We’re Hiring!

by firsthandfoods on January 7, 2015

We’re looking for a part-time local meat enthusiast!

Interested in working with an entrepreneurial food hub in Durham in support of small-scale livestock producers throughout North Carolina?  Consider joining our dynamic team and gaining valuable food systems experience.  See the formal position announcement below and send a polished resume & cover letter by January 29th to info@firsthandfoods.com.

Local Meat Operations Assistant

The Company
Firsthand Foods is a branded meat company that sells local, pasture-raised pork and beef to wholesale customers, including restaurants and retailers. Firsthand Foods sources animals from a network of remarkable farmers all of whom raise their animals humanely, on pasture without growth-promoting antibiotics or added hormones and utilizes the services of two USDA-inspected small-scale processors. In addition to selling wholesale, Firsthand Foods also operates a direct-to-consumer meat box program. For more information about our company, please visit www.firsthandfoods.com.

Position Description
This is a part-time position (approximately 20 hrs per week) requiring day-time hours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, with occasional work required on nights and weekends. Applicant must be able to easily lift 50 lb. boxes and tolerate working inside a cold storage unit. The Local Meat Operations Assistant will report directly to Firsthand Foods’ Co-CEOs Jennifer Curtis and Tina Prevatte.

Minimum Qualifications
• Must be comfortable using Excel.
• Must be highly organized and have strong communication skills.
• Commitment to excellent customer service.
• An interest in ethical and sustainable meat products.
• A valid driver’s license and clean driving record.

Primary Responsibilities
The Local Meat Operations Assistant will be expected to:
• Take inventory of all meat products received by Firsthand Foods, including assistance with pallet transport into coolers via a pallet jack, unpacking boxes and entering product specifications into an inventory tracking system.
• Make real-time updates to inventory management system to track products from receipt to delivery.
• Pack and invoice restaurant, retail and meat box orders, ensuring full traceability of all products sold.
• Coordinate pick-up and delivery of wholesale orders with distribution partners.
• Deliver selected Triangle-based orders in company vehicle.
• Coordinate implementation of Firsthand Food’s direct-to-consumer program, including order packing and customer pick-up.
• Communicate clearly and in a positive & polite manner with all customers.
• Assist with maintaining accurate records of temperatures and delivery conditions as required by our food safety and cold-chain supply management protocols.
• Maintain a clean and organized inventory warehouse space.
• Understand policies & practices that are relevant to our mission and be able to articulate these to the general public as part of consumer education and outreach to connect local, pasture-based livestock producers with local markets.
• Participate in staff meetings and trainings.

Starting hourly rate is $10.50/hr. After a 3-month probationary period, if Assistant is meeting or exceeding all expectations, this hourly rate will be increased to $12.50/hr.
No benefits. Some paid vacation provided.

To apply, please send a resume and brief cover letter to info@firsthandfoods.com. Please include the position title as the subject of your email. Deadline for all applications is COB Thursday, January 29th.



Drew’s Clues: Eastern NC Style Chopped BBQ

by firsthandfoods on September 4, 2014

Now I don’t want to start any fights, but I’d have to guess that most people reading this (primarily our (M)eat Local Box subscribers) would consider BBQ to be slow cooked pork with a mildly spicy vinegar sauce. I know I do. I would never in a million years turn my nose up at the BBQ of other regions. I would definitely dig into the sticky sweet ribs of the Midwest or smokey brisket from Texas or Kansas City without complaint. Yet for my money, I would take North Carolina’s native version over those any day. When it’s done right, with good pork, you really taste the meat but the sauce is there as a supporting player to cut through the fat and brighten the flavor. And when it’s really done right with a whole hog over real wood you get to appreciate the many varying textures and flavors of different muscles and crispy skin that’s been made delicious over long hours of slow, smoky cooking. There’s no better way to appreciate the pig.

Making NC style BBQ at home is a bit of a project but there are some ways to simplify it and since we’re only using a small boston butt roast here it’s really not all that bad. The goal is long slow cooking to the point that the meat is just about shredable. This could be done in its entirety in a smoker or on a grill but it’s easier to split the cooking time up between the grill and the oven.

