Naturally Artisanal

Passionate About Natural & Organic Food with An Artisanal Twist

Andronico’s Seafood Program, Retail Bay Area Leader – Sustainable Seafood (Fishwise program)

Posted by smfierro on June 4, 2010

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and are the least bit a ‘foodie’, you know about Andronico’s Market. But did you know that since 2003 their seafood program is based entirely on the science of the Monterey Bay Aquarium 2010 Sustainable Seafood Watch Guide and Fishwise program? Thanks to the foresight and passion of Andronico’s over 30 year seafood expert and buyer, Reid Pomerantz, the program is touted as one of the best retail seafood programs in the Bay Area.

For Pomerantz, in the ‘80s when people were hearing a lot about the health benefits of fish and started to pay more attention to what they ate, this is when his love of seafood was taken to another level of excellence, as he was suddenly deluged by an onslaught of demand and questions about the many varieties of seafood. At this point, he had a perfect opportunity to educate people about seafood and deliver the customer service he was so well-known for, which he loved. He was so good at understanding and addressing the needs of customers that upper management at Safeway, his employer at the time, took notice and asked him to help develop the sales training program for new hires which took around 12 months to complete. For Pomerantz, it is a combination of outstanding customer service and product knowledge, as well as a truly environmentally responsible offering of seafood products, that makes a retail seafood program great.                                                       

Today, and particularly in the SF Bay Area, consumers are becoming much more conscious of purchasing fresh seafood that has been sustainably raised, caught and delivered to their fresh fish provider.

You may not know that Andronico’s was the first retailer in the Bay Area to go wild with salmon and the first to sell ‘frozen at sea’ salmon. Pomerantz met some fisherman a few years back who introduced him to the method of freezing freshly caught fish within 45 minutes of catching and bleeding them. After selling over 100K pounds of in their first season, all the retailers in the area followed suit. Still, it is important to point out that farmed seafood can sometimes be just as good, or maybe even better with regards to sustainability, as wild seafood. It is a matter of the fishery/aquaculture environment that makes this distinction.

At this time, Andronico’s seafood offerings year round according to the Seafood Watch Guide for the West Coast are around 50 percent in the green (Best Choice), 45 percent in the yellow (Good Alternatives) and 5 percent in the red (Avoid) – due to customer demand and difficulty in finding the product. In the counter in adherence to the Fishwise labeling program, country of origin, production and catch method label every fresh seafood offering in the case. Try their wild salmon now, as the spring and summer are great for this fish. And Alaskan halibut is right there with the salmon. In the winter, crab is a popular choice. Still, year round, Andronico’s carries fresh, sustainably raised and caught fish. Their knowledgeable fish pros should be able to answer any other questions you have.

Still, to deliver such a stringent and high quality program doesn’t come cheaply. Andronico’s has found that consumers are willing to pay for more sustainably raised seafood even during the economic downturn. Pomerantz has observed the abundance of fresh seafood that the Bay Area was once known for, become severely depleted by what he believes to be a combination of poor fishing practices and environmental abuse. Premium product costs Andronico’s more to source and therefore the price is passed on to their customers.  

My passion for food and being environmentally responsible are why I wanted to share a bit about how Andronico’s is making a contribution to providing only the most environmentally healthy products.

Go visit a store and talk more with their fish professionals. They take great pride in their product knowledge and ability to help you make the best choices for you and your family!

Andronico’s is located in eight locations around the Bay Area including:
– San Francisco
– 4 Berkeley locations
– Los Altos
– Palo Alto
– San Anselmo

Helpful Links:
www.andronicos.com
http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/conservation/sustainable_seafood_forum/
http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/
http://fishwise.org/
http://wildlifepreservation.suite101.com/article.cfm/choosing_sustainable_seafood

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Caffeine Sensitive? Caffeine-addicted/Coffee Lover? Not caffeine-addicted/Like Coffee? Health Conscious? Environmentally Conscious? A great coffee alternative for those of us who like coffee…

Posted by smfierro on May 21, 2010

“I love my coffee and am not giving it up!”  “I have only one vice, and that is that I can’t start my day without my coffee!  “I need to have that caffeine fix or I drag for the rest of the day.”  “I can’t quit because I get headaches.”  These are just a few of the comments I have heard from so many friends, colleagues and acquaintances over the years.  And for those of you who count drinking coffee as your only vice, well congratulations to you!  This article is not about quitting coffee and is good news to those of you who are coffee drinkers and concerned about your health.

