through the enhancement of their livestock’s genetics. Working with Heritage Foods USA allows the Goods to make a living without converting into an industrial-sized farm.

“We feel that true quality is achieved by working with detail and care in breeding our hogs, not just cranking numbers and pounds off the farm,” Craig explains.

Good Farm’s size offers other benefits, too. Recently, Craig had the opportunity to experiment with the diets of his pure-bred Duroc hogs. Instead of the traditional feed, oats, Craig tried feeding these special swines a meal of dried cranberries and plums. Not only did he receive a positive response from the chefs to which he supplies pork (the Duroc’s normally tame fat became much more fragrant), but the pigs enjoyed this tasty change to their daily diets, as well. This experiment  is just one example of how Heritage Foods USA and its farmers are finding creative ways to revolutionize the food industry.

Craig and Pigs
Craig Good and his Duroc Hogs

The Goods are selective with their breeding, and are working to create the best possible future generation of swine. In addition to the Duroc, Craig and Amy raise a small number of Old Spot and Spot Rock pigs – a cross between Old Spot and Duroc pigs. Previously, the couple raised Yorkshire hogs as well, but decided to focus their attention on the Duroc breed due to their rapid growth rates, great muscle quality, and pure, yet mild flavor.

During a recent visit to his farm, Craig told the Heritage Foods USA team that his favorite thing about his farm is being surrounded by his pigs.

“I’ve loved pigs ever since I was in 4H, back when I was thirteen years old. Some people don’t like pigs but I do… I like to think there’s a really good relationship between us and our pigs.”

Craig and Amy feel a strong responsibility to our nation as farmers.

“We are proud of our place in the farm economy and hope that we can continue to serve the producers that have been true to us over the years,” Craig says. “We feel that the family farm has been a true asset to America and we strive to work together with our fellow producers to remain a viable part of the future. We have a strong commitment to produce pigs that are of the highest quality possible.”

 

Highland Cattle: A Regal Heritage Breed

As previously announced, our annual Eighth Cattle Share is in full swing! Following America’s most popular breed, the Angus, Larry and Madonna Sorrell present the truly regal choice of England: Highland beef.

Highland cow
A Highland Cow grazing at Lazy S. Farms

The Highland is the oldest registered breed of cattle, officially recognized in 1884. The Queen of England maintains her own Highland herd at Balmoral Castle, which satisfies her cravings for a royal burger. Highland cattle have lived for centuries in the rugged, remote, Scottish Highlands – qualifying them as a true heritage breed. Cold weather and snow have little effect on this breed, allowing them to be raised as far north as Alaska and Scandinavia.  These extremely harsh conditions propelled the process of natural selection, allowing only the fittest and most adaptable animals to survive and carry on the legacy of the breed. Originally, the Highland breed was comprised of two distinctly different herds; today, however, these strains have evolved into one, hearty Highland lineage. Despite their long horns, long hair, and unusual appearance, the Highland is considered to be a docile and calm animal. They are extremely intelligent, which makes them quite easy to train.

Highland cattle are approximately 2/3 the weight of Angus cattle, so their meat yield is slightly lower. They mature slowly and are typically taken for slaughter later  in life than other breeds, making their meat  tender, lean, well marbled, and flavorful.  This hard-to-find beef is dry-aged three weeks before we ship it, reducing each cut’s weight, but enhancing the savory flavor of this delectable beef.

Larry and Madonna Sorell have been farmers since 1970, when they purchased 200 acres of land in Cloud County, Kansas. Larry Sorell continues a family tradition that was passed down from his grandfather to his father and then, to him. Today, the farm is a bit smaller, but the Sorrells still maintain true biodiversity amongst their livestock. Madonna fondly recalls Larry returning home with a surprise in his truck – once a few lambs, another time a beautiful horse. The couple raises numerous heritage breeds, including a handful of Highland cattle, Katahdin lambs, and several pig varieties, which can be found on our storefront.

 

Heritage Chickens: A Year-Round Treat

Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch is widely regarded as the premium provider of heritage turkeys, and Heritage Foods USA relies on the genetic integrity of Frank Reese’s birds each and every holiday season. But did you know that the Reeses also produce genetically pure, delicious chickens year-round? These heritage breed Jersey Giant and Barred Rock chickens come from a long lineage, akin to those your grandparents may have eaten growing up prior to the industrial era.

