Category: Breeds


The Oldest Domesticated Livestock in the United States: Navajo-Churro

This is an EPIC story about the oldest domesticated livestock breed in the United States, a story that spans 500 years, and hopefully ends on on your plate.

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Antonio Manzanares is one of the last remaining Churro shepherds in the Southwest, and he herds these animals in the traditional style, with little concession to modern farming.

Antonio Manzanares is one of the last remaining Churro shepherds in the Southwest, and he herds these animals in the traditional style, with little concession to modern farming.

This year, for the first time, Heritage Foods USA is proud to announce that it is making Navajo-Churro lamb a featured product for its retail and restaurant customers, a giant step in saving this rare and exquisite breed. Navajo-Churro lambs are prized for their incredible depth of flavor, as well as their long wool, which commands top prices in woven Navajo rugs.

The Navajo Sheep Association, dedicated to the preservation of these sheep, says that “No other sheep population in the history of the world has survived such selective pressure with such dignity and spirit.”

From Noble Roots
The Churro were brought to America from Spain by Francisco Coronado in 1540. The sheep were bred largely for food for the explorers and the missionaries who followed them throughout the region that is now Mexico and the southwestern United States. By 1807 a single flock of Spanish sheep could number 20,000.
At that time Native Americans had no livestock agriculture of their own — there were no domesticated animals in North America yet. Native Americans were still largely hunters and gatherers, but they quickly learned how to raise sheep both for the meat and the Churro’s thick, double-sided fleece and long haired wool.
In the 1860s, the Navajo-Churro sheep population was nearly destroyed as part of the United States government’s efforts to punish the Navajo people who resisted the new wave of Western settlers moving onto their land. The government ordered military action, led by American “heroes” Kit Carson and John Carlton, with instructions to destroy Navajo orchards and flocks. The results were a bloody swath of death and pain.

The Return of the Navajo-Churro
This year, Heritage Foods, in cooperation with John Sharpe, a pioneer in the preservation of rare breeds and the chef at the Turquoise Room at La Posada hotel — a gorgeously restored train station and historic site in Winslow, Arizona — is working to bring this breed back to the American market.

The Churro is smaller than many other sheep and is noteworthy for its especially herbaceous and savory flavor, with a lower lanolin content than many lambs, which can give the meat a gamy flavor. The Churro is also remarkably tender – even cuts like the shoulder and legs that sometimes call for braising can be roasted and served medium rare like the loin chops or the rib rack.

Shepherding: The second oldest profession
These animals are a reflection of the ground upon which they were raised. Heritage Foods’ Churro lamb is truly free range, raised in Navajo country and in the mountains of New Mexico, and herded in the traditional style. There is very little hay feeding in the winter, as they are grazed at lower elevations.

Antonio Manzanares is one of the few shepherds left breeding Navajo-Churro: “We trail through the mountains in the summer and back in winter. They can get a little wild, but they herd well. The Churro is a smaller animal, leaner than other sheep – I have many customers, such as John Sharpe, who swear that the Churro is a very different tasting lamb.”

It’s no secret that the back story helps sell the lamb — from its arrival to the New World, the drive to save the breed from extinction, and traditional shepherding practices.

Heritage Foods works closely with John Sharpe on our Navajo-Churro project. John is a pioneer in the preservation of rare breeds, and the chef at the Turquoise Room at La Posada hotel — a gorgeously restored train station and historic site in Winslow, Arizona.

“My other shepherds are both women, and both weavers,” says John, who serves Churro, nose-to-tail, in tacos, posole, and grilled. “Irene Bennally is actually a famous shepherd and weaver, she was featured in the New York Times – you can pay her and she’ll take you with her shepherding and camping.”

You can read the New York Times article here

And please contact Heritage Foods to get a taste of this incredible lamb, as delicious as it is part of a great American legacy.

Click here to order The Southwest Navajo-Churro Package.  13-15 lb, All cuts are individually packed!

Roasted Leg of Lamb

Roasted Leg of Lamb with Potatoes, Apples, & Citrus

Ryan’s recipe sounds delicious!  We love the simplicity of Roasted Leg of Lamb.  Try this recipe for a citrus twist on an old classic.  The key is marinating the meat overnight and cooking the roast low and slow.  This recipe is great in the oven, and also does wonderful on the grill.

"Chick-etta" Rolatina Recipe

“Chick-etta” Rolatina Recipe

Pasture-raised chicken breasts deboned and stuffed with award-winning cheese, our “Chick-etta” is the perfect storm of taste and earthy sophistication. Cordon Bleu-meets-porchetta in master butcher Thomas Odermatt’s newest creation.

Heritage Turkeys : From Farm to Ark to Table

In every family, there is a pride of history and lineage. This is no different for poultry or livestock. Heritage turkeys are the progeny of poultry that was bred for flavor.

Norman Kardosh, Frank Reese’s mentor, spent his life teaching Frank how to raise heritage turkeys responsibly. He knew he was leaving his legacy to Frank, and he stressed the importance of pure genetics. Norman said, “If you mess them up it will take fifteen years to straighten out… if it’s even possible.”