Here’s how I did it:  Take the butt roast out of the package and give it a quick rinse with cold water. Dry it off. If there’s too much fat for your tastes trim some off. You want some fat on there but you don’t really need more than a ¼“.

on cutting boardSeason it liberally with salt and pepper. When I say liberally I mean when you think you’ve applied too much salt add a little more. You need this salt to penetrate into the muscle so you’ll need more than might seem sensible. Let the seasoned butt hang out in the fridge for a few hours.

salt & pepper

Bring the butt to room temperature while the grill or smoker is heating. If using a Weber style grill, pile up the hot coals all to one side and add wood chips to the coals. Using an oven thermometer, confirm that the temperature with the lid on is around 225°. Place the butt on the side of the grill opposite the heat source and replace the lid. The vent should be over the meat. Do what you can to keep this temperature around 225° for around 2 hours.

on the grillAfter 2 hours put the butt in a roasting pan and cover tightly with foil and cook in the oven for 2-3 more hours. Start checking the doneness after 2 hours. Once it’s jiggly and looks just about ready to fall apart pull it out and let it rest for 20 minutes or so.  At this point you have a nice roast pork butt.

cookedTo turn it into BBQ you’ll want to chop it up and add a sauce. A cleaver works best and is probably the pitmaster’s tool of choice but any large knife should work.


Once chopped, scoop the meat into a pot or bowl, add sauce to taste (you may need to season with a little salt at this point too), place on a bun with some slaw and you’re done.

sandwichBelow is the sauce recipe I used. It comes from my favorite book on southern cooking: Bill Neal’s Southern Cooking. There are plenty of other sauce recipes out there so feel free to use whatever you like.

NC BBQ Sauce:

Combine 1 cup apple cider vinegar with ½ cup water, ½ an onion, minced, 1 crushed garlic clove, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 2 teaspoons red chile flakes, 1 teaspoon sugar and a sprig of thyme. Bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes. In a separate bowl mix 2 tablespoons dry mustard with ¼ cup cold water. Stir this into the sauce. Allow this to cool to room temperature and that’s it. Note: I happen to like the addition of dry mustard to this sauce but it may not be to everybody’s liking. Leave it out or add less if you want



“Happy Meat”- A Youth’s Perspective

by firsthandfoods on August 26, 2014

This summer I did an internship at Firsthand Foods. Most kids are pretty excited about their first internship, but for me, it was just coming to work with my mom twice a week. While I was there, I worked on organizing four years worth of photographs, updating the Firsthand Foods’ website, packing and delivering (M)eat Local Boxes and reading The Omnivore’s Dilemna by Michael Pollan. I got to ride along on a farm visit in Granville County and participate in a sales call to UNC School of the Arts, which is now a Firsthand Foods’ customer.

Carly BellOut of all the tasks I was assigned, my favorite by far was packing the meat boxes. I loved doing something other than working on the computer or reading a book. Instead, I had a hands-on experience packing meat! How cool is that? Despite the 36-degree cold temperatures inside their walk-in cooler, I thoroughly enjoyed putting on a big puffy jacket, gloves and a hat, making and packing the boxes and learning how to identify different cuts of meat. Then on delivery day, (M)eat Box customers would arrive and ask all these questions about what types of pork and beef we were offering that day and they would just talk about how delicious the brisket was they had last week. It felt so good to be a part of this system in which all these customers could enjoy my handiwork. It was a wonderful feeling to be confident in the quality of the product we were selling, and to see it pass from my hands to theirs, knowing that in a few weeks they would be back, recounting the stories of how they cooked and created a delicious meal with what we provided.

When I was younger, I used to want to grow up and own a farm with lots of animals, including cats and dogs. I don’t know when that idea faded away, but I think it might have been when I realized how much work a farm would be.  And working here made that reality even clearer.  But I do think it is very important to support our farmers and to buy meat from businesses like Firsthand Foods. I am very grateful to have grown up eating local, pasture-raised meats because I have learned to appreciate the importance of eating “happy” meat and knowing where my food comes from.  Plus it is awesome and delicious.  Firsthand Foods’ meats have such a rich flavor compared to the stuff you can get at a fast food restaurant or from the school cafeteria. I particularly love their smoky polish sausage and chorizo. I have grown used to pasture-raised meats now, since it’s all we eat at home, but whenever I go out or to a friends house, I start to see how blessed I have been.

