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Okay, so I've read the Omnivore's Dilemma

and I'm wondering. What's our best local option for the kind of beef and chicken Pollan encourages us to eat? Pasture-raised, I mean, and local. Marin Sun Farms, yes--I love the stuff--but that's only useful if I can brave the Ferry Plaza madness on Saturdays. Are there any reliable weekday possibilities? As far as I can tell, Niman is corn-finished in a feed lot, ditto for Prather Ranch. And then there's this "Estancia Beef" being hawked at my neighborhood Good Life Market. Sounds great and all, strictly pasture fed, but the brochure describes it as being from small family farms all over Uruguay and other South American countries. This is feeling a little vague and fossil-fuel dependent to truly answer the Pollan call to action: to know where your meat comes from, and to buy local if you can.

thoughts?

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  1. Poach one of the buffalo in Golden Gate Park.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      OK, I just laughed coffee through my nose...ouch!

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        End of debate, as far as I am concerned.

        Thanks for that. But you were out of the gate so fast with your reply, it was almost like you'd been waiting for thatpost with guns drawn.

        1. It's a sad commentary that we have to work so hard just to find food that hasn't been mucked with! I'm not sure what the weekday options are, but I think that Prather Ranch does actually fit the bill for weekend purchases (I'm not sure where you saw the corn feedlot info). Here's what I saw on their web site:
          http://www.pratherranch.com/condition...

          1 Reply
          1. re: Jess Leber

            I think you're right plus Prather is certified humane. The guys that work there are very knowledgeable and friendly. And you can go to the ferry building any day of the week, although Saturdays are fine until about 11am.

          2. Seek out a Weston Price chapter leader nearest to your location. They should be able to point you in the direction of grass-fed meat.
            http://www.westonaprice.org/localchap...

            1. Where does the grass fed beef at Whole Foods come from?

              1. Western Grasslands Beef was how I ultimately solved that dilemma, from all of my research it seems to be entirely grass fed and is based on a cooperative of small farms. Luckily its available at both Berkeley Bowl and at Trader Joes on Masonic. Trader Joes also has some free farmed grass fed lamb, which is coming in from New Zeland, not local, but seemingly humane and very reasonable. I still haven't figured out the poultry "dilemma" as its often difficult for me to get to the Ferry Building for Hoffmann's game birds.

                3 Replies
                1. re: China

                  Hoffman birds are also sold at Magnani's and Cafe Rouge.

                  1. re: China

                    Yeah, but coming from a billion miles away.

                    1. re: missclaudy

                      Manteca is about 68 miles from Berkeley.

                  2. Check out the Bay Area Locavores website -
                    http://www.wisefoodways.com/bay/

                    They have a pretty good resource page for people interested in local, sustainable foodstuffs.

                    1. Pollan doesn't really address grain finishing in the book so you shouldn't be so quick to dismiss Niman Ranch and other grain finished beef. Grain finishing is a centuries old ranching practice that is nothing like the industrial CAFOs that Pollan describes (although further discussion of this topic belongs on the general board).
                      Niman finishes their beef with a combination of barley, corn, wheat, soy, molasses and hay. The Niman Ranch feedlots don't look anything like the lots described in OD. Prather Ranch finishes their cattle on hay, barley and rice but not corn. Again, nothing like what is described in OD. I'm extremely strict about what meat I eat, but if I were to cut out Niman Ranch it would eliminate most of my meat options when dining out. And Prather Ranch is just about ideal from a sustainable ranching perspective.
                      For grass finished, heirloom varieties of lamb, beef and pork you should check out Highland Hills ranch who sells at the Berkeley Farmers' Market Tues Thur and Sat as well as the Ferry Building. Just be warned, it ain't cheap.
                      Many fine butchers carry Hoffman Farms poultry (which are actually pastured as opposed to "access to pasture") including the Cafe Rouge meat market.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                        I'd like to continue this aspect of the discussion. I've started a new thread on the General Topics board:
                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                        1. re: Morton the Mousse

                          I love Highland Hills bacon. It certainly aint cheap.

                          I got some of the Uruguayan grass-fed beef at BB a couple of weeks ago. A small chuck roast. It was really good - I sauerbrautened it.

                        2. That's a great distinction. Its good to know that Niman Ranch and Prather could go back on the list. Its quite confusing trying to figure out which practices are problematic and which aren't. I'll also check out Cafe Rouge. Thanks!

                          1. Theres a grass fed beef producer called Allston Farms that sells every other Saturday at the Noe Valley Farmers Market. She says they are not grain finished. I keep meaning to check them out more carefully because I've never seen their beef anywhere else. I buy it and it's good. Sold frozen in cryovac packaging. The market is on 24th st. between Sanchez and Vicksburg every Saturday from 8am-1pm. Don't know if this coming Saturday is an off Saturday or an on Saturday for Allston.

                            1. Highland Hills Beef is a good option at the Berkeley Farmers' Market. He's there on Saturdays only (and I haven't been for a while on Saturdays, so it would be nice if someone could confirm).