Please, continue to have your daily coffee.  But what about folks who love coffee and have been told they have developed a health condition that precludes them from ever drinking coffee

Teeccino 11oz. Resealable Bags, 10 Flavors

?  And what about those of you who are morning only coffee drinkers who wish you could enjoy coffee throughout the day, but cannot have that much caffeine later in the day?  Are there any alternatives for them which could possibly stack up to a full-bodied cup of coffee and satisfy that desire?  My experience is a resounding yes!

Again, for those of you who feel as though you can’t live without at least your daily morning cup of coffee, this article is not about dissuading you from continuing that practice.

However, if you are honest with yourself, haven’t you ever secretly dreamed about finding a great tasting coffee that does not produce the negative side affects of caffeine, has a positive impact on your health, that you can drink all day long while producing healthy side effects, including giving you that same energy boost you rely on caffeine to give you in the morning?  Caroline MacDougall, the CEO and Founder of Teeccino, shared with me when we spoke recently before she flew off to Europe, that she literally did have a dream about this very topic because she is caffeine sensitive, loves the flavor of coffee and kept thinking about a way to create a caffeine-free coffee.  In her dream she was saying “My next product is to create a caffeine-free cappuccino and it will be called Teeccino!”  She woke up saying just that and the rest is history!

With over 30 years in the herb tea industry, being caffeine-sensitive herself and loving the flavor of coffee, MacDougall set out to create a drink that would be roasted and ground to brew like coffee.  After creating well-known tea lines such as the Republic of Tea’s “Be Well Red” line of 17 teas and Organic India’s 18 Tulsi teas, while acting as the Minister of Herbs, and apprenticing under world-renowned herbalist, Juliette de Bairacli Levy, it is no wonder she was able to create a ‘non-caffeine coffee’ in her kitchen that achieved the flavor of coffee she loves so much!  In 1994 she founded her company, Teeccino.

She found a way to combine herbs, grains, fruits and nuts roasted to brew and taste like coffee.  I drink Teeccino every week and love it.  The great thing is I prefer non-caffeinated beverages and healthier drinks, but do enjoy that occasional cup of coffee.  Teeccino is a great alternative to coffee.  My favorite flavors are Mocha and Vanilla Nut.

The great thing about Teeccino is it is truly a healthy indulgence.  Unlike experiencing some of the negative health effects of consuming too much caffeine, Teeccino is a drink you can enjoy throughout the day, on a daily basis, and experience multiple health benefits:

–  non-acidic

–  gluten free

–  heart healthy potassium and soluble fiber

–  naturally caffeine-free

–  improves digestion, elimination and intestinal health

–  great coffee replacement for those who have health conditions which eliminate coffee and caffeine from their diets

Other lifestyle benefits:

–  Enjoy it with your children!  Remember, it only brews and tastes like coffee, but is non-caffeinated and healthy…

–  “Kick The Caffeine Habit in 2 Weeks” Teeccino program

–  Combine Teeccino with coffee to decrease your amount of caffeine intake

–  Ways to drink like coffee:  Iced, Espresso, French Press, Filter Cone, Drip Coffee Maker, Latte, Cappuccino…..

–  Kosher

So Teeccino can be enjoyed by anyone…even kids!  And there’s more good news…

Teeccino has 75 and 100 percent USDA organic flavors, and has a commitment to fair trade.  All of Teeccino’s ingredients are grown by farmers exclusively for the company in the US, Europe, India and Guatemala.  In India, organic chicory is grown and in Guatemala, Teeccino only sources USDA organic ramon nuts, which limits them, as there is only one rain forest certified USDA organic, the Maya Biosphere Reserve.  In Guatemala, Teeccino supports family farmers and rain forest village families by creating new trade in this developing country in the area of promoting organic and fair trade values.  The challenge is that in the various countries where Teeccino sources their ingredients, the trees which produce and drop fruit, for example, do not all act together and this makes harvests unpredictable.  MacDougall and her team continue to seek out additional sources for organic ingredients to continue to bring Teeccino to stores across the country.