Several of my friends have recently made the decision to become vegetarians because they don’t want to support the industrial food system or buy and consume meat that was treated poorly.  I support their choice and am glad that they have learned enough about current issues to know that kind of meat is unhealthy for our bodies, the environment and for the animals themselves.  But not all meat is bad. Some meat is good.  I think its actually important to eat meat that has been raised humanely and had a healthy life on a farm close to home.  I hope that more people who care about these issues will care enough to pay a little extra for the good stuff. So I make the choice to eat meat, but not just any meat: “happy” meat.

 by Carly Bell, Age 15



Drew’s Clues: BBQ Spareribs

by firsthandfoods on August 7, 2014

I’ve heard it suggested before that BBQ in North Carolina has gotten a lot saucier over the years due to lower quality meat.  The leaner, commodity pork that most BBQ joints use these days has reached such a low point in flavor that the only way to make it palatable is to load on the vinegar sauce.  I have no idea if this is true but my recent experience with our spareribs definitely made me wonder why in the world the standard preparation is to coat ribs with a sticky, sugary sauce.

beautiful meatI set out to cook what I think of as all-American BBQ spareribs with the “KC Masterpiece” style sauce but ended up with something much more minimal and I think delicious.  Most recipes call for a rub to start out with which is typically some combination of salt and sugar and spices like chili and cumin and pepper.  I decided to skip this altogether and just use salt and pepper.  A rub’s variety of spices and herbs do add flavor and aroma but the key ingredient in any rub is the salt.  Salt is the thing that will actually enhance the flavor of the meat and as a bonus salt allows meat protein to retain more moisture.  I couldn’t avoid making a classic Kansas City style BBQ sauce.  It ended up being pretty tasty and it’s not like I had to buy anything special for it:  it requires every version of sweetener I have in my pantry and every condiment in my fridge.  I love a sauce that’s made by mixing together a bunch of store bought sauces and condiments.  Seems so American.

Let’s get on to the details:

First thing to be done is prepare the spareribs for seasoning.  Take the ribs out of the package and rinse under cold water.  Dry thoroughly with paper towels.  There’s a membrane on the bone (concave) side of the rack that should be removed.  Once cooked the membrane can be pretty chewy.  The best method for removal is using a dull tool like a butter knife or a spoon to get in between the meat and the membrane.  Work your fingers in there once there’s enough room and peel it back.  It should come off pretty easilsalt & peppery.

Season the ribs liberally with salt and pepper and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour.  Use approximately ½ teaspoon per pound of ribs.

How to cook the ribs depends on your equipment but the bottom line is that you want to cook spareribs at around 225° for 4-5 hours.  I recommend using a smoker or a grill, but the key is using indirect heat that hovers around 225° for that long stretch.  Adding mesquite or hickory to your heat source is, of course, a big plus.

IMG_0174About the sauce:  I had every intention of slathering on lots of sauce during the last hour or so but when I went to check for doneness I came to my senses.  I sliced a rib off after a little over 3 hours and took a bite.  What I found was such tasty, naturally sweet, smoky and flavorful pork I considered calling it a day and just eating them as is.  Why cover all that tastiness up?  But I had already made a sauce and the ribs did need to cook a bit longer so I went ahead and brushed just a little bit onto the meatier side and gave them another hour or so.  In the end they were perfect.  The texture was still a little springy but tender, which I think ideal, and the flavor was a great balance of pork and smoke and sauce.

Here’s that sauce recipe:

Saute a small onion and two crushed cloves of garlic over medium heat in a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil until softened.  Add a tablespoon of chili powder, a couple grinds of black pepper and about half teaspoon salt.  Allow this to cook for another 5 minutes.  Add to this:shiny meat

1 cup ketchup
¼ cup yellow mustard
¼ cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons honey
a couple dashes tobasco or texas pete
½ cup brown sugar

Simmer this all until nice and thick.  Taste and adjust for seasoning.  This could be made spicier or sweeter, etc.

By the way, in looking into the best ways to cook ribs I found that there is virtually no end to online discussion on the subject.  There’s an incredible array of websites and chat rooms dedicated to modified smokers and grills, cooking methods, special sauces and rubs, etc. etc.  Rib cookery seems to attract a very opinionated bunch.  I must recommend, though, amazingribs.com.  It is an incredible source of information on everything rib related and elaborates (to a sort of insane level) on everything here and much, much more.



Pasture Power

by firsthandfoods on July 23, 2014

If you haven’t seen it yet, we highly recommend Allen Savory’s TED Talk about desertification.  A fancy word for the process of land turning into desert, Allen describes how an astonishing two-thirds of the land mass on the planet is now effectively desert and lacks the ability to absorb water, support wildlife, cool the planet, and produce food.

