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The Best Picnic Food: Beyond the Sandwich

Ah, yes, the picnic.  A classically picturesque meal spent outside – usually on a grassy hillside or sandy beach with a loved one… and a sandwich.  The sandwich has become almost synonymous with picnic fare and, thus, a predictable part of an otherwise unconventional dining experience.

It’s not that we don’t enjoy a good sandwich, au contrare!  Sandwiches have nearly unlimited redeeming qualities, from the versatility factor – a sandwich is virtually any meal you can think of placed between or within bread – to sheer portability.  There are several reasons picnickers have been packing sandwiches in their baskets for centuries and really no reason the practice should stop now.  That said, we think you can do better.

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Pasture Raised and Grass Fed meat provides a healthy compliment to an active lifestyle. Slim down while beefing up for the health conscious consumer.

Health Conscious? Know Thy Meat

There’s no escaping it: most of us cannot eat whatever sounds delicious whenever it sounds delicious and maintain optimum health.  Whether it’s weight management or that pesky hereditary cholesterol issue (thanks, Dad), at some point, something will compel each of us to examine our diets more closely.  For meat lovers, examining our diets also means examining the meats we consume.  You didn’t think those steroids and hormones fed to many mass-produced, commercially-raised animals magically disappear when they reach your bar-b-que, did you?  No sir.

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Did you know that Potato Chips COST MORE than Grass-fed Beef?

Did you know that Potato Chips COST MORE than Grass-fed Beef?

When weighing snack and meal options, it’s important to gather all the information – nutritional, cost and efficiency information.  Here’s a “for instance” that was recently presented to us by one of our farm partners, Reed Anderson of Anderson Ranches.

A 1-ounce bag of potato chips retails for $.99.  Bargain!  If potato chips were sold by the pound, they would retail for $15.84. Suddenly not such a bargain, is it? And not so healthy. A 1-ounce portion contains 155 calories with 95 calories from fat, 10.6 grams of total fat, and 1.9g of protein.

Now, take a pound of responsibly raised grass-fed beef, which typically retails between $7-$9.  If beef was sold by the ounce, it would retail at $0.42-$0.56/oz.

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How is AgLocal Different from other Meat Sources?

How is AgLocal different?

It’s a common question we get from friends, customers, farmers and media.

With the wide Whole Foods selection, the rise of the modern-day butcher shop, the growing popularity of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, and the fun activity of weekend farmer’s markets, why would you choose AgLocal?

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Meat Purchasing Decisions Made Easy

Every meal is a decision, or a series of decisions.  What do I feel like eating?  Do I want to cook?  When should I eat? Do I need to run to the store?  Should I go out to dinner?  What will the kids want?  Do I have anything in the fridge?

While some days, these decisions are harder to make than others, we are fortunate for the ability to make them. We can choose what food we put into our bodies, and what we feed our friends and family.

For the longest time, centuries in fact, there was never much choice surrounding meat.  Distinctions between grain-finished versus grass-finished products or commodity, cheaper meat versus sustainable, pricier meat did not exist.  All meat, more or less was equal.  All animals were raised as animals should be raised—on a farm, with room to roam, and plenty of locally sourced feed to consume.  It was not until the end of World War II, when the U.S. soon had an excess corn supply that Americans decided to feed corn to cattle, which made them fatter more quickly and made large-scale production and automation viable options.  Due to this change, the source of our meat is yet another decision we face at mealtime, and like any decision, it is important to be educated about all options.

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Why Your Purchase Matters for Independent Farms

Earlier this month, the USDA released its 2012 Census of Agriculture.  The census is collected every five years and compiles information on land use, acreage, age of farm, age of farmer, gross income, etc.

According to the report:

  • There are a little over 2 million farmers residing in the United States; out of these 2 million plus farms, more than half report that farming is only a part-time occupation.
  • Two-thirds of all agricultural production comes from only 4% of farms.
  • 75% of farms report less than $50k in sales and government payments (gross income).
  • Vaue of agriculture products sold by farms in the United States in 2012 was at $395 billion; Livestock sales are around $182.2 billion

These quick stats beg the question–Why are there fewer and fewer full time farmers? And why is the majority of U.S. agricultural production concentrated in such a small number of farms?

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Notes from the Farm: A Ranch in a Drought

Right now, we are in one of the most severe droughts in recorded history. In January, California Governor, Jerry Brown, declared a State of Emergency and directed all residents to voluntarily decrease water consumption and for state officials to prepare for water shortages.

