Thursday, September 2, 2010

Raw Meat vs Cured Products

I saw a blog entry about a Chicago food business by Andrew Huff. He writes:
City Provisions' meats are all from farms within 200 miles of the store, and are butchered and cured on site, such as wonderfully smoky pastrami (which I had on dark rye with mustard), bacon and lardo.
Yet if you look at their sign, they've got meat products from La Quercia and Fra Mani. Those are both 200+ miles from Chicago - and one assumes their meat comes from farther than 200 miles from Chicago.

I found where the author might have got the 200-mile fact:
The raw meat case--with made to order cuts of meat (smoked on site)--contains meat raised from within a 200 mile radius of Chicago, and butchered on site.

"I believe it is important to know where your food comes from and what goes into getting it to your plate," said owner, Cleetus Friedman. "We want to be a focal point for the community and be a source for education about the local food movement."

So apparently they are just claiming the raw stuff comes from 200 or fewer miles away.

One thing I've noticed about people who buy cured products is that they'll make up reasons to buy and eat things if they taste good enough while ignoring reasons to not buy. You see people do that with Italian products, Spanish products, etc.

I think the tendency of people to break the rules on cured products, but not raw meat, is directly related to how addictive the products are. When the products are exceptionally good - e.g. Mangalitsa or Iberico - people don't demand that the stuff be local, sustainable, organic, humane, raised by macrobiotic Zen Buddhists, etc. If they bring that stuff up, its after deciding to purchase.

For instance, I've seen people eat Mangalitsa speck, decide to buy and then ask, offhandedly, ".. and the pigs are naturally & sustainably & organically raised and all that, right?"

I would presume that most drug dealers, even in Berkeley California, don't ever hear, "and this is organic, right?" or "was the crack made from fair trade ingredients, cooked up by staff given full health benefits and pensions?"

I've noticed similar attitudes in Trader Joe's customers. From what I've seen, their most important concerns are taste and price. They don't dig much deeper than that - perhaps because it might things more difficult. For example, from this article:
Some of that may be because Trader Joe's business tactics are often very much at odds with its image as the funky shop around the corner that sources its wares from local farms and food artisans. Sometimes it does, but big, well-known companies also make many of Trader Joe's products. Those Trader Joe's pita chips? Made by Stacy's, a division of PepsiCo's Frito-Lay. On the East Coast much of its yogurt is supplied by Danone's Stonyfield Farm. And finicky foodies probably don't like to think about how Trader Joe's scale enables the chain to sell a pound of organic lemons for $2.
By no means am I attacking Trader Joe's or its customers. Trader Joe's does a great job giving its customers what they want. Trader Joe's customers are practical, which is good.

What's great about Mangalitsa is that the stuff tastes wonderful enough - and truly different - that most customers stay focused on things like price, availability and other practical matters. That's even more the case with cured products, like these cured Mangalitsa hams and shoulders.

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