The Jersey Giant chicken was developed between 1870 and 1890 by John and Thomas Black near the town of Jobstown, New Jersey. These typically mellow chickens are impressive in size, reaching 10-13lbs at maturity, making them the largest purebred chicken breed in existence. The commercial standard developed for poultry includes a rugged gigantic frame, with an angular shape, single comb and black shanks. Reese chose to raise Jersey Giants to illustrate the diversity of heritage chicken breeds. The Jersey Giant is a slow growing bird: it takes 24-28 weeks to reach market weight, as compared to the Plymouth’s 16-18 weeks. With such a long growth period, these chickens often fall short in the eyes of the commercial industry to more rapidly growing birds. Currently, there are fewer than 5,000 Jersey Giants in the U.S.; however, with its large size and silky, rich meat, this is the perfect chicken for roasting. Dress it simply to taste its natural flavors.

Cooked Jersey Giant
A Jersey Giant Chicken, cooked low and slow

The Barred Rock, a variety of the Plymouth Rock (or simply “Rock”), originated in the United States and was admitted to the APA Standard in 1874.  They possess a long, broad back, a moderately deep, full breast, and yellow skin. Developed in New England in the middle of the 19th century, the Barred Rock was first exhibited as a breed in 1869. This breed is considered a dual-purpose fowl, meaning that it is valued both for its meat and for the hens’ egg-laying ability. The breed gained popularity very rapidly due to its hardiness, docility, broodiness, and excellent production of both eggs and meat. In fact, until World War II, the Barred Rock was the most extensively kept and bred breed in the United States.

As with all heritage products, Heritage chickens are humanely raised on open pastures, providing them with a healthy lifestyle and lots of exercise. This method of raising livestock yields a larger muscle-mass, and for this reason, heritage fowl require a cooking low and slow cooking technique.

 

 

Eighth Cattle Share

For the fourth year in a row, Heritage Foods USA is taking part in a uniquely sustainable model of meat consumption: the Eighth Cattle Share. Though Heritage supports eating sustainably year-round, this nose-to-tail project allows our customers to purchase an entire eighth of a steer – including all of the cuts – leaving minimal waste in its path. By using the entire cow, small cattle farmers need not worry about selling individual cuts, lifting the heavy burden that comes along with the traditional model of selling cut-by-cut. However, this opportunity also provides our customers with special cuts of heritage cattle breeds at one low price.

Eighth Cattle Angus
Good Farms Pure Black Angus Cattle



Heritage Foods USA considers this project to be one of our most important of the year. For our initial eighth cattle share, we’re teaming up with Craig and Amy Good of Good Farms. Located on the northern edge of the Kansas Flint Hills, this area is the last vestige of the Tall Grass Prairie – a fertile strip of grasslands that supported untold numbers of cattle in our country’s formative years. Grass is arguably the best feed for cows, and the mix of Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Indiangrass, Switchgrass, Prairie Dropseed, and Sideoats Grama is responsible for producing the tastiest grass fed, American-bred Angus cattle in existence.

Though Pure Black Angus genetics are the most commonly used in America today, a 100% Angus herd like Craig Good’s is rare and hard to find. Good Farms has become one of the most reputable sources of pure-bred livestock in the country, and we applaud The Goods for caring so much about the quality and integrity of their cattle.

Heritage offers three ways to support this year’s eighth cattle share project, all of which will fit in a standard-sized freezer. Our largest package, the True Eighth, features sixty pounds of ground beef, brisket, short ribs, and three different cuts of steak. For those with a smaller apetite, The All Star Cuts package offers the same prime cuts with significantly less ground beef.

Still, for some, buying in bulk can be a pretty big commitment. Want to support the Eighth Cattle Share project and the small farmers it benefits? Buying ground beef helps these farmers significantly during the butchering process, because virtually any left over parts of the steer can be ground. For this reason, Heritage Foods offers three different ground beef packages, in varying quantities. What better way to prepare for the summer grilling season than by stocking your fridge with the best Angus beef that money can buy?

Stay tuned for additional eighth cattle share packages from Highland, Simmental and Belgian Blue breeds of cattle throughout the summer.