Currently you can purchase Teeccino online and in most health food/specialty retail stores at around $10USD for an 11oz. bag (312g).  It is also available in specialty stores in Canada, the UK, China and Japan.  Flavors and roast types include:

–  Mediterranean (75 percent organic):  Almond Amaretto, Vanilla Nut, Hazelnut, Java, Original, Mocha, and Chocolate Mint;  Roast Types: Medium and light

–  Maya (100 percent organic):  Caffé / French Roast, Chocolaté, and Chai; Roast Types: Dark, French roast, and Medium

–  Boutique (75 percent organic):  French Vanilla, Pumpkin Spice, Caramel Nut, Chocolate Raspberry, and Southern Pecan;  Roast Types: Dark and Medium

So what’s next for Teeccino?  Several new and exciting products set to be launched between this and next year.  Those include:

–  August 2010, Teeccino Tee Bags:  Individual ‘tea’ bags with Teeccino’s top selling flavors (French Roast, Hazelnut, Maya Chocolate, Vanilla Nut)

–  Fall 2010, Teeccino with roasted dandelion root (barley-free):  This product line is barley-free for people who still don’t want to drink Teeccino because of their fears about gluten.  The current Teeccino line of products is gluten-free, however, there are some who are uncomfortable with the barley ingredient, so the company developed this new line to address those concerns.  They are waiting to harvest the new crop.

And next year don’t be surprised if you start to see any Teeccino products in independent coffee shops!

Teeccino is easy to purchase online or in your local natural food retailer.  Also, join their active online community.  It is a great place to speak with others who probably are talking your language!

–  www.teeccino.com

–  Sign-up for the newsletter at https://secure.teeccino.com/index.php?p=create_account&return=free_sample

–  Follow them on Twitter, Myspace, Facebook, YouTube

Try Teeccino and tell me what you think!  I would love to get your feedback and thoughts about this product.  And feel free to share your recipes.

Posted in coffee, drink, food, artsian food, natural, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Vino Cotto is great on grilled pork chops! Montillo Italian Foods

Posted by smfierro on April 28, 2010

Who would have thought a response to Deena Montillo’s discussion in LinkedIn would have led me to try her Vino Cotto!  Vino Cotto as it’s been called throughout history in various parts of Italy, or “cooked wine,” is a sweet, cooked grape syrup.  The name “cooked wine” is a bit misleading because authentic Vino Cotto has no alcoholic content. For over 100 years in Calabria, Italy and since 1970 in Massachusetts, the Montillo family has been making this syrup for their own use.  In 2008 Montillo Italian Foods began making it for you and I to enjoy.

This past weekend I had a few friends over and we marinated thick pork chops with sea salt, fresh ground pepper and Vino Cotto.  To make a long story short, we really enjoyed how the product caramelized on the chops and produced a combination of sweet, savory and smoky flavors that really were delicious with our grilled vegetables which we drizzled with the syrup.

As for consistency, Vino Cotto isn’t thick like honey or maple syrup but thinner, more like a simple sugar syrup.  Don’t let that fool you though.  It’s highly versatile in its application with both savory and sweet ingredients in a variety of dishes.  It can be used on meat, seafood, vegetables, in sauces, drizzled over cooked meat or desserts, or even as an ingredient used in baked goods.  And, you know that sweet taste you get in condiment-grade balsamic vinegar?  Guess what?  It is vino cotto, often written on the back label as “cooked must” or “mosto cotto.”  Using Vino Cotto di Montillo, now you can create your own balsamic vinegar and salad dressing, too!  The list goes on… I found that this unique product even has a slightly smoky scent to it, even though

Vino Cotto, 8.5 fl. oz. bottle, Montillo Italian Foods

I have never seen it described that way.  In addition, Vino Cotto can be a healthier sweet ingredient choice.  Its nutrition label shows that it is low in calories and is cholesterol free, has no fat or salt, is a natural antioxidant, has no artificial colors or flavors, and contains no vinegar or alcohol.

I realize a lot of the information on the product is around sauces and sautéeing.  For those of us who also love to grill and the fact that it is that time of year again, I strongly recommend you try the sauce as a marinade for the grill.  It worked well on our chops, and I would imagine it would be great on salmon, steaks, shrimp and grilled veggies.

Check out Montillo Italian Foods at www.montilloitalianfoods.com where you can learn more about this delicious product and even get some for yourself to try.

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The Story of An Organic Chia Company…no shortcuts

Posted by smfierro on April 13, 2010

I didn’t expect a friendly chat and glass of wine at a busy reception at the March Natural Food Expo West in Anaheim would lead to a significant improvement to my blood sugar health and an education about what it takes to build an organic Chia producing company from the ground up!