                              Dave Evans of Marin Sun Farms is beginning to work with folks who want to buy large quantities of beef (like a side of beef). The way it works is that a bunch of people get together to purchase the side of beef, and he does one transaction and one drop-off. And folks get it for a pretty large discount.

                              I had heard murmurings that Prather Ranch was grain finishing, but after talking to those folks I am convinced that they are squarely in the grass-fed/grass-finished camp. If you talk to them (and you should), they'll tell you that they give their cows a small amount of grain, but it's always grain that they have grown, and it's never corn. It's just supplemental and a minor percentage of their diet. That works for this very discerning consumer.

                              Editing this to say that I back what Morton says ...

                              And just a "by the way ..." Pollan doesn't talk about grass-finishing in his book, but he is talking about it a lot in his speeches. Now he only refers to beef that he thinks is "good" as "grass-finished" instead of "grass-fed" -- a change I've noticed w/ him in the past year. I think it's because a lot of cows -- even feedlot cows -- are grass-fed for most of their young lives, so there is some marketing messaging that can be confusing there.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Fig Newton

                                Highland Hills is actually selling at Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday Berkeley markets. Ted has found a lot of loyal customers in Berkeley.

                                Prather Ranch's practice is curious because it certainly looks to me like they're grain finishing (from their website: We finish our cattle on a diet of organic hay, organic barley and organic rice) yet I know that they're some of the most environmentally and ethically devout ranchers in the country. When I see Prather Ranch grain-finishing (albeit with organic whole grains that are not corn) it makes me question the staunch grass finished only idea. Of course, this is all complicated further by the fact that grains are simply the seeds of grass.

                                I'd love it if Pollan published a supplement to OD with a more thorough analysis of the difference between grass finished and grain finished beef.

                                1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                  Since Pollan is here at Berkeley, I think....we should get him to clarify.

                                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                    Pollan wrote an article called Power Steer for the NYT magazine in 2002 which examined the life of a feedlot steer, along the way discussing grain vs grass feeding/finishing a bit.

                                    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage...

                                2. Good to know about HH -- I have been to the Tuesday market for the past 2 weeks and haven't seen him -- maybe it was just a fluke?

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Fig Newton

                                    Gosh, now you're making me question my memory. I know for certain that he is at Thursdays. I'm pretty sure he comes to Tuesdays, but I may be wrong. Though some weeks he just doesn't show up.

                                    1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                      You got me curious so I called the Ecology Center. In theory, he is signed up to come to all three Berkeley markets, but is inconsistent. He most consistently shows up at the Saturday market, and should be at the Thursday market tomorrow. If you are going to the market specifically for his meat, I would suggest calling him directly before you go: Ted Fuller @ (530) 908-5672

                                  2. Another resource for finding clean meat, dairy, and eggs is the EatWellGuide.com. Like LocalHarvest.org, you plug in a zip code and choose your range.

                                    http://www.eatwellguide.com

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. When shopping at places like Whole Foods, Farmer Joes, etc. you should note that Western Grasslands recently rebranded their products under the name "Panorama." Here's an article about the name change and who they are:

                                      http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/060504/la...

                                      When shopping for beef, I try to buy Prather Ranch at my local farmer's market (on Lakeshore in Oakland where they have a booth each Saturday) or buy what is now called "Panorama" beef at Farmer Joe's, Berkeley Bowl or Trader Joes. We also eat Niman, but try to opt for grass fed over that when its available. Eating out is more tricky as the option for grass fed beef isn't usually available, so we allow ourselves to buy Niman products and try to go to restaurants with this option.

                                      There are sticky situations, however, such as recently when our kids attended a friend's birthday party. They were serving hot dogs. My kids love the Niman hot dogs and ran to get one. I knew it wasn't Niman's but let them eat what was offered. How do you say "Oh we eat hot dogs, just not THOSE hot dogs"?

                                      The omnivore's dilemma can be tricky.

                                      1. I've tried most of the grass-fed beef available around here, and for a steak or prime rib roast, I much prefer the flavor of dry-aged Niman from Cafe Rouge (which dry-ages it more in-house).

                                        1. If you want to buy dry-aged Niman to cook yourself, you can order a whole rack of beef from a little meat market on Park in Alameda (I forget the name, but it's the place on the left just after you cross the Park Street Bridge). I've never tried it, but they age it there for you for a fee.

                                          1. I know this is an old thread, but I have to add that Prather Ranch produces 100% grass fed beef (and they demand the same of their partner producers). Prather has a shop in the Ferry Building in SF that is open 7 days a week, and I have spent some time chatting with the guys behind the counter. They're serious about animal husbandry practices, and serious about good beef and pork. Occasionally they offer pasture-raised chicken and eggs also. Yum! And I don't feel guilty about eating it.

                                            Niman is a great local company, but they do finish their animals on corn. However, they have a great pork program-- you can read about it on their website.