American Grass-Fed: Bringing Bison Back


America is celebrated for its diversity: from music to food, almost every aspect of our culture has been influenced by people of varying ethnicities. For this reason, it’s difficult to find an authentic taste of America. For those who wish to take a walk in the shoes of our native bretheren, however, there is good news. Bison meat is truly North America’s native meat.

A family of bison from Shape Ranch
A family of bison from Shape Ranch

Sixty million bison once roamed the great plains and amply fed the hearty appetites of the Native Americans who occupied this country. When the Transcontinental Railroad was built in the 1800s, bison herds were split between the North and South. The Southern herd included animals from Texas, eastern New Mexico, eastern Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and southern Nebraska. By the dawn of the 20th century, the total bison population had dwindled to less than 1,000.

Thanks to conservation efforts, bison are slowly recovering. The Southern Plains herd that exists today was started in the 1880s by Charles Goodnight, a wealthy American cattlemen. His wife urged him to save five calves at a time when hunters were killing bison by the hundreds of thousands.

Shape Ranch, producer of Thunder Heart Bison, is owned and run by Hugh and Sarah Fitzsimons near San Antonio, Texas. In 1806, the King of Spain granted this land to Juan Fransisco Lombrano, a loyal subject of the crown who stocked the ranch with cattle and sheep. Many generations later, in 1933, Shape Ranch was purchased by Hugh’s grandfather, H. A. Fitzsimons, and has remained  in the family ever since.
Bison
The ranch was originally stocked with registered Hereford cattle and steers until Hugh made the decision to begin a herd of bison. The family now raises 350 head of bison. More recently, Shape Ranch decided to shift focus toward the genetic integrity of their bison. Their goal is to increase the number of Southern Plains bison that were once indigenous to Dimmit County and all of Texas. In 2008, Hugh purchased four bison from the only remaining, pure-bred, Southern Plains herd. These bulls came from the famous Mary Annand Charles Goodnight herd that is now the Texas State herd at Caprock Canyons State Park. By choosing animals from such legendary sources, the Fitzsimons family insures both strong and diversified genetics.

In April 2009 Thunder Heart Bison was certified by the Animal Welfare Institute as Animal Welfare Approved (AWA), making it the first bison ranch in the United States to meet the stringent and exacting standards of the AWA. Thunder Heart Bison Ranch is dedicated to allowing bison to live in accordance with their natural instincts: they eat only grass and are killed on the prairies where they live, under low stress conditions. Thunder Heart is one of very few ranches in America whose buffalo are both grass-fed and field-harvested. By grazing on native grasses, such as Sea Coast Bluestem, Old World Bluestem, Curly Mesquite, and Hooded Windmill, these bison produce a flavor that is mild and delicate.

Grass-fed Bison is naturally leaner than other meats but the fat it does have is mono-unsaturated, making it much healthier while refusing to sacrifice flavor. The leanness of the meat requires low and slow cooking.

We are particularly excited to share this incredibly unique product with our customers. This year’s Thunder Heart Bison is only available in small quantities, and Heritage Foods USA is proud to take part in the opportunity to share this one-of-a-kind, grass-fed bison with all of you. Each cut of our stock originates from one of 350 bison raised on the Fitzsimons family ranch from a herd that is slowly, but surely, being brought back from the ranks of endangerment. With its pure, lean, unmatchable taste, this offer is truly one-of-a-kind.

An Intro to Heritage Pork Breeds

The core of Heritage Foods USA’s mission is to preserve rare heritage breeds. We work hard to support family farms that raise their animals on natural diets and without the aid of antibiotics, which are common on industrial farms.

Red Wattle Pig
A Red Wattle pig raised by Larry Sorell at Lazy S. Farms

 

Heritage pork is sourced from  Certified Humane Red Wattle or Six-Spotted Berkshire stock. Some of our farmers, however, also raise other rare breeds – Duroc, Old Spot, Large Black, and Tamworth – which are available for purchase by request, or as porterhouse chops and cured hams.

Sorell_Sow_BreedBerkshire
A Berkshire sow with one of her piglets

Berkshire meat is elegant, luscious and smooth. The streaks of fat that run through Berkshire meat produces a round, buttery flavor that melts on the tongue. The firm and substantial texture of Berkshire meat was so cherished by the British monarchy that they exported the breed as far as Japan, where it is called Korobuta.