The Standard Bronze is the perfect heritage turkey — flavorful, healthy, and robust — and represents not just a line of genetics, but the farmer’s love and care in breeding the best heritage turkeys in the world.

By the early 1970s, factory farming would take over, and turkeys were most commonly bred for traits that would genetically deform them and destroy their flavor, namely how fast and how big they could grow. Within twenty years, turkeys shot up with chemicals to keep them alive and so top heavy they could not walk were the norm. In fact, they were growing so fast that turkeys became so inexpensive as to nearly bankrupt the industry.

The American Poultry Association is America’s oldest agricultural association and the keeper of the standards for poultry breed identification. Frank is the first farmer to receive accreditation by the APA certifying his heritage turkeys as purebred to the standards set in 1873.

Patrick Martins, Founder of Heritage Foods USA explains, “In 2001, when I was running Slow Food USA, I put the Standard Bronze turkey on the Slow Food “Ark of Taste” — a metaphoric vessel designed to highlight agriculture on the verge of extinction — and suddenly I found myself in the turkey business, launching Heritage Foods USA to help Frank expand and successfully deliver his flock of heritage turkeys, now numbering around 10,000 birds per year.

Frank’s birds are not only a model of responsible farming but also delicious. They bring a character of flavor and juiciness that could never be found in anything produced by Big Agriculture. They do cost more, but the price reflects the true cost of raising a free-range bird that has not been genetically redesigned to flatter the bottom line rather than the taste buds.

Modern, industrially raised adult turkey’s breasts are so unnaturally large that they cannot reproduce without assistance, and need to be artificially inseminated, which is why cheap turkey meat is available in the supermarket all year long. Frank’s turkeys mate naturally and are only ready to be harvested for Thanksgiving.

Frank Reese’s heritage turkeys are now available for pre-order for Thanksgiving directly from Heritage Foods USA, including the Standard Bronze as well as Bourbon Red, White Holland, Black Narragansett, Royal Palm, Jersey Buff, and Slate breeds.

2016 Heritage Turkeys
Delivered fresh November 22nd with neck and giblets
8-10lb turkey … $99
10-12lb turkey … $119
12-14lb turkey … $139
14-16lb turkey … $159
16-18lb turkey … $179
18-20lb turkey … $199

wagyu ribeye

Wagyu Beef: Japanese and American Heritage

wagyu ribeye

According to the American Wagyu Association, only four Japanese breeds are truly considered Wagyu: Japanese Black (the predominant Wagyu exported to the U.S), Akaushi (also known as the Japanese Red Cow), Japanese Polled, and Japanese Shorthorn. In Japan there is strict regulation on labeling and export of this prized livestock – even in Japan true Wagyu accounts for only .06% of beef consumption.

These cattle were originally raised as draft animals—selected for their endurance, which was fueled by their great capacity to store fat. As gastronomy became the main indicator for selection, unique breeds of Wagyu began to develop in prefectures including Matsusaka, Kobe, and Shiga.

Wagyu beef is known for its abundance of intramuscular fat and grades levels above USDA Prime. A special grading system has been developed for this beef based on a Beef Marbling Score, or BMS, ranging from 3–12. To give you an idea, USDA Prime steak might come to 11% fat whereas a level 3 BMS must have a minimum of 21 percent intramuscular fat, according to Steven Raichlen, BBQ Bible.

The first Wagyu cattle were imported to the US in 1975 when a Japanese Emperor gifted four bulls to a Hawaiian. The meat is steadily becoming more popular among American chefs and home cooks. In the United States Wagyu is often crossed with Angus, but as the American interest in Wagyu grows it’s being raised with increasingly pure genetics.

The Akaushi beef we carry is from Heartbrand Beef in Texas. This family-owned ranch has been raising Japanese cattle since 1992.

If you’re interested in sourcing some of the best Akaushi and Akaushi/Angus Wagyu beef available in the United States please visit our storefront HeritageFoodsUSA.com/Beef. And if you’re really serious about amazing beef, check out our Ribeye Variety Pack—our curated selection of the most exquisitely marbled steaks.

wagyu ribeye

What is Wagyu Beef?

The name Wagyu refers to any Japanese breed of beef. Kobe is a type of Wagyu, as is Mishima. For the past decade Heritage Foods has sourced Akaushi, a spectacular breed of Wagyu, arguably the most intensely marbled beef breed in the world. Akaushi is the Japanese Red Cow, a national treasure in Japan….

Return of the Bison

The species of grass that are out there, the wildlife, the birds, all of those things – even the contour of the land reflects the hoofprint of the bison. – Dave Carter, President National Bison Association

 

Bison

Dave Carter is the Executive Director of the National Bison Association, a resource for ranchers working to preserve, promote, and market bison as a sustainable industry.

Bison are a keystone species of the prairie ecosystem.