As a young ecologist working for the South African government, Allen’s research supported a still-commonly-held theory that overstocking wildlife is responsible for desertification.  This led to the government’s horrifying decision to slaughter 40,000 elephants.  Much to his dismay, Allen quickly observed that removing the elephants actually made the problem worse.  In establishing the Savory Institute, Allen has been on a mission ever since to demonstrate how ruminant animals raised on pasture within intensive rotational grazing systems, can halt desertification.  If you needed one more reason to eat pasture-raised meat, now you can add the ecological benefits of replenishing our grasslands and solving an environmental challenge on par with global warming.

Beef Cattle Grazing on Perennial Pasture in North Carolina Beef Cattle Grazing on Perennial Pasture in North Carolina


Drew’s Clues: Brisket

by firsthandfoods on July 9, 2014

Brisket is one of those interesting cuts of meat that, over the years, has developed an association with very particular dishes, places, cultures and cooking methods.  Quintessential Jewish deli item?  Pastrami or corned beef on rye of course.  Both are made of brisket that’s brined for a week or more and smoked, in the case of pastrami, or boiled in the case of corned beef.  Texas BBQ?  Definitely smoked brisket.  Brisket brings to mind a specific style of highly seasoned, really flavorful slow cooked beef.  Slow cooking is really an essential part of the deal too.  Brisket is cut from the chest of beef and holds up a lot of weight during the animal’s life.  Therefore it’s very tough and contains a significant amount of connective tissue.  In order to render it edible, brisket needs to be cooked long enough at a low temperature to break down those tough muscle fibers and all that connective tissue.  Even after all that, brisket needs to be cut against the grain in order to shorten the length of the thick muscle fibers making it easier to eat.  The result, when done right and with patience, is really satisfying, flavorful beef.

Low and slow!  The goal is to cook brisket at around 200-225° for 8-10 hours.  This could be done iBrisketn its entirety in either a smoker or an oven or, as I would recommend, a combination of the two.  If you’re the type that likes to tend to a smoker all day carefully maintaining the low temperature required then more power to you.  The result will definitely be a smokier brisket.  If you don’t feel like messing around with the grill or smoker then use the oven for the duration.  You’ll still end up with really tasty meat just without the smoke.  Starting it off with a brief stay in the smoker and then moving it to a very low oven for the duration is an excellent compromise.  You still get a good bit of the smoke but not the same time commitment. This is still sort of an all day project but I tried to figure out a way to make it hands off for a good portion of the time.

Here’s what I did and it worked out really well:  The night before you plan to cook the brisket rub it with 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon paprika and 2 tablespoons brown sugar.  For what it’s worth, I like to toast whole cumin seeds, coriander seeds and peppercorns in a dry pan until they’re really fragrant before crushing them in a mortar and pestle.  I wonder sometimes if this sort of extra effort can be tasted in the final product but it sure does make my kitchen smell good!  Store the rubbed brisket covered in the fridge overnight.

The next morning light a charcoal grill.  Assuming you’re going to eat this brisket for dinner the grill needs to be hot by 10AM at the latest.  While the grill is heating up soak a handful of wood chips (mesquite, hickory, etc.) in water.  Pile up the charcoal to one side of the grill and let it get ashy before throwing half of the chips right onto the coals.  Let the grill settle down to a moderate temperature.  Best thing to do is to get a decent oven thermometer and place it right on the grill next to where the meat’s going to go.  Grills often have a built in thermometer but I think it’s worth the investment to have an oven thermometer down on the grilling surface.  Ideally the grill would be around 250° before you lay on the meat, but when I was testing this out my Weber never got much below 300° and it worked out just fine.  Place the brisket on the grill opposite the charcoal/wood chips and put the lid on with the vent holes over the meat.  Smoke for about 45 minutes, flip the brisket, add some more chips to the charcoal, replace the lid and let it go for another 45 or so.   Keep an eye on the temperature so that it doesn’t get too hot.

Meanwhile preheat your oven to 225°.  After the second 45 minutes on the smoker remove the brisket, wrap it tightly in foil, place it in a roasting pan and place it in the oven.  Cook at 225° for 6 hours.  That oven thermometer comes in handy here too.  Personally I had to set me oven at 200° to get it to cook at 225°.  You can’t always trust the thermostat on the oven to be accurate.