As seen above, the Red Wattle is the only pig left in the world that still has a wattle hanging from its jowl. Red Wattle meat is charmingly inconsistent; its expressive porky flavor is concentrated and even a little racy. Originating in the South Pacific, the Red Wattle pig populated the backyards of New Orleans during the 18th and 19th centuries where it was bred to stand up to the strong and flavorful Creole cuisine. These gentle red hogs are renowned  foragers: when allowed to roam, their meat develops earthy, herbaceous traces of the vegetation within their locale.

One of Craig Good's Duroc hogs
One of Craig Good’s Duroc hogs

Duroc meat is clean and crisp. Its taste and texture are polished and easy on the palate. Duroc pork is a standard – not too fatty, not too lean, not too strong – but is certainly more flavorful than its factory farmed cousins. In fact, Duroc genetics were used in the foundation of the pig industry, which gained momentum in the 20th century.

Tamworth meat is robust and gutsy, and is the leanest of the heritage pork breeds- making it an excellent source of bacon and jowl. Its balanced flavor is the pork equivalent of a red beer. Despite its presence on the Threatened species list, the Tamworth is a hearty, strong, resilient animal – making it an excellent candidate for the growing urban farm movement around the United States.

A Gloucestershire Old Spot sow from Craig Good's farm
A Gloucestershire Old Spot sow from Craig Good’s farm

 

Large Black and Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs are listed as critically endangered by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Along with the Red Wattle, they are the rarest pig breeds that Heritage Foods sells.

Originating in the Berkley Vale of Gloucestershire during the 1800s, the GOS was bred to lounge around in the orchards of England, where its sole responsibility was to clean up fallen fruit.  The breed became rare after World War II, when the shift to intensive pig production reduced interest in grazing pigs. Due to its supreme laziness, GOS meat is very delicate – even its fat is edible and milky. Old Spots carry a distinct layer of backfat and marbling within their meat, making them the bacon pig of choice for many.

The Large Black is a favorite of farmers who appreciate the breed’s intellect and docility. Its strength, hardiness, and ability  to forage make it a valuable asset for pasture-based farming. The breed is native to southwestern England and gained popularity in the 1800’s as farmers began to see that the animal could easily turn poor-quality feed into large quantities of high-quality meat. The Large Black’s physical characteristics – its dark skin and large ears – make it stand out in terms of appearance and efficiency: its dark skin protects it from sunburn during long hours of grazing, and its long ears shield its eyes from dirt while foraging. Large Blacks are also known for their lean consistency; however, they lack the excess back fat found in the GOS.

Heritage Chicken with Fennel, Black Olives, and Orange Zest

Heritage chicken is widely regarded as the most flavorful, delectable poultry in the world. Unlike the chicken found in run-of-the-mill grocery stores and restaurants, heritage chickens are raised humanely on open pastures. This lifestyle allows them amble time for exercise, making their meat firm and delicious. Heritage chicken typically have larger, meatier legs due to all this running around! For this reason, always remember to cook your Heritage chicken slowly and at lower temperatures than you would for store-bought poultry. 
 

Jersey_Giant_Cooked

 

Ingredients:
1 Heritage Chicken (3lbs)
1 Large Fennel Bulb, cored and thinly sliced
1 Medium Onion, thinly sliced
½ Cup Gaeta or Nicoise Olives
1 Orange: 1 tsp of orange zest plus its juice
½ Cup White Wine
1 Cup Chicken Stock
Thyme
Bay Leaf
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 295° F.
Cut chicken up into eight to ten pieces. Dredge in flour with salt and pepper and shake off excess flour. Heat a skillet and add enough olive oil to generously coat the pan. Brown the pieces lightly, in batches, over medium heat, adding olive oil as needed. Do not crowd the pan or the chicken will steam.
Put chicken into a crock pot or dutch oven. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and saute fennel and onion until just softened. Add orange zest, thyme, bay leaf and white wine. Let the wine bubble for a minute, then add stock and juice. Pour the contents of the skillet over the browned chicken pieces, add the olives, and cover.

Cook for about 3 hours in the oven, or for manufacturers recommended time in your crock pot.
Serve over Israeli couscous, barley, or a grain of your choice.

 

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