One might say bison are the “keepers of the plains”. The bison’s diet consists of native grasses, maintained by the slight disturbance of the bison’s cup-shaped hoof. In their hay-day two subspecies of bison, the plains bison and the wood bison, grazed from Alaska south into Mexico and out toward the eastern seaboard of the United States. Bison were so incomprehensibly plentiful, millions upon millions of hooves of migrating herds of bison laid the track for what is now highway U.S. 150 – year after year they wore one path, which crossed the Ohio River, running northwest to the Wabash River and into present day Illinois.

Dave Carter: I fly a small plane and it’s interesting when you fly over the prairies and you see these prairie potholes – these small lakes or ponds that are out across the prairies. A lot of those prairie potholes were formed throughout hundreds of thousands of years of buffalo wallowing in the dirt and kind of excavating it out and creating a catchment. When you create the prairie pothole, well then you have got an ecosystem that brings in the birds and the predators. So we feel that this is the animal that belongs in this part of the world. One of the things that we try and promote is that with bison the less that we tinker with the animal, the better.

Four hundred years ago estimates place historic buffalo populations around 50 million head. By one hundred and twenty years ago the American bison had been hunted down and driven to less than a thousand head.

DC: A hundred and twenty years ago there were less than seven hundred animals left alive. And there were five ranchers that essentially gathered up the remnants of the herd and saved them from extinction. People talk about the Bronx Zoo and the animals that were in Yellowstone, but it was really Charles Goodnight, and Samuel Walking, James Phillips, and the Pablo-Allard Group who gathered up the remnants and saved them.

Even though bison are being raised for meat production, the species remains wild in the sense that they don’t require any assistance mating, birthing, and can withstand cold winters without shelter. Today total bison numbers are estimated around half a million. Luckily, ranchers and the National Bison Association are committed to increasing numbers and keeping the species free of antibiotics, growth hormones, and heavy genetic selection.

 

2015 Heritage Turkey Flock

Every morning it’s the same routine for poultry farmer Frank Reese. Frank walks several thousand turkeys from their barn out to pasture, where they spend the day foraging in the rolling Kansas plains. In the evening he opens the large barn doors, cuing the flock to head indoors where they can roost safely for the night.

Exercise and access to natural forage help to keep heritage turkeys strong and healthy. It also enables the birds to develop fat, nutritional content, and flavor. Not too long ago this was how all turkeys were raised, but Frank has gone to great lengths to preserve traditional standards of raising turkeys. Each year, as his flock is developing, he closely watches the birds mature. At the end of the season Frank will select the individuals with the most desirable traits to parent the next generation.

This yearly cycle drives the sustainability of Frank’s operation. All of his turkeys mate naturally, have a long and productive lifespan, and develop at a healthy rate – simple traits that really allow his flock to stand out from commodity production.

Follow our blog for more 2015 heritage turkey updates!

 

 

 

Spring Lambing

 

Tunis Tamarack

Young Tunis lambs at Tamarack Vermont Sheep Farm bask in the warm spring sun.

Farmers affectionately refer to the birthing of baby lambs as ‘lambing’. Early spring is the traditional time for lambing, giving the young lambs time to fully develop before the challenges of winter set in.

In the winter lambs are kept close to the barn so they have solid shelter from storms.  In the spring the growing flock is released into fresh paddocks to enjoy tender clovers and grasses as the forage develops in summer fields. By the time summer comes the flock is has grown more independent and is ready to move on to well established grasses in more distant ranges.

Spring lambing is convenient for the farmer as ewes reach maturity within 5-12 months of birth. Sheep are typically bred once a year, in the fall. Ewes bred in the fall will carry for about 5 months and timed right lambing will occur just after the last snow.

 

Cattle Share from the Kitchen of B&B Ristorante, Las Vegas

Participating in our 1/8 cattle share program challenges you to eat like a true chef. Cattle shares are the most direct way to support sustainable farmers and are a great way to access exceptional beef produced outside of commercial scale.

Our partnering chefs and loyal customers have come to love our yearly cattle shares. This marks Chef Jason Neve’s second year bringing in a 1/2 cattle to B&B Ristorante, Las Vegas. He wrote a wonderful thank you note to farmers Craig and Amy Good, which we are delighted to share with you along with photos from the restaurant.

“I think we are the ones that are privileged to be working with such a great product.  I have been in the kitchen since 8:30 this morning like a kid in a candy store cooking up this part and that part.  I LOVE IT.

 Just finished the Neck Ragu that we will serve as a pasta tonight.  It took 24 hours to cook, and you can taste every minute of care from the time that you put into raising a great animal, the Fantasmas’ care in slaughtering and our time cooking it.”

For more information about purchasing a cattle share of your own click HERE.

Jason Neve

Chef Jason Neve

Born and raised in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Jason grew up around the water and all of its fresh seafood. An early interest in cooking for family and friends evolved into an education at the Culinary Institute of America where he graduated in 2003. Jason moved to New York City to train at AIX Restaurant under Chef Didier Virot. In 2005, Jason was part of the opening team at Del Posto. Jason’s aptitude in the kitchen and his passion for cured meats lead him out west to Las Vegas in 2007. After five years at the helm of the kitchen at B&B Ristorante, Jason was appointed Culinary Director of B&B Hospitality Group’s Las Vegas operations.

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