When I met Luis Echeverria, EVI Inc. New Business Manager based in Miami, FL, he looked young enough to still be in college which many times is associated with not having a lot of experience.  Quickly it became evident to me this simply was not the case with Luis.  His passion for and knowledge about the Chia business and seeds drew me in immediately.  In addition to the nutritional power of the Chia seed you can read about in my post, I became very interested in learning more about how his family managed to build and become a successful and one of the only USDA NOP (National Organic Program) Organic certified Chia facilities and producers in the world, EVI Inc., www.evicorporation.com.  And they did it close by Guayaquil, Ecuador.

In 2007 after over 40 years of running a highly successful conventional grains and fruit company, Luis’ father, Luis Fernando, was looking for a new organic project at which time he learned about Chia.  He learned there were no organic Chia seeds being commercially produced and sold globally and very few producers of conventional Chia.  Given his and his family’s emphasis on health and the enormous business opportunity, they set out to learn about the growing behaviors of Chia seeds and what it would require to build a new growing facility exclusively for Chia seeds.  As an point of interest, Luis’ father has been taking Chia since they decided to move on with the project and since then has been feeling a lot more energy and his cholesterol levels (LDL’s) have dropped significantly. In January of this year, the facility was completed and EVI, Inc. is one of the only USDA NOP Organic Certified Chia seed growing companies in the world, selling seeds in bulk commercially to the US and other countries.

EVI’s journey from concept to becoming a fully functioning USDA NOP Organic certified grower and exporter of Chia seeds took approximately 2 years, it was highly challenging, and investment intensive.  In just 24 months since EVI, Inc. sold its first commercial bulk shipment of Chia to a commercial ingredients company, they have seen an ‘astronomical increase in demand’, say Echeverria.  They just went operational in January 2010 and dispatched their first bulk order.  In the next few months they will dispatch their second commercial order.  Every time Echeverria attends an industry show, the inquiries increase significantly.  Still, he shares at this early stage of growth, it is difficult to tell what the actual growth numbers are.  In fact, Echeverria predicts the biggest market for Chia seeds and other Chia products will be in the ingredients arena in the next years.  At this time, the seeds are considered the primary market and are sold as a supplement to consumer diets.  In the future expect to see and hear about Chia seeds, Chia Mill (full-fat and defatted), Chia Oil, Chia Flour (full-fat and defatted), Chia Sprouts and Chia Sprouted Flour. And Chia packaged goods such as tortillas, cereals, crackers, cookies.  You will even see Chia being touted like probiotics, as a major health ingredient included in your favorite juices.  Clearly in my own experience, natural food and other specialty/natural retailers are having a hard time keeping the seeds on the shelves.

As I learned, Chia is not an easy plant to grow and therefore seems to be limited to commercial production only.  Imagine that there are approximately 1000 Chia seed pods to every 2-6 foot plant, and only around 3 seeds per pod.  The seeds are black and white and are just a little bigger than a poppy seed.

In 2008 EVI, Inc. began test plotting Chia to learn the ideal growing climate and conditions for growing and harvesting the seeds, and whether it was feasible for them to pursue such a long, costly and challenging undertaking.  As an organic grower and producer, EVI uses no fertilizers, pesticides or chemicals in the maintenance of the land, planting, harvesting, pre-cleaning, seed drying, screening, air blowing, packing or maintenance and use of all the equipment and facilities used to ship product.  It took at least one year for EVI to become USDA NOP Organic certified.  Ideally, EVI wanted to invest in ‘virgin land’ – land that had never been cultivated or affected by humans – so they could earn organic certification immediately vs. waiting 3 years to begin cultivating the land.  They got their wish and acquired 2,700 acres of virgin land to launch the Organic Chia program.

Once they acquired the land, they cleared it and hired the German certifying firm, CERES, to help create and supervise their plan through to implementation for becoming USDA NOP Organic Certified. The next step was to develop the irrigation infrastructure to include thousands of feet of piping, channels, water reservoirs.  Once the land was certified USDA NOP Organic Certified and the infrastructure in place, the soil was prepared for planting, which required the development of an effective pest control system.