After that 6 hbrisket cut 1ours is up remove the brisket from the oven and let it rest for a half hour or so.  Unwrap the foil and inside you should find some really tasty and tender meat.  Transfer to a cutting board and slice against the grain.  Serve with any juices that might be lingering inside the foil or in the roasting pan.  Brisket can be pretty fatty and the rub makes it salty and sweet too so it ends up being pretty rich.  Cole slaw or something acidic makes for a good side to balance things out.

By the way, I’m sure that this could be done in part or whole on a gas grill.  Check manufacturer’s instruction for assistance with smoking on a gas grill.

Smoked Brisket Printable Recipe Card



Drew’s Clues: Bacon Vinaigrette

by firsthandfoods on June 4, 2014

Ever wonder what to do with leftover bacon fat?  Or those bacon “pieces” that come in the meat box?  Bacon vinaigrette!  Believe it or not this is not some new fangled bacon-loving-hipster creation.  It goes back ages and is most famous as part of the classic French salad Lyonnaise.  This is way up there with the world’s most delicious salads and is typically made with bitter frisée, croutons, warm bacon lardons, bacon vinaigrette and a warm poached egg.  The warm runny egg yolk becomes part of the dressing and slightly wilts the greens.  It’s awesome.

Not surprisingly it turns out this vinaigrette is great on just about any salad.  There are a couple of kinks due to the fact that you’re using an animal fat in a vinaigrette.  The recipe calls for about half bacon fat and half neutral oil.  This is primarily because a vinaigrette made with 100% bacon fat would congeal on contact with cold salad greens and that isn’t so appetizing.  And speaking of congealing bacon fat the other issue is that it can’t be used directly out of the fridge.  It needs to be brought to room temperature or warmed up before using in order to melt the fat.

And by the way, I like to keep around a couple squeeze bottles for vinaigrettes.  I make the vinaigrette right in the bottle and shake to mix.

Bacon Vin Recipe:

-2 tablespoons vinegar (sherry vinegar is great for this but any will do)
-2 tablespoon whole grain mustard
-3 tablespoons bacon fat, warm so that it’s liquified
-2 tablespoons neutral oil like canola or grapeseed

Combine the two fats.  If you’re using a bowl whisk together the vinegar and mustard and slowly drizzle in, while whisking, the combined oil and bacon fat.  On the other hand you can just eye ball all the ingredients into a squeeze bottle and shake the heck out of it.

Printer Friendly Version: Bacon Vinaigrette



Drew’s Clues: Grilled Boston Butt Steak

by firsthandfoods on June 4, 2014

One of the best things about meat is that there seems to be no end to the new experiences that can be had cooking and eating it.  We’re all familiar with the most popular cuts like pork chops and beef ribeye, but once you get off the beaten path a little you can find some amazing things.  And I’m not just talking about an unfamiliar cut, but also a cooking method that highlights it’s best qualities.

Of course, boston butt is hardly that far off the beaten path. But treating a thick slice of it as a steak is a little less common.  When it comes to boston butt, my personal experience with it is always some sort of slow cooking.  I’ve slow roasted it in a low oven, slowly smoked it for BBQ, braised it in various ways, but I had never treated boston butt as a “steak.”  So as an experiment I took 1” thick slices of butt, brined them in a standard brine and grilled them over charcoal just like I would a ribeye.  In fact they look a lot like a ribeye the way there’s an “eye” of muscle surrounded by smaller muscles with fat running in between.  After cooking almost to medium I was treated to just about the best pork I had ever eaten: just as tender as the loin (if not more so) but with more marbling,  flavor and variations in texture.  There’s also a good bit more fat which I like but for some it might be too much.  Each steak can be trimmed of some of the fat if desired.

By the way, ever wondered why it’s called a Boston butt when it comes from the top of the shoulder?  According to Wikipedia, in pre-revolution New England this particular cut of meat was packed into a barrel for storage and shipment and that barrel was called a butt (from Italian word for barrel – botte).  So there.

So here’s what you do: 

Make a brine – The basic brine recipe that I always use is 1 gallon of water to 1 cup of salt and ½ cup sugar (this can be brown sugar, white sugar, maple syrup, honey, etc.).  Bring this mix to a boil with any aromatics that strike your fancy (onions, garlic, herbs, spices, tea, citrus zest, etc.) and then cool completely.  You can take this basic ratio and method and increase or decrease as needed.  For a couple of butt steaks you’ll barely need a quart of brine.  To really speed the process along I bring to a boil half of the water desired for the final product with the salt and sugar and then add ice to bring it up to the final volume.