As the AgLocal team drives to farm visits from Northern California to Central Valley, we cannot help but notice short and sparse green grass. Living in a city, it is easy to go about life without fully realizing the severity of the drought. While some crop prices have risen, consumers’ bottom line will not be fully impacted until next season’s crop yield. With the new Census reporting almost $5 billion in agricultural sales from Fresno (Central Valley, CA) it is only a matter of time until the reality of the drought becomes more widely felt.

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Two cattle grazing at the Lucky Dog Ranch

Road Trip to Lucky Dog Ranch

Why Lucky Dog Boasts the Best Burger and Why the Meat Industry Needs Change

A few years ago, Sacramento officially took the title of “America’s Farm to Fork Capital,” and AgLocal is proud to be working with one of its residents—Lucky Dog Ranch. On our trip, we met with Ron Gilliand, who, along with his wife Terrie, and dogs Lucky (and now Patches) began Lucky Dog Ranch in 1993. Ron, a tall man with a slight accent, grew up in Ireland on ranches and around food. Eleven years ago, Ron and Terrie began the restaurant Lucca in downtown Sacramento where they were met with the challenge of sourcing high quality ingredients. Although Lucky Dog began as a commercial cattle operation, Lucca’s demand for natural and better tasting meat prompted Lucky Dog Ranch to naturally raise, harvest, age, and cut their own beef.

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Don’t Ask Why Good Meat is so Expensive…Ask Why Grocery Store Meat is so Cheap

I grew up with the grocery store. We would shop as a family down the aisles of Stop and Shop and Shaw’s packing our cart filled of ingredients for the weekly dinners and lunches. When our cart rolled up to the meat section, my mom would look for a good looking cut of meat, that also carried the most economical price point. How the animal was raised or who raised it never entered into the equation of which meat to buy. Simply put, it was a black and white decision centered on price.

As I discuss AgLocal with friends and family, the question of price often comes up and I hear a general mantra of I would purchase more “good meat” if it was not so expensive. The question however, should not be around why good meat is so expensive, but rather why conventionally raised meat is so cheap.

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A Stroll Through Devils Gulch

Can you imagine owning 65 acres of beautiful property in Marin County by the age of 19?

Yeah…neither can we!

But that is how Rancher Mark Pasternak came to Nicasio, CA. The year was 1971 and Vietnam was in full swing, the Kent State Shooting was still fresh in mind, and Mark did not feel the beckoning call to return to UC San Diego for his junior year. He spent that summer visiting his sister in Northern California and soon found himself shopping for land rather than text books.

Luck would have it that the SF Chronicle advertised a 200-acre piece of land at the same time Mark was in the market. He joined forces with two other friends and together secured the property with a down payment of $984. Since the age of two, Mark, originally from LA, wanted to be a rancher and this land was the key to his dream.

Forty-three years later and the dream continues. Now, however, Mark is joined by his wife Myriam, two daughters, and hundreds of animals from pigs to sheep to rabbits to dogs. The rolling hills of his property boast a vineyard where he grows grape varietals and the barn yard bounces with excitement of children who attend day camps made possible by a partnership with the local YMCA.

We spent roughly four hours with Mark pacing the property and talking livestock. During our long stroll, we learned how Mark first started by raising a few pigs but achieved chef/restaurant notoriety with rabbits. Mark’s wife, Myriam (a graduate from UC Davis with a veterinary degree) began the rabbit program as a 4H project with their eldest daughter. It did not take long for classically French-trained chefs to catch wind of the superior product. Soon chefs like Alice Waters and Thomas Keller were knocking on the Devils door.

Mark and Myriam have grown their operation through not only consistent and ethical animal raising practices but also a passion to educate. In addition to kid camps, Myriam heads an agribusiness initiative in Haiti, where she works to pool agricultural resources and empower Haitian farmers.

There is something truly refreshing in talking to people who are evidently happy and passionate about their lifework; Mark and Myriam provide that refreshment. Maybe it was the way the sun was shining or my surprise in how fast four hours flew by, but I left Devils Gulch feeling re-energized and further excited about AgLocal’s own mission to provide and educate consumers about responsibly raised meat, and the farmers who produce it.


photo (3)

We like PIG butts, and we cannot lie…one of my favorite photos of the day.

Post by Emma Porteus, AgLocal Farm Sourcing Team

Visit date: April 15, 2014

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