Pest control without chemicals tends to be the question so many of us ask about organic growing.  How is it possible? EVI developed a biological control process they refer to as BioManagement, for which no pesticides, chemicals or fertilizers are used at any time before, during or after the planting process. It is a Biological control program in which pests and bugs are eradicated by natural predators. The way in which they control weeds is by pulling it by hand!  EVI provides steady employment to approximately 100 citizens in the neighboring towns around Guayaquil, where Chia production is projected by Luis to increase steadily as demand for Chia in all its forms increases, and their development of additional land grows.  Right now EVI employs about 100 people full time. Once they go into full production in the next few years this number will multiply many times, offering stable employment opportunities to the citizens of neighboring towns and villages for which stable employment is a challenge.

Harvesting the seeds is highly complicated.  EVI harvest are at a lower altitude allowing for growing times of approximately 100 to 120 days.  The Chia plans require much sunlight, 30 to 40 degrees Celsius, a lot of dry heat and stringent pest control, e.g. bugs called ‘controllers’ or ‘predators’ are raised to attack the eggs of the undesirable bugs.  Actual harvesting takes place using EVI’s own organically approved equipment used only at the Chia farm and plants in order to avoid loss and cross-contamination from other crops.  Then the seeds go through classification, cleaning and packing.  Luis shared that they have “…set-up and end-to-end drying, cleaning, and packing facility in order to control every step of the process” to maintaining a 100 percent organic product.

EVI, Inc. currently sells to ingredient and seed companies, and are in negotiations to provide seeds to manufacturers of finished products.  It is an exciting time for Chia.  I love the nutritional benefits of it and am looking forward to seeing how this versatile seed will make it’s way into our world.  So far it appears the sky’s the limit!

You can reach Luis E. Echeverria and EVI, Inc. at luise@evicorporation.com; www.evicorporation.com.

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Chia, The Miracle Seed: Regulating Blood Sugar for Hypoglycemics and Diabetics, A Natural Energy Boost, Antioxidants and so much more….

Posted by smfierro on April 13, 2010

Since I have seen Diabetes and Hypoglycemia affect members of my family, when I learned Chia (Salvia Hispanica) seeds might offer a healthy and natural way to help stabilize blood sugar, I wanted to learn more.  I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg, and yet, if you are interested in discovering ways to improve your overall well-being, you will like this post.  Chia seeds offer a natural way to increase your energy, protein, fiber, Omega 3 fats, regulate your blood sugar and so much more!  This article is a bit long, and yet, there is so much I had to delete to make it a better read.

Chia seeds boast of a long list of health benefits which might surprise you. Until only recently, when we thought of Chia in the US, most of us immediately envisioned the gimmicky ‘dime store’ Chia Pet clay potted animal figurines.  Only in the last decade has Chia seed gained recognition as a ‘super food’.  One of my friends refers to it as her “miracle seed”.  Who knew this tiny little black and white seed could pack so much nutritional power.  field blue flowers EVI Foto 051

The Mayan, Incan and Aztec civilizations were cultivating these seeds in the plateaus of Mexico, Central and South America, as they knew of their powerful health benefits.  Despite what caused it to virtually disappear from our planets landscape, literally, we can thank some health conscious farmers and inquisitive scientists for bringing it back to the 21st century.

The mildly nutty tasting seeds are surprisingly versatile and only 1 to 2 Tbsp. are recommended for daily intake.  The health benefit upside appears to be enormous.  They can be consumed raw out of the palm of your hand, ground up in your favorite smoothie, used as a thickening agent and included in many foods as an ingredient as you might use wheat flour, for example.  There are many ways in which we can include Chia in our daily diets and reap the health rewards are numerous.  According to Luis Echeverria, New Business Manager for EVI, Inc., one of the first organic Chia growers in the world, Chia’s largest and primary market is currently as a seed, being used as a food supplement by consumers.  Echeverria projects in the next year or so, Chia’s primary market will be as an ingredient for the manufacture of nutraceutical products, sports nutrition, and functional foods such as muffins, cereals, drinks, cake mixes, tortillas and so on.

The great news is that the health benefits associated with Chia seeds far outweigh the cost of other sources we use to get the daily recommended amounts of nutrients in our diet.  I talk a bit about how the seeds positively impact the health of Diabetics and Hypoglycemics, however, these benefits apply to everyone.

