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….
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
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.
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!
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.
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.”
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.
Chris and Ray Wilson, along with their daughter Sarah, have been raising sheep on their farm in Northeastern Tennessee for nearly 20 years. As a child of farmers, Chris hopes to one day pass down the farm to her own daughter. As she explained, “That is what you farm for – to pass it on to the next generation.” Clover Creek Farm spans 50 acres of land at an elevation of about 1650 feet. Chris, Ray and Sarah practice sustainable agriculture but when Chris found the land nearly 20 years ago, the land had been depleted by previous conventional farms and was completely over grown. Chris spent 5 years restoring the land and creek; with a focus on soil recovery and establishing the native grasses so it would be a sustainable farm. Chris was named Conservation Farmer of the Year in 1999 for her efforts.
Clover Creek Katahdin sheep graze on native grasses, such as blue grass, and clovers that are abundant in the Tennessee area. They are born outside and spend their entire life grazing with their mothers. Following the motto “farming in harmony with nature,” Chris raises her sheep using rotational grazing methods. Chris and Ray take pride in their lambs, explaining, “The lamb are not a commodity. We put a lot of work and effort in to give them the best life possible.”
The Katahdin sheep is the result of the innovative thinking of a Maine farmer named Michael Piel. In the 1950’s, Piel brought three sheep from St. Croix in the Caribbean to his farm. He crossed these “African hair sheep,” as they were known, with his own flock of “Down” breeds (more typical wooly meat sheep found in New England), producing a lambs he called Katahdin after the highest mountain in Maine. The Katahdin does not need to be sheared and produces a well-muscled, lean but meaty carcass. The Katahdin lamb is a meat breed and not a wool breed, making it especially flavorful and delicious with nutty, full flavor.
Red Wattle pork is sweet, buttery and earthy, with a subtle spice and a hint of cinnamon. Its expressive porky flavor is concentrated and bold. The Red Wattle is one of few breeds left in the world with wattles hanging from its jowl….
We LOVE when our friends share their culinary adventures with us. Here are some great photos of an innovative way to cook-up the traditional American Thanksgiving centerpiece.
Dr. Judith Mazza is a long time supporter and wonderful photographer. She is President of the DC Chapter of La Chaîne des Rotisseurs, the world’s oldest and largest international food and wine society.
Send us your photos, recipes, and stories and we’ll feature them here at our Community Table, the place where we gather to share our thoughts and ideas and everything we learn from you!
Thanks Judy for these wonderful Heritage Turkey photos!
Goose, the once-common farm bird, has a rich legacy of multi-purpose value. Geese proudly boast down feathers, dark flavorful meat, and rich high-temperature cooking fat.
As natural foragers, geese are more content grazing than feeding on grain alone and require the freedom to roam in search of tender grasses. Their preference for grazing has made them difficult to adapt into factory farm conditions.
Ducks were more easily adapted to commodity food production. However, the hybridized commercially raised duck is a different bird than it’s predecessors, which were selected over centuries for flavorful dark meat and the perfect amount of fat. Frank Reese, our heritage poultry farmer, can trace his Rowan, Buff, Aylesbury, and Appleyard ducks back over 200 years.
The duck and geese raised by Frank at Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch, spend 6 months sauntering through meadows, foraging, and swimming. Their active lifestyle and diverse diet develop flavor in the birds – something factory farms will never be able to replicate.
Traditionally duck and geese were harvested in Winter, Frank Reese explains –
In the old days you’d never harvest a duck or a goose until after you had freezing weather. The old people really felt that the cold weather allowed the duck to put down or the goose to put down that important layer of fat that was needed to make it taste like it was supposed to.
The longer it takes to grow the better it is.
Goose and duck should have a lot more fat [than other poultry] – that’s how the animal stays warm, but that’s also where all the flavor is. That gives the meat it’s taste. The fat should be kept and used for frying potatoes and all kinds of stuff. It’s very very rich and it doesn’t take much.
Because our birds have lived longer, that means you are going to have to really be careful when you cook them because you can overcook them and dry them out. You can get too much fat out of them. And because these are ducks that have actually been in water and swam and have been active you are going to have to cook them a little longer and slower.
You know, as grandma said, “We ate everything but the ‘honk’ ”.
Frank suggests referring to an older cookbook such as Fanny Farmer for heritage goose and duck recipes and preparation techniques.
Heritage Foods USA Goose & Duck prep tips:
1. Before roasting rest your bird at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2. Generously salt both inside and out of the bird and fill the cavity with
aromatics like garlic, thyme and sage.
3. Prick small holes all over the skin being sure not to pierce the meat. This allows the fat a chance to render out during roasting and ensures crispy
4. Cook low and slow. We can’t emphasize the importance of this enough. We
suggest cooking at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Geese and ducks are both red-meat birds, and unlike other poultry their rich breast meat should be served medium-rare. The best way to ensure the dark meat has enough time in the oven to become tender without over cooking the breast is to remove the breast part way through roasting.
6. For extra crispy skin add some of the fat drippings to a sauté pan placed over medium high heat. Remove the leg quarters from the bird and sauté both the legs and the breast skin side down for 3-4 minutes. Do not flip them. Be sure to only sauté the skin side!