Brine the pork – Once the brine is cool, add the pork and stick it in the fridge for just an hour or two. Because it’s a relatively thin piece of meat it won’t take long.

Grill the steaks – After removing the pork from the brine, dry thoroughly with paper towels and get your grill hot.  You won’t need to season the pork with any more salt as it’s been brined but you can grind on some pepper if that’s your thing.  Grill to medium or desired temp, let rest for 10 minutes and enjoy.

Printer Friendly Version: Grilled Boston Butt Steak



A Drew’s Clues Throwback: Beef Shank Ragu

by firsthandfoods on May 15, 2014

Those of you who did the Meat Box way back in January 2012 will remember this tasty ragu recipe. It got rave reviews from several of you, and we’re told it has become a go to recipe for many that keeps you on the hunt for beef shank. That unique cut is making an appearance in our current round of boxes so thought we’d dig up this classic for you. Drew’s original post is quoted below.

We also had a food blogger in our Meat Box community back then, who did her own take on a beef shank ragu. Her recipe calls for italian sausage, which of course you can get from us as an add on. Check it out here – http://yearofhealthierliving.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/day-23-beautiful-braised-beef-shanks/


From Drew

“A really great use of any tough cut of beef, in this case the shank, is to braise it in tomato sauce for a pasta ragu.  Here’s a method that I use:

Cut the meat off the bone of two shanks.  You could braise it on the bone, but cutting it off prior to cooking makes it a little easier to work with and allows you to easily get rid of any unwanted material.  As you are cutting the meat off the bone, trim away any particularly tough connective tissue or silver skin.  Save the bones and roast them for their marrow.  Cut the meat into bite size pieces.  Season with salt and pepper and dust lightly with flour.  Brown in oil, preferably in a dutch oven or any pot that you can cover and put in the oven.  Once thoroughly browned, remove the meat with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate with paper towels.  In the pan there should be some fat left as well as all the brown bits created while browning.  Add to this half a diced onion, 4-5 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced, a carrot peeled and diced, a stalk of celery cleaned and diced, a couple bay leaves and a healthy pinch of red chili flakes.  Cook the vegetables over medium eat until they start to soften.  Season with a pinch of salt.  Return the shank meat to the pan and cover with a can of peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand.  If this isn’t quite enough liquid add some beef or chicken stock if you have it.  You could use water or red wine too.  Bring to a simmer, cover and put the pot into the oven.  Cook at 300 degrees for about 2 hours.  Check occasionally to make sure that there’s enough liquid to cover the shank or to see if the meat is ready.  You are looking for it to be extremely tender and almost falling apart.   Once it reaches this point return it to the stove and taste for seasoning.   You could finish with some fresh basil or parsley and would be perfect served with a hearty pasta like rigatoni or over some creamy polenta.  Top with some grated pecorino or parmesan.  A meat ragu like this is perfect to do ahead of time.  It will hold up in the fridge fine and will actually improve in flavor if it sits for a day or so.  Buon apetito!”


{ 1 comment }

When Better Trumps Perfect

by firsthandfoods on May 14, 2014

Mark Bittman’s recent editorial in the New York Times, Leave Organic Out of It, makes a compelling point.  When the movement to build a better food system gets urgently framed in the context of single, albeit important, issues — like GMOs or organic – we can forget to focus on the big picture. If the point is to eat well, he points out that we can all do that right now by consuming more real (vs. processed) foods.  And, if the point is further to take care of our planet and all of its inhabitants, then we are going to need to fundamentally restructure our food system through policy reforms, shifts in our food culture, and commitments in the private sector.

We’re asked all the time at Firsthand Foods if our meat is organic or doesn’t contain GMOs.  We’d love to be able to say unequivocally, “yes.”  The conversation need go no further.  In truth, we cannot yet affirm either.  Even though we’re working toward these improvements, it’s going to take some time before organically-raised, GMO-free feed sources are locally available and affordable for our livestock producers.

In the meantime, purchasing Firsthand Foods’ meats has a big impact on building a better overall food system.  Our customers are helping us create a local, transparent supply chain for pasture-raised meats that respects small-scale, independent farmers and meat processors, the animals who give their lives for our food, and the planet that must sustain future generations.  No, its not perfect. But we’re grateful to be headed in the right direction.