So those of you who are Diabetic or Hypoglycemic, we know it is because the pancreas is not functioning properly (processing sugar well) which can result in a lack of energy, poor elimination through the intestines, heart disease and a whole host of other issues.  Among many other things, Chia seeds do two great things, they level blood sugar and ensure intestinal health.  Chia seeds contain very high levels of soluble and insoluble fiber, which are the key to stabilizing blood glucose levels.  Since I am not a scientific type, I like to make things simple, so here goes…  Chia contains anywhere from 15 to 30 percent more fiber per seed than flax or hemp, both considered leading sources of fiber.  Both forms of fiber are indigestible and do not absorb into the blood stream.  The coating of each seed is soluble fiber that forms a gel that binds with fatty acids and helps regulate the rate at which carbohydrates are assimilated into the body as sugar and the stomach is emptied.  The slowing of the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar in the body is outstanding for one’s metabolic rate.  The result is a regulation of blood sugar levels and the lowering of bad cholesterol (LDLs) for better heart health.  The insoluble fiber of the Chia seed promotes regularity and pH balance of the intestines reducing the risk for cancer.   For all of you who have Diabetes and Hypoglycemia, expect to experience higher levels of energy with the addition to Chia to your diet, not to mention a whole host of other benefits.

Another hot topic is about getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids, of which a 1,000 to 2,000 mg intake per day be followed.  1,000 mg = 1 g = .0022 lb.  At just around $10 per 1 lb. bag, Chia seeds can be an excellent alternative or complement to meat or salmon, where 1 lb. of salmon might be anywhere from $12 to $22.  And Chia is purported to have 8.7 times the Omega 3s found in wild Atlantic salmon.  Omega 3 fatty acids are required for the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system, provide maintenance to the cell membranes, are required for hormone production and provide anti-inflammatory properties.

Check out all the other ways Chia seeds can boost your energy, immune system, heart health, intestine health and so on.

–          High in antioxidants

–          No toxic impact on the thyroid function

–          No lignans affecting estrogen

–          Magnesium in 100g of Chia seeds is equivalent to ~200g of nuts

–          Fiber in 100g of Chia seeds is equivalent to ~300g of oats

–          Calcium in 100g of Chia seeds is equivalent to ~545mg of milk

–          Iron in 100g of Chia seeds is equivalent to ~400g of spinach

–          Potassium in 100g of Chia seeds is equivalent to ~180 of bananas

–          Antioxidant in 100g of Chia seeds is equivalent to ~900g of oranges

–          Omega 3 in 100g of Chia seeds is equivalent to ~990g of salmon

–          Easily digestible

–          High in zinc, boron (for bones) and niacin

–          Low sodium and cholesterol free

–          Increases and lengthens hydration, resulting in electrolyte maintenance and more efficient utilization of body fluids

–          Increases energy…it is the most popular choice of long distance runners

–          Long shelf life:  High in antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E, Cinnamic acids allowing storage at room temperature for up to 3 years

–          Gluten-free:  Great for diabetics, hypoglycemics, sufferers of Crohn’s and Celiac diseases

From what I am learning, this is only a short list of benefits gained from including anywhere from 1 to 2 Tablespoons of whole or ground Chia in one’s daily diet.

I hope at least those of you living with Diabetes and Hypoglycemia, or who simply want to live as healthfully as possible, are encouraged about Chia being a simple way to assist you in achieving wellness.   And with that, read my post about how the Echeverria family is growing Chia seed organically (to USDA organic standards) for commercial import to the US in a 3rd world country.  This family-owned company found a way to employ an entire small town in Ecuador to operate one of the few organic Chia seed growing companies in the world.

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Environmentally Sustainable Beef Practices Producing Delicious Steaks

Posted by smfierro on December 30, 2009

As a fairly new East Coast transplant to the Bay Area who is highly carnivorous and wants to be environmentally supportive, I have faced a bit of a challenge given my love of beef and some evidence that beef is a major cause for global warming.   I want to feel good about what I eat, so imagine my excitement to learn about a movement for sustainable beef!

What?  …..sustainable beef…???  And even better, it tastes good! So for me, it is great to know that beef production can actually be good for the environment, as we only seem to hear from organizations that are diametrically opposed to the eating of any meat, period. Enter The Artisan Beef Movement.  I want to share this with you, my fellow beef enthusiasts, so you can join me.

