Farmers Do Not Raise Tenderloins
“Everything we do, we do to help the farmer.”
Could be an executive director speaking. You know, of a non-profit whose mission is to help farmers. The sort of person you would have heard speaking at FamilyFarmed Expo recently.
Could be the USDA; they’ve adopted the Know Your Food, Know Your Farmer slogan.
Could be a locavore talking, advocating for farmers market shopping.
(Someone like, say, me: The Value of a Farmer)
But most recently, I heard it from Rob Levitt, butcher.
With eight guests in his shop, the Butcher & Larder, all paying to watch a lamb butchering demo, Rob explained what is most crucially different about his philosophy. Yes, he’s in business and therefore needs to make money, but he is not going to do so buying t-bones and tenderloins from farmers. Rob will only buy the whole animal. This means Rob is taking on the business decision to SELL every part of that animal. Farmers must love him. After all, that’s what they raise – whole animals. They do not raise tenderloins.
It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling to know the world is moving toward better eating and an understanding that we need to respect and use all the parts of the animal. And on a Sunday afternoon with the shop closed up, Rob welcomed seven home cooks and one restaurant cook who paid money to better understand the whole animal. They paid. They voted in favor of healthier foods and more respectful eating. They are to be applauded!
This particular spring lamb came from Pinn-Oak Ridge Farms in Wisconsin.
This is my second Rob Levitt butchering demo (catch the other at Butchering Bessie). What did I learn? Well, I noticed a lamb is clearly easier. It is smaller and yields fewer choices and decisions. The butchering seemed easier and it’s clear there is less meat, so if you happened to be doing a whole animal at home, you’d have a smaller processing and packaging challenge. I also thought it was odd, and disappointing, that lamb fat doesn’t seem to have much use. Rob of course tries to use all he can from an animal, but apparently lamb fat is not rendered like pork leaf lard would be. If you happen to have a delicious use for lamb fat, do tell Rob. He wants to know!
Maybe you’re not into watching a whole butchering demo. That’s ok. We don’t all have time and money for that. But we do have this responsibility to respect the whole animal and Rob’s shop is a wonderful place for the home cook to start. All the staff at B & L are amazing tutors. Ask any of them what to do with cut X or cut Y and they will give you lots of wonderful cooking advice. They are butchers and cooks, so they know what they’re talking about and can give you approachable ideas. For my part, I left that night with Rob’s unusual shoulder cut he was calling a blade steak (center/left in the photo above). I couldn’t pull off grilling, but lathered them with harissa and coriander and pan-fried in lard. Oh, they were delicious!
Here is my challenge to you. Walk into the Butcher & Larder. Trust Rob and say: “What do you have that is underutilized? How can I help you and the farmer use the whole animal?” Take his cut and advice home and give it a try! Dare ya! Double-dog dare ya!
Rob and his right-hand man, Chris Turner, are both featured in my crazy series Chefs And Their Spoons. Check it out!