Recently I participated in an “Artisan Steak Tasting” led by Carrie Oliver, the pioneer of the Artisan Beef Movement, and Founder & CEO of  The Artisan Beef Institute (ABI, http://www.oliverranch.com/shopcontent.asp?type=ArtisanInstitute) and The Oliver Ranch Company (www.oliverranch.com) in what many might consider to be one of the most unlikely places in the country to find highly carnivorous, beef lovers….San Francisco!  The term ‘Artisan Beef’ is synonymous with supporting sustainability.  Yes, it’s true, California is even leading the sustainability movement in beef…..

ABI defines ‘Artisan Beef’ as like a fine wine.  At the minimum you know the name of the farm(s), breed, growing region, and aging time & technique.

Oliver says “Flavor and texture vary by ranch. It’s time that we celebrate this rather than try to hide it.”

She emphasizes having picked-up where the natural and organic meat movements left off.  Oliver’s focus is not just on production standards, but also on flavor, texture, and the emotional benefits of knowing what’s on your plate and how it got there. For this, she only begins at the ranch.  Great beef requires Care and talent at all steps from farm to fork figure into flavor and texture, including in transportation, at the slaughterhouse, butcher, retailer, and at home.

Oliver has spent half a decade studying the beef industry in all its forms and built ABI from scratch, which at the risk of oversimplifying, is the unprecedented and surprisingly logical set of standards created by Oliver which define what is required to produce delicious beef in an environmentally sustainable way.  Just as fine wine has a set of guidelines, terminology and standards set forth for tasting and selecting excellent wines, so has ABI created these for beef.  As a participating ‘beef taster’ at an Artisan Beef Tasting, participants take on the role of ‘beef sommelier’, so to speak.  Oliver has taken a set of principles followed by a minority of ranches around the world and has for the first time in the beef world, created a tasting guide and the terminology used in it, and pulled the entire process and standards required, which combine to produce the concept of Artisan Beef.

Under one umbrella she provides a logical and detailed set of standards that she defines as Artisan Beef.  She will be the first to tell you there are ranches and other beef industry artisans who have been following these standards for years, however, few have documented, organized together or produced a way to champion this environmentally sustainable art of producing great product.  Oliver, through ABI, is the first to present everything under one roof.  She does it in a way that consumers and all other involved parties can understand it and even participate in the movement as students, beef tasters or beef tasting hosts.  And she makes it possible for the consumer to identify ranches that follow this philosophy.

At a beef tasting, you might hear from guest panelists such as Artisan ranchers and/or butchers, who in combination with Oliver, provide the attendees with education around what Artisan Beef is, and the factors and complexities combining to give each steak its flavor and texture….the ‘field to fork’ process, if you will.  And believe it or not, there really is a difference in taste and texture between not only different cuts of beef but between the same cut of beef from different producer teams.  At tastings, participants have the opportunity to learn why that is and to pass around terms describing their tasting experiences, which sound surprisingly similar to the kind of banter you might experience in a wine tasting environment.  Oliver takes care to keep things fun rather than too serious, asking guests to imagine sitting next to this beef at a dinner party and figuring out what kind of personality they have.  Are they Reserved? Or more Adventurous, likethe life of the party? She even categorizes beefs based on her tasting notes & overall evaluation, such as Gateway Beef™ (grass-fed that tastes like grain-fed) or Marriage Material™ Beef.

For example, my dry-aged, grass-finished Angus Cross New York Strip Loin from one ranch cut like butter, had a harmonious personality, a long-lasting impression and sweet notes reminiscent of caramelized vegetables, while a dry-aged, grass-finished Black Angus-Cross New York Strip Loin from another ranch had an interesting bite and adventurous personality, with ocean notes, a tanginess and mushroom undertones.

So why might two steaks have noticeably different tastes and textures?  It is all in the process and the Artisan Beef Institute in conjunction with The Oliver Ranch Company, which offers a home Artisan Steak Tasting kit, makes it possible to learn about the ‘why’ and to purchase beef from ranches practicing environmentally sustainable practices.

Find out more at www.oliverranch.com or follow her on Twitter (#meatcamp, @CarrieOliver).  Carrie Oliver, despite her many commitments and a challenging travel schedule, somehow finds time to stay connected with her fellow Artisan Beef enthusiasts through social media, email, and phone.  Your questions are welcome always and you will get a response.  If you want to have a home beef tasting or just purchase great beef online, I highly encourage it, http://oliverranch.com/shopcontent.asp?type=Blog.   Spread the word about ‘environmentally sustainable’ and delicious beef.

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